The 'Occupied' Vacant: Fires in Vacant, Abandoned, and Hazardous Structures

2 Hour Program

“Real-World” Tactics for Fires in Vacant, Abandoned, Hazardous and Dilapidated Structures.” 

Vacant properties used to be an inner-city problem but that is no longer the case. Suburban and metropolitan areas have seen an increased presence of abandoned residential and vacant commercial properties. Many of these buildings are not only prone to fires, they’re occupied by drug users, gangs, copper thieves, squatters, and vagrants. 

These properties may be structurally unstable with many interior and exterior dangers from holes in the floors, open roofs, rotted floor decking, fortified board ups, window bars and prior burns to bio-hazards. In addition, firefighters may have to navigate broken glass, tires, needles, and hoarding conditions. We can’t always assume that these buildings are unoccupied and go defensive. 

This presentation focuses on size-up, locating victims, unique rapid search and rescue options, savvy laddering and ‘bridging’, forcible entry, safe aggressive strategies and some unorthodox tactics to make the push and the grab. 

It’s critical for all firefighters, company and chief officers to understand the dangers of the perimeter, signs and type of collapse, interior and exterior fire spread, construction, renovations, and understand what thermal exposure and urban mining can do to the building over the years sitting vacant. 


Captain Brian Butler

Brian Butler is a fire Captain and 22 year veteran of the fire service currently assigned to Engine Co #10 in downtown Trenton (NJ). He is also a member of the King of Prussia PA Fire Rescue in suburban Philadelphia. Butler serves as a rescue technician and hazmat technician with the Southeastern PA (Montgomery County) Technical Rescue Task Force and Hazmat Response Team and is a level 2 fire instructor. He is the owner of HERCULES fire training, and a contributor author at Firehouse, Fire Engineering, and