FireHouse 101
San Diego Spotlight
Local Fires

Why do firefighters cut a hole in the roof?

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Why do firefighters cut holes  the roof of a burning building?When there is a fire in a building it is often necessary to cut a hole in the roof to ventilate. Fire and heat rise, so if there is no hole in the roof or place for the fire and heat to escape, it spreads horizontally within the building, causing the full building to be involved in fire until the fire burns through the roof for ventilation.

By cutting the hole and letting the fire escape upward out of the building it does not spread horizontally and you can get water onto the fire, which you cannot do from inside of the building due to ceilings and the danger of being in a burning building.

Clearly if the fire has advanced too far and has weakened the roof, it is not safe to cut a hole. In this case you will have to wait for the fire to burn through the roof to ventilate and get water on the fire, but most likely then you will lose the entire building.

Firefighters can’t always tell when the roof is compromised, which is why a they will us a tool, like an ax, to test the roof before they step. But despite how long or how often they perform these tasks, accidents happen.

Our thoughts go out to Fresno Captain Pete Dern and his family.