Go old School on Hoarder Fires


As the news came in from Maryland’s recent Hoarder fire, the images began to surface.  Their choice of High Expansion foam made for some amazing video.  The images looked like someone had put the bubble bath into a hot tub and left it on for hours.  Using foam while battling a hoarding condition can be one of the best solutions to the problem. One drawback is getting the foam on top of the piles of debris; this is where the high expansion foam comes in as it keeps filling the rooms until everything is covered.

 ]Cellar Nozzle

Cellar Nozzle

If you do not have access to this type of foam or foam at all, you may need to reach deep into your bag of tricks to pull out an oldie but goodie nozzle, the bressnan cellar nozzle! You know the nozzle that ISO has made sure we all have on our engines for years.  This type of nozzle has a great use in fighting hoarder fires.  The 360 degrees of water sprayed in small droplets will absorb heat and soak the entire area around it; one problem is how to get it above the hoard that is where we need to get creative.


Here are a few points in using a cellar nozzle:

    • Cut a vent hole in the attic and drop the nozzle down from the roof


    • Breach an exterior wall high, place through the hole


    • Use an exterior window and use an attic ladder to push it over the hoard.


    • Use a hook to push it above the hoard if inside the room

These are a few quick tips on using a cellar nozzle while dealing with a hoarder fire.  Notice one common point; we are not in the room when it goes in service.  A cellar nozzle uses the reduced airflow to “steam” the fire out. This attack has the potential to push your PPE to its’ thermal limit.  Today’s PPE has better thermal protection than ever but steam burns can be some of the most troubling.  Set the nozzle in place then back out before it goes in service to help protect from steam burns.  Once it has been operating for a few minutes watch for signs of knockdown such as white steam and changing smoke conditions and prepare to start the overhaul process.

[caption id="attachment_181" align="alignright" width="140"]Photo: Sheperdstown WV Fire Dept. Photo: Sheperdstown WV Fire Dept.

To add in the effectiveness of a cellar nozzle you should leave all the windows and doors in place as it will add to the steaming of the fire.  Thinking of hoarder fires as confined space fires with reduced airflow will put you in the mindset of using those types of tactics, especially if an interior push cannot be made. Just remember to review with your firefighters the need to pull out of a building if an interior push is blocked by hoarding conditions.  Back them out, grab the cellar nozzle, and get creative!  While it is in operation, you have time to order more resources and prepare to dig in!

PPE punishment in Hoarder Fires
Hoarder's Conditions in Mount Rainier House Fire

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Thursday, 18 April 2024
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