Reconnaissance of Legacy Buildings

Article written by Chris and Lex for Fire Engineering Magazine, June 2022.

Building Construction Firefighting

Reconnaissance of Legacy Buildings

The two most important subjects a firefighter should know expertly are fire behavior and building construction. Conditions dictate tactics, and construction dictates strategy.

For the full article exclusively on Fire Engineering, click the link below.


Void Space Backdraft/Smoke Explosion

Check out the outside indicators of void space fires as well as the backdraft/smoke explosion occurring in the knee wall.

Video Credit: FirstAlarm STL on YouTube.

Full video link below. Hostile fire event occurs at the 7:40 mark.

St. Louis First Alarm 10/30/14

Building Construction Firefighting Training

Back to Main Street: Five Reminders When Facing Main Street Fires

Follow the links below to check out the latest articles by Chief Joe Pronesti from Elyria Fire Department (OH). Part one and two of “Reminders on Main Street.’’ (Shared with the Chief’s permission.)

Back to Main Street: Five Reminders When Facing Main Street Fires

Back to Main Street: Five More Reminders When Facing Main Street Fires

Be sure to check out Fire Engineering’s other resources as well.


The Aggressive Interior Fire Attack: Why You Should and Why You Shouldn’t

Photos courtesy of Ben Mazenic and Garen Mosby.

Follow the link below to check out Chris’ latest article on Firefighter Nation on what it means to do an “aggressive interior fire attack.”

Be sure to check out their other resources as well.

Building Construction Firefighter Firefighting Training

FDIC 2022

Grateful to FDIC, proud of the work put into this class, and excited to talk Legacy Buildings with everyone in April. Below is a little preview of the class.


St. Louis Brick

Lex Shady & Chris Tobin

Few areas of the country have as many brick buildings as does St. Louis. This can be attributed to two main reasons.

  1. At one time, there were 53 clay mines throughout St. Louis, making it easily accessible, and cheaper than in other areas of the country due to lack of transportation costs. The rapid expansion of the city through the early 20th century made this the material of choice.
  2. The “White Cloud” fire that destroyed 418 buildings on the city’s riverfront in 1849. This resulted in the city creating an ordinance that buildings must be constructed with non-combustible materials.

The use of brick resulted in a city filled with gorgeous architecture, the quality of the brick and the designs that ensued from various mining groups is something you don’t see in most areas of the country. Another unintended consequence of the use of brick is that these buildings typically hold up better to years of decay than do frame ones. For a city who’s population has decreased almost 66% since its high in 1950, this is an important feature. (St. Louis population was approximately 857,000 in 1950 down to less than 300,000 in the 2020 census.)

At one point, there were over 35,000 abandoned buildings throughout the City, most in North City. As with every city that struggles with abandoned structures, there is a subsequent increase in fires. These fires, whether caused by fireworks, weather, arson, or for heating/cooking; can result in heavily damaged, sometimes partially collapsed structures. The cost of renovating or demolishing these can be very expensive, and when in a city struggling financially, results in them left standing as is.

Another interesting feature to the city is the amount of brick theft. Because the brick produced throughout the city was of such high quality, the demand for it was (and still is) high. Brick thievery has been an issue for decades, but reached a peak in the early 2000’s. Brick thieves worked hard to obtain their prize, with entire walls going missing overnight. The city cracked down on brickyards to try and slow the theft, but it resulted in many hazardous buildings spread throughout the city.

There’s a great documentary on the brick theft in the city,

Brick by Chance and Fortune

If you’d like to read more on this city’s unique brick history, check out the articles below.

St. Louis Brick Paradox

“Why is Everything Brick?”

St. Louis, Navigating the Brick City

The Great Fire that Changed the Face of St. Louis



“There’s nothing new about firefighting, except to those who knew nothing.”

We’d be remiss to not thank our senior firemen and other mentors for all of the time, education, and training they have shared with us throughout the years. You know who you are.

Due to the nature of how common trade knowledge, jargon, terminology, and methods are passed down amongst the fire service much of the information can not be cited as a proprietary source to one particular piece of work, individual, group or otherwise.

That being said, below is a list of books we find to be extremely useful, and refer to often in our studies.


Fire Service Training Thesis

“Training for Failure in the United States Fire Service”

Written by District Chief David ONeal from Akron Fire Department

Kinesthetic, or “hands on” training is the type of learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.

We all know this is the best style for achieving retention and skill acquisition in the fire service, but why is that the case? Chief O’Neal explains the importance of hands on training in the fire service by utilizing data from our own industry, and comparing it to the best practices of other similar industries. He acknowledges training constraints from staffing, cost, and increased call volume. As well as examines various training models currently utilized, how stress impacts learning, and how to best aid our members in retaining information. Below is an excerpt from his thesis.

We feel this information could aid in your training programs, and it puts science to what many have been saying for years; pc-based training isn’t sufficient. To view the rest of his research, please follow the link below.



Chris and Lex talk with Corely Moore on Firehouse Vigilance about about all things building construction, from main street, to suburbia and everything in between.

Lex talks with David Mellen of Valor Fire Training on building construction, fire prevention, firemanship, and equality in the fire service.

Chris talks with Corely about social media in the fire service and the future of Fire Conferences and what Chris believes they will look like moving forward.

Lex talks with the Average Jake Firefighter Podcast on everything from building construction to fitness.

Chris talks with the guys from Due Work Podcast on “aggressive firemanship.”–13—An-Aggressive-Interview-With-An-Aggressive-Fireman-Chris-Tobin-e36sud

Lex and Scott Orr discuss the use of the word “firemen” in the fire service, and why she prefers it.

“Humpday Hangout” on Fire Engineering. Chris, Frank Ricci, and “RJ” James discuss search tactics.

“The Anatomy of Building Construction” with Lex, hosted by the Central Ohio Fools.

“The Art of Truckmanship” with Chris, hosted by the Central Ohio Fools.

Lex talks with Joe Pronesti about how to navigate the maze of information in the fire service.

Chris talks with Dr. Rich Gasaway of SAMatters on the “Mindset of Aggressiveness.

Lex talks with Brian and Kara of “The Professional Brotherhood” podcast on being a student of the job.

Scott Orr and Chris discuss the “state of the fire service” and having an “old school attitude.”