Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t put out a fire from inside a burning structure. That depends upon the you and upon the fire.
If you are a civilian, and the fire is very small (what fire fighters would call “incipient”), then you may be able to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, or water. But before doing so, make sure you have a good escape path, and make sure someone calls for help if there is any doubt at all about being able to extinguish the fire. Fires can easily double in size in just a minute. A delay of a few minutes in reporting fire can doom a home.
Properly trained and equipped professional firefighters often do fight fires from inside a structure, especially if the fire is confined to a limited area when they arrive.
There could be several reasons for not doing so, such as searching for victims inside first (if manpower is limited), or the structure already being a complete loss, or the structure showing signs of imminent structural collapse (cracks in walls or between walls and floors, falling bricks, walls bulging, warped door frames and doors that won’t close, slanted/uneven floors, unusual noises, etc.).
Firefighters have a mantra, “Don’t risk a lot for a little (or nothing).” Assuming there are no victims inside, risking firefighters’ lives to go inside a building that is so far involved that it can’t be saved, would be risking a lot for nothing in return. “A lot” is human lives. “A little” is a building that can be saved. “Nothing” is a building that’s already doomed.
On the fireground, the first priority should always be the safety of both emergency responders and victims. Buildings are not worth lives.
One was a chip pan fire, one of the most potentially serious burns you can have indoors, which I extinguished with a fire blanket. – turn off the stove first, then use the blanket as per training or instructions on the canister, making sure you protect your hands.
The second was an incident where the rug and floorboards caught alight when a coal fell from the hearth, and bounced past the hearth rail. I used buckets of cold water. I was 9 years old.
It all depends upon how bad the conflagration is, and whether you can safely approach the seat of the fire. Many domestic fires produce a prodigious amount of toxic, choking, smoke because of the soft furnishings and carpets we fill our houses with. Most fire victims die from smoke inhalation. It would be stupid not to evacuate a major conflagration, and then fight the fire – or summon professionals to do it – from a safe place.
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