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Salvage Operation

Salvage operations consist of methods and operating procedures associated with fire fighting that aid in reducing primary and secondary damage during fire fighting operations. Primary damage can be caused by fire. Secondary damage can be caused by suppression activities (usually the application of water). Salvage is the method used in reducing primary and secondary damage during fire operation

Tactical Considerations

Controlling damage at the scene of the incident is the goal of effective salvage. To achieve this goal, crew members should train and become proficient in all operations relating to the following: 

  • Forcible Entry:

    Know how to gain access with the least amount of damage as possible. Ensure that the amount of damage is warranted by the urgency of the situation. If there is no sign of immediate life hazard and no significant signs of fire, consider a less destructive means of gaining entry.

  • Ventilation: Ventilation will assist in lessening damage due to its ability to confine the fire and other damaging products to a confined area. The rapid removal of heat and other products of combustion can significantly lower the amount of direct fire loss. Horizontal/positive pressure ventilation is another way to limit damage to a structure. Ordinary doors that are closed may block a significant amount of heat and smoke from extending to other areas of the structure. If no door exists, rolled plastic or salvage covers work well as a temporary draft curtain.

  • Application of Water: Although managing hose streams is not a common function of ladder work, applying water at the wrong time, from the wrong place, with the wrong nozzle pattern causes significant amount of preventable damage. Every attempt should be made to locate the seat of the fire, and only apply as much water that is necessary to control the situation. Pressurized water cans may be considered to control a small fire before hose lines are put in place

  • Dewatering:  methods used to remove water from a structure are only limited by the amount of salvage equipment on hand and the ingenuity of the crew. Do not waste time saving goods that have already been damaged when better time can be spent directing the flow of water or removing goods and material from the path of water. In multiple story buildings, salvage may need to be initiated on lower floors prior to starting on the fire involved floor.

  • Overhaul: Effective overhaul will also limit the loss to the occupant and structure. An overhaul crew can sometime recover valuables that otherwise may have been written off as a loss. Businesses have been able to reopen quicker when firefighting crews have recovered files and important papers before they were destroyed

  •  Covering of Goods and Materials: In order to be effective, this operation must begin as early in the incident as possible. Before covering begins, consider these facts: 

    • – Can the valuables be moved to a safe place eliminating the need for covering?

    • – Is there enough plastic or salvage covers to effectively cover all the valuables?

    • – Are the valuable you intend to salvage already lost to fire, smoke, or water?

Types of salvage covers

  1. Rubber coated covers 
    • Not very common anymore

    • Rubberized on both sides

    • Used by larger departments and department s back

    • Easels where they have specialized salvage companies

  2.  Plastic covers:

    1. Be coming more common
    2. Usually made of nylon with a vinyl coating

    3. May be made of heavy polyethylene film

    4. Advantages 

      • Lightweight
      • Water and shrink proof
      • Chemical and tear resistant
      • Will not rot or mildew

  3. Greenback cover:
    1. Canvas with special treatment on one side

    2. The dark or treated side is usually working side
  4. Duck Cove r
    1. Canvas treated with a linseed oil compound 

    2. Sticky in summer stiff in winter
    3. Tend to soil objects covered
  5. Regular canvas:

    1. Specially treated canvas material

    2. Advantages

    3. Lightweight
    4. Easy to handle
  6. Visquene:
    1. Heavy gauge plastic sheeting
    2. Advantages
      • Comes in rolls 3 and 4 feet wide
      • Unfolds to 18 – 20 feet wide
      • Lightweight, easy to work with
      • Can be left at the scan

Salvage Planning

  • Think about what might be in the structure
  •  Are there special preplans for buildings with high-value contents?

  •  In commercial occupancies, consider the cost of lost documents or equipment like computers 

  • We can help businesses identify potential critical items and suggest loss control measures

Salvage Procedures

We can begin salvage operations at the same time as fire attack: 

  • Cover contents with a tarpaulin
  • Find a throw rug and cover items
  • Move items off a wet carpet
  •  Remove obstacles that impede flow of water out of the structure. 

  • Clean drains, use existing sanitary piping systems, create chutes


Salvage Equipment

  • Waterproof canvas or vinyl (cover valuables)
  • Suitable plastic rolls (cover valuables)
  • Brooms (move water or debris)
  • Shovels (move debris)
  • PPV Fan (move smoke)
  • Blocks (elevate furniture)
  • Pliers
  • Sledgehammer
  • Squeegee
  • Duct Tape
  • Numerous other items

Fire Extinguishment Activities

  • For safest and most effective operation where people in area, solid stream or fog nozzle on solid stream position should be used to aid rescue and reduce steam production
  • . Stay low upon entering fire area to let heat and gases vent before moving in

  • Before opening door to fire area, all firefighters should be positioned on same side of entrance and remain low

  • Crack nozzle and bleed air out of line ahead of water

  • If fire shows at top of door as opened, ceiling should be hit with solid stream to cool and control fire gases

  • Sweep floor with stream to cool burning debris and hot surfaces

  • Do not open stream until fire can be hit unless firefighter safety is affected 

  •  Direct stream at base of fire if localized

  •  As advance made, angle of stream should be lowered and attempt made to hit main body of fire

  •  When main body of fire knocked down, shut down stream and let area to vent

  •  When fire knocked down, shut down

  • Upon entering an area, which is very, hot and finding no fire, withdraw immediately and check area below

  • When attacking basement fire down interior stairs, solid stream should be used because fog will generate steam

  • Use of fog should be restricted to unoccupied confined spaces

Salvage Activities

  • Water to attack the fire can cause unnecessary damage due to excessive water application
  • Unnecessary entry can cause unnecessary damage
  • Prompt removal of smoke, heat, and water contributes to damage reduction
  • Salvage or property conservation is reducing the damage not directly related to the fire
  • Salvage is not just the placement of covers or the removal of water and smoke but the use of common sense throughout the operation



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