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by the NFCC

Control measure
Appropriate intervention: Fire in tunnel

Control measure knowledge

A fire within a tunnel may contain a wide variety of vehicles including cars and trains, hazardous and structural materials which will be directly contributing to its growth and development.
The complex interactions between these sources of fuel may not be fully understood in the early stages of an incident and caution should be taken as to the firefighting methods and extinguishing media used.
The extent of a fire and its likely development will also be acutely influenced by what is involved, such as materials, substances or processes. Ascertaining information about the type of fuel and the amount of material present – the fire loading – along with how long a fire has been burning, should therefore always be considered by the
incident commander and personnel before deciding on the appropriate intervention and whether to adopt an offensive or defensive approach.
An assessment of the fire loading will help an incident commander to predict the likely extent and severity of firespread that may be experienced during firefighting operations. Due to the lack of ventilation, any assessment should consider the impact of firefighting intervention on personnel and any on going evacuation.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Identify known tunnel risks in their area and create appropriate plans to resolve incidents

  • Provide suitable equipment and training to resolve fires in tunnels

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Identify travel distance to scene; identify suitable access and egress points through adjacent tunnel if available 

  • Identify type of tunnel and associated hazards (rail, road or communications tunnels)

  • Identify any firefighting shafts, from which to commence operations