FIREFIGHTER EXPLAINS: What “Fire Knocked Down” Means?

As we’ve made no secret of on this blog, firefighting has a lot of terms. If you’re hired to a fire department and on the scene, eventually, you will hear your fellow firefighters talking about a fire being knocked down. What does this even mean?

Fire knocked down is a benchmark term firefighters use to describe an area that’s clear of fire. In addition to saying a fire is knocked down, firefighters might use terms like “fire under control” or “all clear,” which refer to the same thing.

In today’s article, we’ll talk further about this unique firefighting term and how you can gauge whether it’s safe to leave a scene, so make sure you don’t miss it! 

What Does a Fire Knocked Down Mean?

This term might confuse you initially, as fire doesn’t behave in such a way where you can even knock it down. True, it doesn’t, yet it’s a term that’s stuck in the world of firefighting, nevertheless.

So what does it mean when a fire is “knocked down”? It’s another way of saying the fire has been safely suppressed. 

Until a firefighter or supervisor declares a fire as “knocked down,” firefighters should remain on the scene, as they may be needed. 

After all, as we discussed on the blog recently, hidden sources of fire can sometimes emerge. Firefighters must scour the area to search for these hidden fire sources and eliminate the fire. 

How Do You Know a Fire Scene Is Safe to Exit?

As the paragraphs above indicate, it’s not as easy as extinguishing a fire and leaving the scene. A series of checks and balances come into play involving multiple parties to ensure firefighters leave a safe scene behind.

Here’s a checklist of what the firefighters must first do:

  • Determine if an investigator needs to arrive at the scene to investigate the cause of a fire. If the fire occurred under any suspicious circumstances, such a check may be required. During this time, the fire department has to hold tight and wait for the investigator to arrive.
  • Receive approval of what’s allowed for overhauling. Once the investigator arrives on the scene, they’ll tell the firefighters what they can overhaul versus what they cannot.
  • Secure the utilities if pulling and moving water into the floors and walls of the building. Failing to do this can allow water to enter electrical services where it shouldn’t, which can further put everyone in the building at risk. 
  • Work with a utility company representative to confirm pulling before it happens. Pulling walls with tools can leave gas and electric lines in a compromised state. The utility company representative will approve of the security of these lines before firefighters leave the scene.
  • Do an infrastructure check to gauge whether the building is habitable or usable. A safety officer will arrive to carry out this check and may discourage an overhaul if it could put the building at risk. 
  • Create exit paths if none exist so that if the team has to make a swift exit (such as in the case of a building collapse), everyone can get out of the building safely. 
  • Check the air quality before the fire department removes its SCBA gear. Firefighters should test for more than the presence of oxygen but the absence of asbestos and other dangerous airborne contaminants. 

The Fire Overhaul Process

Once these checks and balances occur, it’s time to begin overhauling. This process entails searching for hidden sources of fire, just as we mentioned in the first section. 

Firefighters should begin overhauling with a fire hose at the ready to quickly extinguish a source of fire. They should also strongly consider bringing a scoop shovel and a bucket for removing hot embers and ashes. 

By swiftly removing burning or burnt material, a fire might not start again. Alternatively, firefighters can wet the materials to fully extinguish embers. 

One of the biggest takeaways we can offer is this: don’t let the euphoria of knocking down a fire cause you to get careless. 

Firefighters sometimes feel an endorphin rush from putting out a fire, so they’re not thinking as clearly or operating as carefully during a fire overhaul as they should.

This is a huge mistake, as overhauls can be deadly. Traps and pitfalls still exist, and a firefighter must have their wits about them to safely navigate the area. 

The Importance of Confirming a Fire Has Been Knocked Down 

Although it increases the time a firefighter is on the scene, confirming that a fire has been knocked down is integral for these reasons. 

Preserves Lives and Infrastructure

By the time a fire department gets to the point of overhauling a fire, any victims in the building have long since been removed. 

However, whether it’s a commercial or residential building, inhabitants will eventually make their way back in, maybe sooner than later. 

If a fire wasn’t successfully contained, these people’s lives are at risk for going back into the building. One can’t always see hidden fire until it’s too late.

More so than preserving citizens’ lives, knocking down a fire and overhauling it also preserves infrastructure.

Without the check for hidden sources of fire, a fire department could assume they put out the fire, leave, and venture to another scene. In the meantime, a hidden fire takes down the rest of the building.

In a scenario like that, the loss is preventable. Overhauling the fire keeps the building intact if it’s structurally sound enough to keep standing. 

Limits Fire Spread

It’s not only the building in which the fire originated that’s in danger of becoming a pile of rubble, but adjacent buildings as well.

 A hidden fire behaves like any other fire once its source emerges, which means it can begin burning with such fervor that nearby buildings also catch on fire.

Now a different subset of people is in danger, and more infrastructure is at risk of falling because of a lack of checks and balances after extinguishing the original fire. 

Saves Work in the Long Run 

Giving a fire area the all-clear requires many parties and several checks of the building, but the time a fire department puts into knocking down a fire now is time they’ll save later.

They don’t have to return to the same building that day or evening or the next day to extinguish a fire all over again. The building doesn’t have to endure more strain that can increase its risk of collapse. 

A fire that’s knocked down refers to one that’s been fully extinguished and then overhauled to reduce its risk. It’s a time-consuming and less glamorous part of the job but one that ensures more lives and infrastructure are saved. Therefore, it’s always worth doing!