WESTFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB) - Metal roofs are becoming more popular with rural homes, but they could pose a dangerous firefighting hazard.
Volunteer firefighters in Westfield were just the latest first responders hampered by a metal roof. The first problem: they didn't know they were dealing with a tin roof until they actually were on top of it, which lead to a few anxious moments.
Westfield Fire Chief Steve Pacanowski says the home on Cottage Street had a metal roof that was installed over layers of asphalt shingles. The roof held the heat in, leading to a close call for firefighters inside.
Chief Pacanowski said, "It took us a while to cut through the metal roof. And we had to pull them out, at one point, because they said it got too hot, and the interior ceilings had started coming down on them."
Two of the people living in the house suffered smoke inhalation and one of them was transferred to ECMC. Chief Pacanowski suspects the intense heat might have been a factor.
Tiger Schmittendorf, the Deputy Fire Coordinator for Erie County Emergency Services told News 4, metal roofs put up a number of challenges for firefighters. They require special cutting tools and can hide the true intesity and exact location of the fire below.
Schmittendorf said, "Walking on a metal roof could be the equivalent of walking on a built-up roof with ice on it. Because it is metal it tends to be a little slipperier. Our whole purpose for being up on the roof is to gain access, and release those super-heated gases, and that heat and flames, if that is what's underneath, and get those out."
Metal roofs last longer and are lighter than a conventional roof, so the supporting material might also be lighter, which is another area of concern.
"And what types of materials were used, and also how those materials were joined together, and how quickly they are going to fail under fire conditions," Schmittendorf said.
Schmittendorf trains firefighters and metal roofs are part of the regime for urban firefighters' training, like in Buffalo, and nearby suburbs.
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