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Control measure

Minimal use of firefighting media

Control measure knowledge

Incident commanders should understand the importance of balancing the competing needs of providing a sufficient weight of intervention to extinguish a fire against the damage that could be caused by firefighting water runoff. The aim should be to use the minimum amount of extinguishing media required to extinguish the fire without compromising firefighter safety.

Water is very heavy - 1,000 litres or one cubic metre weighs one tonne. The weight of this can have a significant impact on the stability of any structure, building or vessel. For example:

  • Where a roof is involved in fire and the roof timbers burn through to the degree where they cannot support the weight of the roof covering, the roof will collapse to the floor below and the weight of the roof structure and firefighting water will impose a load that may be too heavy for the floor to support and cause further collapse. See National Operational Guidance: Fires in buildings - Unstable structure: Fire
  • If water is lying on a lath and plaster or boarded ceiling it can put a strain on the fixings of the laths to the joists and the keying of the plaster to the laths
  • In churches and cathedrals, fan-vaulted ceilings have conoids in the roof spaces, which can fill with water and fail catastrophically. Some cathedrals have a weak panel fitted that will fail when water fills the conoid to avoid collapse, but this is not a commonplace feature, so care should be taken to avoid filling them with water.

See also: National Operational Guidance: Transport - Stability of the vessel

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Liaise and make appropriate arrangements with owners, occupiers and responsible persons to provide appropriate systems and processes that enable personnel to take appropriate steps to minimise damage and work safely whilst firefighting
  • Develop tactical guidance and support arrangements for the actions to take and associated hazards regarding the minimal use of firefighting media

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Use the minimum extinguishing media required considering the appropriate weight of attack