Your Building is on Fire...


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Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 24, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
Sunday evening I was lying around on the couch, playing with my computer.

There was a rank, burning smell but I ignored it as just more of the usual bullshit around here.

Then, panic in the corridors, people screaming FIRE !

I grabbed my keys, wallet and phone, put some shoes on and joined others pounding on doors to see if everyone was aware and outside. I also reflexively grabbed my fire extinguisher.

A guy from the building beside the one I live in and me felt the locked doors for heat and found # 12 was hot as hell. So we pounded on it with no response.

The guy who lived there's car was gone but that in my mind was no guarantee he wasn't home and possibly unconscious in a burning apartment.

So we went around to his window and saw fire. I kicked in the glass and screamed his name repeatedly. I used the extinguisher from outside on the fire and it subsided only until the extinguisher contents were exhausted. By now, the fire department were on hand and did the professional treatment.

Ultimately the guy wasn't home.

I'm bothered about whether I did the right thing because I allowed a source of oxygen to the fire by kicking in the window.

Could some of the firefighters on this site offer an opinion about best practices ?

Crazy Bat

Sport climber
Birmingham, AL & Seweanee, TN
Sep 25, 2013 - 07:24am PT
I am impressed that you knew to feel the door and not try to go in that way. If he had been there you might have provided enough oxygen for him to have survived. Smoke inhalation kills more than actual flames.

You also instinctively grabbed a fire extinguisher. Super impressed.

Not a fire fighter but I salute you.

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Sep 25, 2013 - 12:32pm PT
I'm not surprised Jim jumped into action, he's a good man.
Here's a little vid of Backdraft Jim in action a fewwww years back.

John M

Sep 25, 2013 - 01:16pm PT
Backdraft Jim

LOL.. now that is funny. Good job Jim. I don't know about your question of whether it was a good idea to break the window or not, hopefully someone will chime in. Batrock is a fire fighter, so hopefully he will see this thread, because I am curious also. My gut says that you did the right thing.

And I agree, kudos for getting involved. I had a job once where reacting was important. My boss showed me that some people react and others don't. He looked for those who reacted because it was easier to teach someone the right way to react then it was to teach someone to react. You could teach them to react, but it was harder. I saw this first hand last summer on a houseboat with 15 people. Someone in the group had tied a canoe on the back in the wrong place and when the captain backed the boat up from shore, the canoe flooded and started to sink. 3 of us hurried to try and keep it from sinking, but everyone else just stood around and looked. I was holding onto the canoe and it was all that I could do to get someone to go and get me a pot from the kitchen so that I could bail it out. I hollered at 3 different people before I could get someone to move. They just stood there looking. I would have done it myself, but I was holding the canoe from sinking. I realize that my story isn't life or death, but it does illustrate the point. On this forum I'm sure someone has a life or death example. haha...

Trad climber
The flip side
Sep 25, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
Technically you shouldnt make any openings until you are ready to attack the fire and know the exact location of the fire. Any opening and subsequent intro of o2 will cause the fire to spread, most likely in the direction of the O2 supply. You did the right (and human) thing which was to look for possible victims, and good on you for doing so! Like I said openings should not be made until ready but if you have to, then the opening should be made in a direction that wont do further harm. In this case opeing the door into the building would have allowed smoke to spread into the building (putting more people in possible harms way) and eventually would have lead to the full involvement of the building.

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Sep 25, 2013 - 07:55pm PT
Bump for Backdraft.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Sep 26, 2013 - 12:09am PT
Sounds like a reasonable plan of attack. Kicking down the front door would have been hard work.

Your concern for victims in the apartment was a correct priority that trumps feeding the fire.

Your local fire department probably offer Community Emergency Response Training (CERT). It's a great program that takes about 6 evenings. You'd get official training on how to deal with situations like this as well as various other disaster situations. When I did it they lit an oil pit on fire and we all got to play with the dry powder type extinguisher. Totally fun.

Social climber
La Quinta and Penticton BC
Sep 26, 2013 - 12:39am PT
You sound like a good neighbour Jim, right or wrong isn't an issue if you are a goog samaritan.
Reminds me of the quote " No good deed goes unpunished"

Where was that video?

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Sep 26, 2013 - 12:46am PT
Somewhere in Skaha, Rolf. I just remember seeing this nice crack and just started climbing it. There was no guidebook yet in 1990, it was an east facing wall.

Boulder climber
Sep 26, 2013 - 01:15am PT
I kicked in the glass ...
You could've got cut, bled to death, and while they were attending to you, everybody else died of smoke inhalation too.

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Sep 26, 2013 - 02:19am PT
just knowing where the extinguisher was is amazing since most folks can not find them in a panic situation, you have to drill this to get it locked in,

of course you did the right thing by checking for people,


Ice climber
Brujo de La Playa
Sep 26, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
What caused the fire?

Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 26, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
A plug in appliance shorting out.

Ice climber
Brujo de La Playa
Sep 26, 2013 - 04:54pm PT
My brother's house burned pretty much down. The cause was some decrepit wiring in the attic. It was the beginning of a long and not very pretty story.

And I agree you did the right thing.
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