High home elevation, steep roof pose extra challenges for firefighters

High home elevation, steep roof pose extra challenges for firefighters

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The heat was so intense, it caused helmet shields to melt. That was the kind of blaze firefighters faced when they entered a home on Biloxi's Back Bay Sunday.

The accidental fire, which officials say was tough to tackle, was started by "misuse of smoking materials". On Monday, repairs started on the Kensington Drive home.

"This is a fire that under normal conditions, we'll be able to fight it and put it out within an hour or an hour-and-a-half. It took us three hours because of the conditions that we were faced with," said Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney.

The home's high elevation limited direct access to the doors, windows, and roof. A metal roof trapped heat and smoke, preventing firefighters from attacking the flames from the inside.

"If you build a small fire on a piece of concrete, and you took a small metal bowl and you held it over the fire three or four inches....it keeps all the heat and the smoke in," said Boney. "Then just imagine trying to send people into that type of condition to fight a fire. It's tough."

Boney also says the roof was too steep.

"The roof is pitched to the point that we can't walk on it and when there's fire conditions up there, we can't put ropes and things up there to hold our firefighters up there," Boney added.

Firefighters had to use ladder trucks to reach the roof, saw a hole to ventilate the attic.

"And that was hazardous in itself. We had to have firefighters hang off of the basket. Of course, they were strapped in safely, but it's a tough situation that people don't always think about when they build a home," said Boney.

Boney understands people need to fortify their homes for severe weather protection or for better energy efficiency. But, he wants them to also realize that improvements - like thicker roof decking and spray-on insulation - can pose extra challenges.

"When you build a house, it's a beautiful home, and it's well insulated and it's easy to heat and cool. But it's not so easy for us to come fight a fire in these types of structures. It takes us longer," said Boney.

According to the homeowner, the house is only six years old and the family's main home is in Hattiesburg. The chief recommends that homeowners install a residential sprinkler system.

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