Firefighters Complain about Metal Roofs

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A few months back you may recall I had touched on the firefighters and metal roofs subject, well, looks like it isn’t going away. Ultimately, before voicing an opinion we would like for you to read the article so that 

you can draw your own conclusions. The article is below and comes from the Journalreview.com website, a publication based in Crawfordsville, IN, written by Bob Cox.  You can email Bob at bcox@jrpress.com , yes I wanted to throw that in because I anticipate this story creating waves. By all means email me and post your thoughts on the blog site. Looking forward to this one to be honest.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 – Bob Cox – Journal Review – Metal roofs have become popular with area homeowners because they last longer and cost less than conventional roofing materials. However, a metal roof may be a hazard if the house ever catches fire, say local firefighters.

Firefighters responding to a residential fire Monday in Wingate had some tense moments while trying to cut an area of the metal roof for ventilation. Firefighters took several minutes to secure ladders to the apex of the roof. Once secured, the ladders served as a walkway. Several times firefighters lost their footing and started to slide dangerously downward. In the meantime, smoke and flames continued to roll out of the roof.

Modern metal roofs are often built on top of existing asphalt material which forms additional layers for firemen to cut through when ventilating a house fire. Without an escape, smoke and heat remain trapped within the residence, creating an unsafe environment for firefighters.

Coal Creek Fire and Rescue Chief Judd Meharry has concerns with metal roofs and firefighters’ safety.

“You could see that the guys on the roof trying to cut a hole for ventilation were having trouble maintaining good traction,” Meharry said. “A wet metal roof is slippery and we are wearing rubber boots that make it hard to gain a footing.” 

Crawfordsville Fire Department Larry Patton agrees with Meharry, saying metal roofing can cause numerous problems when combating a burning structure.

“Walking on a metal roof could be the equivalent of walking on a built-up roof with ice on it. Because it is metal it tends to be more slippery. Our whole purpose for being up on the roof is to gain access, and release those super-heated gases or flames so we can get the fire out,” Patton said. 

Metal roofs require special cutting tools, and they can hide the location of the fire inside and its true intensity. 

During the recent Wingate call volunteer firefighters were forced to wait for the Crawfordsville Fire Department to arrive with a large round circular saw to vent the roof. The time it took to get the saw to cut through the roof gave firefighters no chance to reduce the loss of property. The damage sustained to the house was considered a total loss.

Metal roofs are lighter and the supporting materials also may be lighter, which can cause the roof to fall down faster than most standard roofs. Meharry said the way a metal roof is installed can cause problems.

“Usually all the contractor uses is a one-by-one strip of wood to attach the metal roofing to,” Patton said. “A firefighter has no idea what is under the roof or how stable the roof is, simply because we cannot see existing problems like we can with shingled roofs.”

Homeowners considering a metal roof over shingles generally are looking for financial savings. Metal roofing is expected to last longer than asphalt shingles. However, when considering the increased safety risk during a fire, the savings might not be worth it.

“Metal roofs are great, until you have a fire,” Patton said.

Monday’s residential fire originated in a utility room. The State Fire Marshal deemed the blaze electrical in nature and it was ruled accidental. The four family members who were home at the time of the blaze and one volunteer firefighter were transported to Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health – Crawfordsville for evaluation and treatment of smoke inhalation, Meharry said.

3 thoughts on “Firefighters Complain about Metal Roofs

  1. Pingback: Firefighters Against Metal Roofs | METALCON Blog

  2. Jonathan Rider

    The Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA) is currently working on an Education Action Plan to address many of these concerns and misinformation that is represented in publications like this. This plan is needed across North America to help educate firefighters how to address and size up structural fires with metal roofing.

    This appears to be an inflamed scenario and parade of negativity from firefighters lacking education and proper training on the matter. If rubber boots are the problem, the department should invest in quality leather firefighting safety boots with anti-slip soles. All wet roofs are slippery to some degree; for that matter, some dry roofs with a notable pitch can cause fall hazards of their own. If equipment is the problem, a K12 saw with the appropriate carbide blade (if funding is available) is a very easy fix. If funding is an issue, as with many volunteer departments across the US, simply use an axe to make a purchase point near the eave of a roof and a standard halligan tool to pry back a section of metal roofing to discover if the roof system has been built up or not. A few seconds to find out what you are working with in an emergency situation can help customize your response and plan to combat the threat. If it can not be determined if the roof is safe or not, then the scene commander should be held accountable for their actions for sending their personnel into harm. If the risk is not worth the reward, then firefighter should not put into a scenario that they would be injured.

    More to the point to address the Coal Creek Fire & Rescue’s concern about metal roofing, I point you to view this lovely ariel shot of their own fire station sporting what? …a beautiful standing seam metal roof: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Coal+Creek+Fire+%26+Rescue/@40.1933828,-86.9800242,118m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x8812dea9a2fe3753:0x56876aa52b47307c!6m1!1e1

    Reply

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