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Firefighting in high-rise buildings

can be very different from fighting fires in lower buildings.
Firefighters walking up stairs in a high-rise building

What is a high-rise building?

For a range of work we do we use technical definitions for what a high rise building is. Typically a high-rise is any building that has seven or more floors, including the ground floor.

On arrival tactics

Our firefighters have to be ready to fight fires in all of these types of buildings, so we train and have processes in place to tackle them.

If we receive four or more calls about a fire in a high-rise building where people live we automatically send out eight fire engines and one aerial appliance. We call this a Pre-Determined Attendance (PDA).

When we arrive at a high rise incident there are key tasks that the first crew will undertake. These tasks are called ‘on arrival tactics’. For high rise incidents they include:

  • Securing a water supply
  • Setting in the dry rising main
  • Identifying and securing the firefighting lift - if one is available
  • Establishing a bridgehead

Water supply

You can’t fight a fire without water. So making sure we have a good water supply is first on the list. We get our water from water hydrants – there over 115,000 hydrants in London.

Dry rising main

A dry rising main is basically a big pipe that goes up the building. It lets our firefighters pump water up to all floors of the building where our hoses can be attached to fight the fire. It means we don’t have to run hoses right through the building.

Wet rising mains have their own water supply, so firefighters can just plug there hoses straight in without having to pump water in to the main – we call that charging the main.

Firefighters walking up stairs in a high-rise building

Firefighting lift

Firefighting lifts are provided in high-rise buildings so firefighters and equipment can reach the upper floors quickly.

Firefighting lifts look like normal lifts, but they have a special electrical circuit that lets us take control of them and stops the normal controls from working. The electrical supply to firefighting lifts is separate the other circuits in the building.

City-scape of London with a high-rise building in the view.