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Roof Designs: Involved in Fire


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Hi, I am an on call development fire fighter doing my NVQ, I have recently given a presentation on roof designs.

As part of the feedback I have being asked to find out:

  • The advantages / disadvantages of:
  • Belfast roof's involved in fire
  • King and queen post's involved in fire

I have searched the firemanship manuals available to me on my eLearning login but I haven't been able to find anything in them relevant.

Does anyone know this info?

Cheers in advance

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Kal. When you refer to the firemanship manuals, I am presuming you mean the new blue covered ones and not the old Manuals of Firemanship that are red? If I remember correctly there was certainly more in the red ones on roof types and I even remember part of the early exams were you had to label them.

I think I have most of them in PDF format, perhaps I should consider adding them to the downloads section alongside the blue ones?

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I cannot believe that Belfast roofs are still appearing in fire service bibliography. Why??

I have only ever seen 1 or 2 - at Chatham Dockyard and a RAF airfield I went to recently. I would guess there aren't many about nowadays - but am happy to be proved wrong

I cannot believe pre formed trusses and gang nails are not mentioned. There are millions of these death traps which can fail as the fire service arrive.

Google ' seven minutes to collapse ' on you tube

Good luck

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The firemanship manuals that I’ve got assess to are a combination of the red and blue ones. In one of the red and blue ones, I found building construction and the effects of fire on the roof but not  specifically the Belfast, king and queen posts involved in fire 

Its my WM who’s asked to find our more, he was saying that it roofs use to be a big part of development when he was new, 20+ years ago.

Ive already covered the 7min collapse from modern roofing trusses in my presentation, thank you. 

That’s a good idea for looking at YouTube videos, That will be helpful for others and myself, it’s not an avenue I thought of. 

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So I bit the bullet and asked my dad who’s retired, he remembers it being a question for the sub officers exam from when he was in. :| 

Anyone with any old sub officer exams and answers with it in?

He said that with the Belfast roof being of lattice design and construction it’s prone to early collapse and rapid fire spread when constructed with wood and can spans upto 30m he thinks 

  • queen post: easier assess in to roof spaces 
  • king post: difficult access 

Both the king and queen posts both will fail quickly when involved in fires like all roofs that have combustible materials construction. 

5 hours ago, Noddy said:

.... exactly,  20 years ago.  You are wasting your time. 

It’s gotta be worth something? Otherwise he wouldn’t have asked if I believe. 

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Ok perhaps I was a little curt.  Apologies.  However, researching something that you’ll probably never see just because your WM did 20 years ago is time wasted.  You’re far better researching something like timber framed construction for example, something a current serving ff is far more likely going to see and deal with.

Similarly I too passed the old LFf, Sub O and  Station Officer exams and that’s the last time I came across Belfast roofs etc.. too! 

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  • 2 months later...

I’ve never even heard of it!

A job I went to a few years ago, was a hopkiln conversion. Not long after we got there, with crews committed the whole roof fell in in one piece straight down through the building. I had never seen a failure like it before, and I would now think twice on committing to a hopkiln type building (we have a few of them round here).

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you everyone I had covered those other subjects mostly. I've submitted all my evidence now for FF units 3,4&5. It has being signed off so I am now BA competent, just got to do the rest now to become a fully competent firefighter. my boss was happy with the answer I gave about the Belfast roof design and construction and the king and queen posts, he also had highlighted modern construction methods, so no need to worry he's not stuck in the past. 


Thanks Again!!! :) 

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To be fair, if one of my WM's was asking a trainee outdated questions like that, I'd have some serious concerns. I often bemoan that people aren’t taught to the standards of 20 plus years ago, but that is about standard and not content. I do expect Trainees and J/O's to go a bit deeper, mainly around hazards and stuff likely to kill or injure them. So building construction and signs of collapse are valid. However, time spent researching obscure elements of construction is wide of the mark and frankly next to useless.

I'd say modern construction is where the risks are, especially timber framed stuff. Higher fuel loading, how to read smoke, fire behaviour and so on. I encourage all of the Watch officers under my command to look at YouTube as there are a host of really useful videos from around the UK and beyond that demonstrate an Aladdin’s cave of useful material. I took the time a couple of years ago to copy all of the hyperlinks onto one document and asked them to run a few sessions with each of the watches looking at them and discussing the issues.

That in my opinion is invaluable. Although not there, everyone from the newest recruit up to the senior hand can look at signs and symptoms of various stages and types of fire development, how they were dealt with (or not more importantly) and remember that as it might be useful in 6 days, months or years when something is going wrong. The old MoF's were goods in their day and I learned a lot from them in the 80's and early 90's when I was doing my statutory exams. They are pointless in the modern service now, especially when a vague description of something in a long chapter and be seen and understood in 30 seconds of video.

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16 hours ago, Steve said:

 I encourage all of the Watch officers under my command to look at YouTube as there are a host of really useful videos from around the UK and beyond that demonstrate an Aladdin’s cave of useful material.

Here's the video I referred to earlier which relates to pre formed roof trusses. Even this video is now out of date as more recent 'innovation' involving sterling board timber joists (from the US) makes a BA wearer's job that little bit more iffy


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Got to admit, the term sterling board joists and open web metal type, worries me. I've no doubt they are capable of supporting the load required under normal conditions, but in a fire situation? With a solid 200 x 50mm (10" x 2") timber joist, lets be honest its going to have to be going well for a while before we start to worry about the structural integrity of the floor. Yes there will be burning and the floor boards might be burnt through, but the floor won't have collapsed in the early stage of a fire. With these new types, I suspect once the fire has breached the ceiling below, we're in bother.

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