Event Description We were dispatched at 0345 for multiple calls of a large fire. While en-route, 30' flames were visible. Crews found a fully involved detached garage behind a vacant house for sale upon arrival. Crews pulled a 2 1/2" attack line and knocked the main body of fire easily. During overhaul it was determined that the garage had been converted into a second house. The roof and walls had collapsed into the structure and covered the floor. Many firefighters and investigators walked over the top of the collapsed materials. When we started to remove the materials to complete overhaul, we found a 3' x 6' x 6' pit in the floor that had been covered with 2" x 6" planking and carpet. This man pit could have been easily concealed only with the roofing material if it was still being utilized as a garage. A firefighter could have easily fallen into the pit. [Reviewer's Note: See Resources Page, Videos and Photos for photos related to this near- miss report.]
Lessons Learned Many firefighter fatalities and injuries occur during the overhaul phase of the fire. Do not let your guard down after the perceived threat is gone. Sound the floor and probe with hooks well ahead of you even when you THINK you can see and the floor APPEARS to be stable.
Discussion questions 1) What are some tactics we can use to avoid hidden hazards such as the pit mentioned in this report? 2) Can you name some other hazards that may be hidden from view and encountered during a fire? 3) What would be the best course of action to take if you find a hazard such as this?