Posts Tagged ‘burning regime’

Reading the Fire 18

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

It has been a busy six weeks since my last post with several trips to Chile and around the United States delivering seminars on Practical Fire Dynamics and Reading the Fire along with finalizing the fire district’s budget for 2014. Spending a full-day on B-SAHF and reading the fire at the Springfield Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 333 professional development seminar and working with our fire district’s members on our adaptation of First Due Questions (see FDQ on Facebook and First Due Tactics on the web) provided inspiration to get back to the Reading the Fire series of blog posts.

spfld_oh_practical_fire
Photo by John Shafer, The Green Maltese

Fireground photos and video can be used to aid in developing and maintaining proficiency in reading the Fire using the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) organizing scheme for fire behavior indicators. This post provides an opportunity to exercise your skills using a video segment shot during a live fire training. While live fire training is a considerably different context than an actual incident, this video provides an opportunity to focus on each of the elements of B-SAHF somewhat more closely than in typical incident video.

In this exercise, the focus will be on identifying specific indicators related to stages of fire development and burning regime (rather than anticipating fire development).

In this video, the fire has been ignited in a room (likely a bedroom) on the Bravo/Charlie corner of the building and the video is being taken from the exterior on the same corner. The ventilation profile is uncertain, but there is likely an opening/entry point on Side Alpha.

  1. As you watch the first 0:43 of the video, identify the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) indicators that can be observed and how they change over time.
  2. What are the first visible indicators?
  3. What indicators are visible on and through the window between 0:43 and 0:56? How do condensation of water or pyrolysis products on window glazing aid in determining burning regime and stages of fire development? How might these indicators differ at locations more remote from the fire?
  4. How do the B-SAHF indicators change between 0:56 and 2:40? Why might this be the case?
  5. After 2:40 flaming combustion appears to increase. What might have influenced this change?
  6. By 3:37, the window on the Bravo/Charlie corner is dark and little flaming combustion can be observed. What might this indicate about burning regime and stages of fire development?
  7. At approximately 3:41, how do smoke and air track indicators change. What might this indicate? If there is no change in ventilation profile, how might the smoke and air track indicators change next?
  8. At 4:10 crews on Side Alpha report fire in a front (Side Alpha) room. Why might fire conditions be significantly different on this side of the building than in the original fire compartment? How might extinguishment of the fire in a room on Side Alpha influence fire development in the original fire compartment (Bravo/Charlie corner)?
  9. The lower portion of a window in the fire compartment on the Bravo/Charlie corner is broken out at 4:24. How does this change the B-SAHF indicators observed from this location? What may be inferred from these observations?
  10. Immediately after the lower portion of the window is broken out, a narrow fog stream is applied in a rotating manner through the window. What effect does this have on fire conditions in the room? How did smoke and air track indicators change during the brief water application? What did these changes indicate?
  11. How did smoke and air track indicators change after the brief application of water into the fire compartment?
  12. After the brief application of water through the window, how long did it take for the fire to resume significant growth in the fire compartment (crews operating from Side Alpha delayed fire attack intentionally).
  13. At 7:09, the upper portion of the window on the Bravo/Charlie corner is removed. How does this change in ventilation influence visible B-SAHF indicators and fire behavior?
  14. How do the B-SAHF indicators change as interior crews begin fire attack?
  15. How might taking the glass in the window(s) on the Charlie side of the building have influenced visible B-SAHF indicators and fire behavior?
  16. Had the window in the fire compartment located on Side Charlie (Charlie/Bravo Corner) failed first, what impact would this have had on flow path? How might this have influenced conditions encountered by the fire attack crew entering from Side Alpha?
  17. At approximately 8:40, interior crews begin hydraulic (negative pressure) ventilation through a window in the fire compartment on the Charlie/Bravo corner. How does this tactic integrate with the natural pressure differences created by the wind? What might be a more effective alternative?

Developing world class knowledge and skill takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. This equates to almost three hours every day, 365 days per year, for 10 years. If you only practice every third day achieving 10,000 hours in 10 years would require just over eight hours per day and if you only spend 2 hours every third day, it would take over 40 hours to achieve 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

How are you coming on your 10,000 hours? Keep at it!

Master Your Craft

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

Tactical Integration

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Each of the UL ventilation studies has generated a list of tactical considerations, many of which overlap or reinforce one another. It is useful to revisit the tactical considerations developed in the horizontal ventilation study and to integrate these with those resulting from the vertical ventilation research project.

tactical_integration

Download the Tactical Integration Poster as an 11″ x 17″ PDF document and post it to stimulate discussion of the concept of tactical integration and how research with the fire service can be integrated into our standard operating guidelines, work practices, and fireground operations.

Download the Tactical Integration Worksheet provided as an 11” x 17” PDF document and work through the commonalities and differences in these two sets of tactical considerations. Also take a few minutes to think about how this information has (or should) inform your operations on the fireground.

Stay up to date with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and the latest research being conducted with the fire service by connecting with the Firefighter Safety Research Institute on the web or liking them on Facebook.

Update

I am currently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming attending a Underwriters Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute Advisory Board meeting and yesterday had a preview of the on-line training program focused on the results of the Study of the Effectiveness of Fire Service Vertical Ventilation and Suppression Tactics in Single Family Homes. The on-line training materials produced by the institute continue to improve, providing a higher level of interactivity and multiple paths through the curriculum. Learners can choose a short overview, the full program, or the full program with additional information for instructors that can be used to enhance training programs integrating the on-line program with classroom and hands-on instruction.

UL hopes to have the on-line vertical ventilation training program up and running within the week and I will update this post with information on how to access the course as soon as it becomes available.

Stay up to date with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and the latest research being conducted with the fire service by connecting with the Firefighter Safety Research Institute on the web or liking them on Facebook.

ISFSI Single Family Dwelling Fire Attack

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) in conjunction with the South Carolina Fire Academy and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have released an on-line training program addressing firefighting operations in single family dwellings.

isfsi_course

This training program is comprised of five modules examining current research on fire dynamics and firefighting tactics and its application to operations in single family dwellings.

  • Module 1: Introduction
  • Module 2: Current Conditions
  • Module 3: Ventilation
  • Module 4: Suppression
  • Module 5: Size-Up and Decision Making

ISFSI did an effective job of integrating their own research conducted in South Carolina along with current research from NIST, FDNY, and UL in developing and for the most part have provided an effective learning experience that is well worth the four hours needed to complete the training. Visit the ISFSI learning management system (LMS) at http://learn.isfsi.org/ to complete this course (and ISFIS’s building construction course as well).

Important lessons emphasized in Single Family Dwelling Fire Attack include:

  • The fire environment has changed, resulting in faster fire development and transition to ventilation controlled conditions.
  • Under ventilation controlled conditions, increased ventilation will result in increased heat release rate and temperature.
  • In the modern fire environment, ventilation and fire attack must be closely coordinated. Particularly if resources are limited fire attack should often precede ventilation to minimize the adverse impact of ventilation without concurrent fire attack.
  • Exterior attack can speed application of water into the fire compartment and frequently will have a positive impact on conditions.
  • Speedy exterior attack can be an effective element of offensive operations.
  • Smoke is fuel and presents a significant hazard, particularly at elevated temperatures. Hot smoke overhead should be cooled to minimize potential for ignition.
  • Ongoing size-up needs to consider current and projected fire behavior as well as structural conditions.

While a solid training program, Single Family Dwelling Fire Attack could do a better job of explaining the differences between direct and indirect fire attack and how gas cooling impacts the fire environment to reduce the flammability and thermal hazards by the hot upper layer. The following posts expand on the challenges presented by shielded fires and application of gas cooling:

Single Family Dwelling Fire Attack does a solid job of addressing size-up and decision making, but firefighters and fire officers need to develop a more in-depth understanding of reading the fire. The following posts provide an expanded look at this important topic:

One great feature in Modules 3, 5 and 5 of Single Family Dwelling Fire Attack are brief video presentations by Dan Madrzykowski on Ventilation, Suppression, Size-Up and Decision Making which are also available on YouTube. The video on Ventilation is embedded below as a preview:

Door Control Doctrine

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

The last several weeks have brought a number of interesting things in the area of fire dynamics and firefighting operations. Before getting back to the question of Door Control Doctrine, take a few minutes to have a look at the ALIVE on-line interactive training program by the NYU Poly Fire Research Group and the recently released research report Study of the Effectiveness of Fire Service Vertical Ventilation and Suppression Tactics in Single Family Homes

ALIVE On-Line Interactive Training

NYU Poly Fire Research Group has teamed up with the FDNY, Chicago Fire Department (CFD) the Bloomington Fire Department (BFD), the Eagan Fire Department (EFD), and the Eden Prairie Fire Department (EPFD) to develop a web-based, interactive firefighter training program – ALIVE (Advanced Learning through Integrated Visual Environments).

nyu_poly_fire_research

A recently released training module addresses the implications of fire dynamics and lightweight/engineered construction on firefighting operations in residential occupancies. Narrated by FDNY Lieutenant John Ceriello, this training program provides an excellent integrated review of current research conducted by UL, NIST, FDNY & the CFD and its application to fireground operations. The on-line training is available for use on a PC as well as an iOS and Android app. Have a look and share this important training with others!

UL Vertical Ventilation

Underwriters Laboratories Fire Service Research Institute (UL FSRI) recently released the research report Study of the Effectiveness of Fire Service Vertical Ventilation and Suppression Tactics in Single Family Homes.

ul_vertical

In conjunction with with the previous study on horizontal ventilation, this report provides a solid look at the capabilities and limitations of tactical ventilation in a residential context. Download a copy of the report and review the tactical implications (or read the entire report if you are extremely ambitious). The outcomes of this research will be explored in detail in upcoming CFBT-US blog posts.

Visit the UL FSRI web site and Facebook Page for regular updates on UL’s ongoing research with the fire service!

Door Control Doctrine

Doctrine is a guide to action rather than a set of rigid rules. Clear and effective doctrine provides a common frame of reference, helps standardize operations, and improves readiness by establishing a common approach to tactics and tasks. Doctrine should link theory, history, experimentation, and practice to foster initiative and creative thinking.

Given what we know about the modern fire environment and the influence of both existing and increased ventilation on ventilation controlled fires, what guidance should we provide to firefighters regarding door control? The following questions are posed in the context of a residential occupancy (one or two-family home, garden apartment unit, townhouse, etc.).

door_entry_drill

If the door to the fire occupancy is open when the first company arrives, should it be (immediately) closed by the member performing the 360o reconnaissance? If so why? If not, why not?

In general, if the door is open it should be closed as soon as possible. In the modern fire environment, most fires beyond the incipient stage will be ventilation controlled when the first company arrives. Closing the door until the first line is ready to enter will limit air flow to the fire and reduce heat release rate.

If the door should be closed immediately there any circumstances under which it should not? If there are circumstances under which the door should not be closed, what are they and why?

If the fire is not ventilation controlled, closing the door will not have a positive impact. However, it is unlikely to have a negative effect as well. If occupants remain inside (or have gone back in through the open door in an effort to rescue others), an argument could be made that closing the door might make it more difficult for them to find the exit. However, under ventilation controlled conditions, the increased air supply will quickly make conditions untenable and the flow path between the open door and the fire will result in fire spread along this path, further reducing tenability and potential for safe occupant egress. The short answer is no. If the door is open, close it.

If the door is closed on arrival (or you closed the door during the 360o reconnaissance) when and how should it be opened for entry? Think about tactical size-up at the door, forcible entry requirements, and the actual process of opening the door and making entry? How might this differ based on conditions?

When the door is opened, the clock is ticking on increased heat release rate (HRR). The door should remain closed until a charged hoseline is in place and the crew on the hoseline is ready to make entry for fire attack.

The door entry procedure should include assessment of B-SAHF indicators and forcible entry requirements (if the door is closed and locked). If forcible entry is required, it may be forced before the crew is ready to enter, but should be controlled in a closed position after it is forced. The door may be opened briefly and partially to assess conditions and if necessary to cool the hot upper layer prior to entry, but should generally remain closed until the crew on the hoseline enters the building.

After making entry should the door be closed to the greatest extent possible (i.e., leaving room for the hoseline to pass)? If so why? If not, why not?

If the fire is shielded from direct attack from the door, it should be closed after entry to limit air flow to the fire and reduce the flow path between the entry point and the fire. Limiting air flow will slow the increase in HRR. Limiting the flow path (it cannot be eliminated by closing the door completely due to the space required to pass the hoseline) will reduce the risk of fire spread towards the entry point.

If the door should be closed to the greatest extent possible, who will maintain door control and aid in advancement of the line? How might this be accomplished with limited staffing?

This is a significant question! As always, it depends. With a four person crew, one member may control the door with a two person team working inside. With smaller crew sizes, the standby team (two-out) may be able to control the door. If operating with limited staffing (three) in rescue mode, the apparatus operator may need to add door control to their rather substantial list of critical tasks after charging the attack and standby lines).

If you are performing search, should doors to the rooms being searched be closed while searching? If so why? If not, why not? Are there conditions which would influence this decision? If so, what are they?

In the past, firefighters may have been trained to “vent as you go” when searching. The concept was that venting the rooms being searched would improve tenability and increase visibility. However, horizontal ventilation also creates a flow path between the fire and the ventilation opening. If the opening serves as an inlet (due to vertical position in relation to the fire or wind effects), it may improve conditions in the room, but has the potential to worsen fire conditions due to increased HRR. If the opening serves as an outlet, a flow path for fire spread is created, which will potentially worsen conditions in the room being searched.

Closing the door to the room being searched allows the searcher to tactically ventilate the room if necessary while preventing a flow path between the fire and the room being searched.

Should the doors to rooms which have been searched be closed after completing the primary search? If so why? If not, why not? Are there conditions which would influence this decision? If so, what are they?

As with closing the door, it depends. Tactical ventilation must be planned, systematic, and coordinated. If the fire is being controlled (water on the fire) and the location of the opening in the compartment which has been searched is advantageous and part of the ventilation plan, leaving the door open is necessary. If the location is not advantageous and part of the plan, it should be closed.

How else can doors be used to aid in fire control or the protection of occupants and firefighters? Give this some thought!

As seen in the UL horizontal and vertical ventilation research projects, a closed door provides an area of refuge for both building occupants and if necessary for firefighters. Be mindful of potential areas of refuge while working inside, particularly if you are not on a hoseline, or in the event that water supply in your hoseline is compromised.

LA County Fire Department adopts door control doctrine! In a recent video posted on the LA County Fire Department Training Division web site, Battalion Chief Derek Alkonis explains the department’s door control doctrine and how this integrates into residential fire attack with three and four person engine companies. While the use of straight streams in an effort to cool hot gases overhead differs considerably than the use of pulsed water fog advocated by CFBT-US, this video provides an excellent example of effective door control and integration of tactical anti-ventilation, fire control, and tactical ventilation.

Developing Door Control Doctrine

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Door Control Doctrine

As discussed in my last post, doctrine is a guide to action rather than a set of rigid rules. Clear and effective doctrine provides a common frame of reference, helps standardize operations, and improves readiness by establishing a common approach to tactics and tasks. Doctrine should link theory, history, experimentation, and practice to foster initiative and creative thinking.

contro_the_door

One way to frame the discussion necessary to develop doctrine that is applicable to a range of circumstances, is to use a series of scenarios presenting different conditions and examine what is similar and what is different. Ideally, firefighters will work together to integrate this theoretical discussion with their experience to develop sound doctrine based on their own context (e.g., staffing, building and occupancy types).

Fireground Scenarios

Important! Not all of the tactics presented in the questions are appropriate and others may be appropriate in one context, but not necessarily in another. For example, a lightly staffed engine may not have the option of offensive operations until the arrival of additional resources (barring a known imminent life threat), where a company with greater staffing may have greater strategic and tactical flexibility. These questions focus on the impact of strategic (offensive or defensive) tactical options on fire dynamics.

Scenario 1: The first arriving company arrives to find a small volume of smoke showing from around windows and doors and from the eaves on Side Alpha with low velocity, no air inlet is obvious. Performing a 360o reconnaissance, the officer observes similar smoke and air track indicators on other sides of the building and that all doors and windows are closed. Several windows on Side Alpha (Alpha Bravo Corner) are darkened with condensed pyrolysis products and the home appears to have smoke throughout (smoke logged).

How do you think the fire will develop between arrival and initiation of offensive fire attack (assuming that adequate resources are on-scene for offensive operations) assuming no change in ventilation prior to fire attack.

The fire is likely in a ventilation controlled, decay stage. If the ventilation profile does not change prior to entry (e.g., doors are kept closed, windows remain intact), the heat release rate (HRR) from the fire will continue to decline and temperatures within the building will drop (but may still be fairly high when entry is made).

How would opening the front door prior to having a charged line at the doorway on Side Alpha impact fire development?

Increased ventilation will result in a significant and potentially rapid increase in HRR. The proximity of the door to the fire compartment and temperature in the fire compartment at the time that ventilation is increased will have a direct impact on the speed with which the fire returns to the growth stage (but still remaining ventilation controlled). The closer the air inlet to the fire and the higher the temperature, the more rapidly the fire will return to the growth stage.

How would horizontal ventilation of the fire compartment (Alpha/Bravo Corner) impact fire development if performed as soon as the hoseline is deployed to the (still closed) doorway on Side Alpha?

As noted in the answer to question 2, increased ventilation will result in an increase in HRR. As windows in the fire compartment are in closer proximity to the fire, taking the windows potentially will result in a more rapid return to the growth (but still ventilation controlled) stage. It is also important to consider that a window cannot be unbroken; selecting this ventilation option does not provide an option for changing you mind if you do not like the result.

What would be the impact on fire behavior if the engine company advanced the first hoseline to the windows; took the glass and applied water to the burning fuel inside the fire compartment prior to making entry through the door? How might this change if offensive fire attack was delayed (e.g., insufficient staffing for offensive operations)?

This is an interesting question! Research by UL, NIST, and FDNY has shown the positive impact of exterior application of water into the fire compartment in reducing heat release rate. However, as noted in the answer to the preceding question, a window cannot be unbroken. If this is simply a contents fire in the compartment where the window is broken and water is applied, the result is likely to be favorable with a temporary reduction in HRR due water applied on burning fuel. However, if the fire extended to other areas of the building which shielded from direct attack at this point of application, effectiveness of exterior application from this single location is likely to be limited.

How would opening the front door and horizontal ventilation of the fire compartment (Alpha/Bravo Corner) impact fire development if performed as soon as the hoseline is deployed to the doorway on Side Alpha?

Advice on coordination of tactical ventilation and fire attack has typically stated, don’t vent until a charged hoseline is in place. This is good advice, but requires a bit of clarification.

“As soon as the hoseline is deployed to the doorway” may simply mean that a dry line has been stretched and firefighters are donning their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepieces while waiting for water. The fire will begin transition back to the growth stage as soon as tactical ventilation is performed. Depending on the time required for the firefighters to mask up, the line to be charged, air bled off, pattern checked, and the charged line advanced to the fire compartment(s), the HRR may increase significantly and conditions are likely to be quite a bit worse than if the door and window had remained closed until the hoseline was in place to begin offensive fire attack from the interior.

If tactical ventilation is performed after the line is charged and firefighters are ready to immediately make entry and quickly advance to the fire compartment, it is likely that the effect of increased ventilation will be positive. There may be some increase in HRR, but it is likely to be minimal due to the short distance and simple stretch from the front door to the fire compartment(s). Once direct attack has begun to control the fire, the increased ventilation will improve conditions inside the building.

Assuming that sufficient resources are on-scene to permit an offensive attack, when should the entry point be opened? Assuming that the door is unlocked, how should the fire attack crew approach this task?

Tactical size-up is critical for the crew assigned to offensive fire attack. This includes assessment of B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) indicators, forcible entry requirements, and assessment of fire attack requirements (e.g., flow rate, length of line, and complexity of the stretch).

The door should remain closed until the crew on the hoseline is ready to make entry; hoseline charged, air bled off, nozzle function and pattern checked, SCBA facepeices on, on-air. Check to see if the door is unlocked, but control the door (closed) and check conditions inside (visible fire, level of the hot upper layer, presence of victims inside the doorway) by opening the door slightly. The firefighter on the nozzle should do this check while the tools firefighter opens and controls the door. If hot smoke or flames are evident, the nozzle firefighter should cool the upper layer with one or more pulses of water fog (depending on conditions). The door should be closed while the crew assesses the risk of entry (e.g., floor is intact and fire conditions will permit entry from this location). If OK for entry; the crew can open the door and advance the line inside, while cooling the upper layer as necessary.

See Nozzle Techniques & Hose Handling: Part 3 for additional information on door entry procedure.

Once the hoseline is deployed into the building through the door on Side Alpha for offensive fire attack, should the door remain fully open or closed to the greatest extent possible? Why?

Ideally, the door will be closed after the hoseline is advanced through the doorway to limit the air supplied to the fire. How this is accomplished will depend on staffing. The door may be controlled by the fire attack crew or it may be controlled by the standby crew (two-out).

As discussed in the prior post Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures: Tactical Implications Part 2, when the door is open, the clock is ticking! In the ventilation controlled burning regime, increased ventilation results in an increasing HRR as the fire returns to the growth stage. The timeframe for increased HRR is dependent on the proximity of the inlet to the fire, configuration of the building, and temperature in the fire area (higher temperature results in faster increase in HRR). Closing the door (even partially) slows the increase in HRR. Once the attack line begins direct attack, the door can be opened as part of planned, systematic, and coordinated tactical ventilation.

Assuming that this is a contents fire and horizontal ventilation will be appropriate, when and where should it be performed (describe the flow path from inlet to exhaust)?

As with most questions, the answer here is “it depends”. There are a few missing bits of information that are important to horizontal tactical ventilation. Wind direction and the location of potential openings. To keep things simple, assume that there is no wind and that the only potential openings in the fire compartment are two windows on Side Alpha at the Alpha/Bravo Corner.

Once direct attack has commenced, horizontal tactical ventilation can be performed from Alpha (doorway) to Alpha (windows in the fire compartment). As the top of the door and tops of the windows are likely to be approximately at the same level, there a bi-directional flow path (smoke out at the top and air in at the bottom) is likely to develop. However, the bottom of the door is lower than the windows which will provide increased air movement from the door to the fire compartment.

In discussing this question (and the entire topic of door control for that matter), some firefighters will undoubtedly raise the question of positive pressure attack (PPA) or positive pressure ventilation (PPV). These tactics may provide an effective approach in this scenario, but developing comprehensive tactical ventilation doctrine requires examination of all of the options to control both smoke and air movement, so we are starting with a look at anti-ventilation and tactical ventilation using natural means.

Scenario 2: The first arriving company arrives to find smoke showing with moderate velocity and a bi-directional air track (smoke out the top and air in the bottom) from an open door on Side Alpha. A moderate volume of smoke is also pushing from around windows and from the eaves on Side Alpha. Several windows on Side Alpha (Alpha Bravo Corner) are darkened with condensed pyrolysis products and a glow is visible inside in the room behind these windows. Performing a 360o reconnaissance, the officer observes similar smoke and air track indicators on other sides of the building and that all doors and windows with the exception of the door on Side Alpha are closed. Returning to Side Alpha, the officer observes that the velocity of smoke from the open door has increased and flames at the interface between the smoke and air as it exits the doorway. The home appears to have smoke throughout (smoke logged).

How do you think the fire will develop between arrival and initiation of offensive fire attack (assuming that adequate resources are on-scene for offensive operations) assuming no change in ventilation prior to fire attack.

The fire is in a ventilation controlled burning regime (indicators include the limited ventilation provided by the single opening at the front door and flames at the interface between the smoke and air at the door). The open door will likely provide sufficient ventilation for the fire to continue its growth and extension from the compartment of origin along the flowpath to the front door.

How would the officer closing the front door prior to having a charged line at the doorway on Side Alpha (e.g., when performing the 360) impact fire development?

Based on the reported observations during 360o reconnaissance, the only significant ventilation opening is the front door. The bi-directional air track indicates that this opening is serving as both an inlet and outlet. Closing the door will reduce the air supply to the fire and will reduce the HRR and slow worsening conditions outside the fire compartment. Ideally this would be done prior to starting the 360o reconnaissance.

Assuming that sufficient resources are on-scene to permit an offensive attack and the door was closed during the 360, when should the entry point be opened? How should this task be approached?

As in Scenario 1, the door should be opened only when the crew on the hoseline is ready to make entry; hoseline charged, air bled off, nozzle function and pattern checked, SCBA facepeices on, on-air. The same door entry procedure described in Scenario 1 should be used as if the door had been closed on arrival.

How would horizontal ventilation of the fire compartment (Alpha/Bravo Corner) impact fire development is performed as soon as the hoseline is deployed to the open doorway on Side Alpha?

The outcome of tactical ventilation of the fire compartment will depend on sequence and timing. If the door remained open during initial size-up and while the line was being stretched, he fire would have continued to grow (limited by ventilation provided by the doorway and interior configuration of the building). Additional ventilation in this case would result in a rapid increase in HRR. If the door had been closed during the 360, the increase in HRR on ventilation of the windows would likely be somewhat slower as the HRR and temperature in the fire compartment would have dropped once the door was closed. In either case, HRR will increase while the charged line is being stretched from the entry point to the fire compartment. This is not necessarily a problem if the stretch is quick and the flow rate of the hoseline is adequate. It is essential that the crews stretching the line and performing ventilation understand the influence of their actions on fire behavior and are not surprised at the result.

Once the hoseline is deployed into the building through the door on Side Alpha for offensive fire attack, should the door remain fully open or closed to the greatest extent possible? Why?

As noted in Scenario 1, closing the door to the greatest extent possible after the line is inside will slow fire development until the hoseline is in place to begin a direct attack.

Assuming that this is a contents fire and horizontal ventilation will be appropriate, when and where should it be performed (describe the flow path from inlet to exhaust)?

The same basic approach would be taken as in Scenario 1. Once direct attack has commenced, horizontal tactical ventilation can be performed from Alpha (doorway) to Alpha (windows in the fire compartment).

Scenario 3: The first arriving company arrives to find smoke showing with moderate velocity and a bi-directional air track (smoke out the top and air in the bottom) from an open door on Side Alpha. A moderate volume of smoke is also pushing from around windows and from the eaves on Side Alpha. Flames are visible from several windows on Side Alpha (Alpha Bravo Corner) with a bi-directional air track (flames from the upper ¾ of the window with air entering the lower ¼). Performing a 360o reconnaissance, the officer observes similar smoke and air track indicators on other sides of the building and that all doors and windows with the exception of the two windows and door on Side Alpha are closed. Returning to Side Alpha, the officer observes that the velocity of smoke from the open door has increased and flames at the interface between the smoke and air as it exits the doorway. Flames from the windows on Side Alpha are similar to when first observed. The home appears to have smoke throughout (smoke logged).

How do you think the fire will develop between arrival and initiation of offensive fire attack (assuming that adequate resources are on-scene for offensive operations) assuming no change in ventilation prior to fire attack.

The fire is likely in a ventilation controlled burning regime (indicators include the limited ventilation provided by the openings at the front door and windows. Existing ventilation will likely be sufficient for the fire to continue its growth and extension from the compartment of origin along the flowpath to the front door. As there are multiple ventilation openings (more cross sectional area), HRR is greater and as a result fire development and spread will be much more rapid than in Scenario 2.

How would the officer closing the front door prior to having a charged line at the doorway on Side Alpha (e.g., when performing the 360) impact fire development?

As the windows in the fire compartment have failed and are serving as ventilation openings (in addition to the front door), the fire will likely remain in a ventilation controlled growth stage even if the door is closed. However, closing the door will still reduce the air supply to the fire and will slow fire growth. In addition, elimination of the flow path between the fire compartment and front door will reduce heat transfer along this flow path.

Assuming that sufficient resources are on-scene to permit an offensive attack and the door was closed during the 360, when should the entry point be opened? How should this task be approached?

As in Scenarios 1 and 2, the door should be opened only when the crew on the hoseline is ready to make entry; hoseline charged, air bled off, nozzle function and pattern checked, SCBA facepeices on, on-air. The same door entry procedure described in the prior scenarios should be used.

How would horizontal ventilation of the fire compartment (Alpha/Bravo Corner) impact fire development if performed as soon as the hoseline is deployed to the open doorway on Side Alpha?

As the windows in the fire compartment have already failed, some ventilation of the fire compartment has already occurred. In that the fire is ventilation controlled, any additional ventilation will significantly increase HRR. With a ventilation controlled growth stage fire and high temperature in the fire compartment, the HRR will increase rapidly.

Once the hoseline is deployed into the building through the door on Side Alpha for offensive fire attack, should the door remain fully open or closed to the greatest extent possible? Why?

As in the previous two scenarios, the door should be closed to as great an extent possible after the hoseline is advanced inside the building. This will limit air to the fire, slow fire development, an reduce the flow path between the fire and the front door.

Assuming that this is a contents fire and horizontal ventilation will be appropriate, when and where should it be performed (describe the flow path from inlet to exhaust)?

As the windows in the fire compartment have already failed, they will continue to provide ventilation. Once a direct attack has been initiated, the front door may be opened to increase air flow and the efficiency of the horizontal ventilation from Side Alpha to Side Alpha.

As noted in the previous post, these questions were all based on a similar fire (different development based on the ventilation profile at the time of the first company’s arrival) in the same, simple building, a one story, wood frame dwelling. It is important to examine other levels of involvement and ventilation profiles in this building as well as other types of buildings and fire conditions with similar questions. Also give some thought to the impact of door control when using vertical ventilation in coordination with fire attack.

Additional Examples

The following video of pre-arrival conditions and initial fireground operations provides an additional opportunity to consider the impact of ventilation and the importance of door control.

Video 1: In the first video, the door is closed when the fire department arrives, but the fire has self-vented through a window on Side Delta.

 

How might effective door control have influenced fire development and the safety of companies operating at this incident?

Video 2: In this video, the front door is open when the fire department arrives and it appears that the fire may have self-vented on Side Charlie.

How might effective door control have influenced fire development and the safety of companies operating at this incident?

Video 3: In the last video, the front door is partially open and existing ventilation includes a window on Side Alpha and one or more openings on Side Charlie.

 

How might effective door control have influenced fire development and the safety of companies operating at this incident?

My next post will come back to the final set of questions regarding door control doctrine posed in Close the Door! Where You Born in a Barn?

Explosions During Structural Firefighting

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Video of several incidents involving explosions during structural firefighting operations have been posted to YouTube in the last several weeks. Two of these videos, one from New Chicago, IN and the other from Olathe, KS involve residential fires. The other is of a commercial fire in Wichita, KS.

When a video shows some sort of spectacular fire behavior there is generally a great deal of speculation amongst the viewers about what happened. Was it a smoke (fire gas) explosion, backdraft, flashover, or did something else happen? Such speculation is useful if placed in the framework of the conditions required for these phenomena to occur and the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame (B-SAHF) indicators that provide cues of to current fire conditions and potential fire behavior.

Occasionally, what happened is fairly obvious such as flashover resulting from increased ventilation under ventilation controlled conditions. However, the phenomena and its causal factors are often much more of a puzzle.

Download and print three copies of the http://www.gumberg.com/information/sitemap-1.html viagra tablets B-SAHF Worksheet.

Residential Fire-Olathe, KS

Limited information was posted along with this pre-arrival video of a residential fire in Olathe, KS. The home was unoccupied when the fire occurred.

Watch the thirty seconds (0:30) of the video. First, describe what you observe in terms of the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame Indicators; then answer the following five standard questions (based only on what you observe during the first thirty seconds of the video)?

  1. What additional information would you like to have? How could you obtain it?
  2. What stage(s) of development is the fire likely to be in (incipient, growth, fully developed, or decay)?
  3. What burning regime is the fire in (fuel controlled or ventilation controlled)?
  4. What conditions would you expect to find inside this building?
  5. How would you expect the fire to develop over the next two to three minutes

Watch remainder of the video and consider the following questions:

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. What changes in the B-SAHF indicators did you observe?
  3. What may have caused the explosion (consider all of the possibilities)?
  4. Were there any indications that may have given warning of this change in conditions?

Residential Fire-New Chicago, IN

Companies from New Chicago and Hobart were dispatched to a reported house fire at 402 Madison in New Chicago, IN on February 17, 2012.

Watch the thirty seconds (0:30) of the video. First, describe what you observe in terms of the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame Indicators; then answer the following five standard questions (based only on what you observe during the first thirty seconds of the video)?

  1. What additional information would you like to have? How could you obtain it?
  2. What stage(s) of development is the fire likely to be in (incipient, growth, fully developed, or decay)?
  3. What burning regime is the fire in (fuel controlled or ventilation controlled)?
  4. What conditions would you expect to find inside this building?
  5. How would you expect the fire to develop over the next two to three minutes

Watch remainder of the video and consider the following questions:

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. What changes in the B-SAHF indicators did you observe?
  3. What may have caused the explosion (consider all of the possibilities)?
  4. Were there any indications that may have given warning of this change in conditions?

Commercial Fire-Wichita, KS

Wichita Fire Department on scene of a working building fire in large, non-combustible commercial building. Extreme heat and fire conditions cause an unknown cylinder to explode.

Keep in mind that gas cylinders and other closed containers can result in explosions during structural firefighting operations. Unlike backdraft and smoke explosion, the only clue may be building factors related to occupancy (and this may not be a good indicator when operating at a residential fire).

Wichita Fire Department on scene of a working building fire in a large metal structure. Extreme heat and fire conditions cause an unknown cylinder to explode. If you listen close, you can hear it vent before it goes off. Concussion actually cuts out my audio for just a couple seconds. No one was injured.

Video by Sean Black Photography http://seanblackphotography.smugmug.com/

Firefighter Safety

Potential for explosions related to extreme fire behavior such as backdraft and smoke explosion may be recognized based on assessment and understanding the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) indicators. Other types of explosions such as those resulting from failure of closed containers (e.g., containing liquids or gases) may be a bit more difficult as this potential is likely to be present in most types of occupancies. However, commercial and industrial occupancies present greater risks.

Recognizing that even with sound experienced judgment, there may be undetected hazards on the fireground. Managing the risk requires developing a solid knowledge base and skills and operating within sound rules of engagement such as the IAFC Rules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting. However, considering the hazards presented by rapid fire progression and potential for changes in conditions following explosive events, I would add the following:

  • Base your strategies and tactics on current and anticipated fire behavior and structural stability.
  • Ensure that members correctly wear complete structural firefighting clothing and SCBA when working in the hazard zone and practice good air management. Buddy check before entry!
  • Crews operating on the interior should have a hoseline or be directly supported by a crew with a hoseline. If conditions deteriorate, a hoseline allows self-protection and provides a defined egress path.
  • Have well practiced battle drills for tactical withdrawal and abandoning the building (depending on conditions). See Battle Drill, Battle Drill Part 2, and Battle Drill Part 3.

Next…

My next post will address the impact of a closed door on tenability during a residential fire as the ninth tactical implication identified in the UL study on the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction.

Subsequent posts will come back to the Olathe, KS and New Chicago, IN residential fires to examine potential impacts on fire behavior and explosions that resulted during these incidents.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures:
Tactical Implications Part 8

Friday, January 13th, 2012

The eighth and tenth tactical implications identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) are the answer to the question, can you vent enough and the influence of pre-existing openings or openings caused by fire effects on the speed of progression to flashover.

The ninth implication; the effects of closed doors on tenability for victims and firefighters, will be addressed in the next post.

Photo Credit: Captain Jacob Brod, Pineville (NC) Fire Department

Kerber (2011) indicates that firefighters presume that if you create enough ventilation openings that the fire will return to a fuel controlled burning regime. I am not so sure that this is the case. Until fairly recently, the concept of burning regime and influence of increased ventilation on ventilation controlled fires was not well recognized in the US fire service. However, there has been a commonly held belief that increased ventilation will improve interior conditions and reduce the potential for extreme fire behavior phenomena such as flashover. In either case, the results of the experiments conducted by UL on the influence of horizontal ventilation cast considerable doubt on the ability to accomplish either of these outcomes using horizontal, natural ventilation.

The Experiments

In order to determine the impact of increased ventilation, Kerber (2011) compared changes in temperature with varied numbers and sizes of ventilation openings. The smallest ventilation opening in the experiments conducted in both the one and two story houses was when the door on Side A was used to provide the only opening. The largest number and size of ventilation openings was in the experiments where the front door and four windows were used (see Figures 1 and 3)

The area of ventilation openings in experiments conducted in the one-story house ranged from 1.77 m2 (19.1 ft2) using the front door only to 9.51 m2 (102.4 ft2) with the front door and four windows. In the two-story house the area of ventilation openings ranged from 1.77 m2 (19.1 ft2) with front door only to 14.75 m2 (158.8 ft2) using the front door and four windows.

The most dramatic comparison is between Experiments 1 and 2 where a single opening was used (front door) and Experiments 14 and 15 where five openings were used (door and four windows).

One Story House

Experiment 1 was conducted in the one-story house using the door on Side A as the only ventilation opening. The door was opened eight minutes after ignition (480 seconds). Experiment 14 was also conducted in the one-story house, but in this case the door on Side A and four windows were used as ventilation openings. Windows in the living room and bedrooms one, two, and three were opened sequentially immediately after the door was opened, providing more than five times the ventilation area as in Experiment 1 (door only).

Figure 1. Ventilation Openings in the One-Story House

In both Experiment 1 (door only) and Experiment 14 (door and four windows), increased ventilation resulted in transition to a fully developed fire in the compartment of origin (see Figure 2). In Experiment 1, a bi-directional air track developed at the door on Side A (flames out the top and air in the bottom). In Experiment 14, a bi-directional air track is visible at all ventilation openings, with flames visible from the door and window in the Living Room on Side A and flames visible through the window in Bedroom 3. No flames extended out the ventilation openings in Bedrooms 1, 2, and 3. The upper layer in Bedroom 3 is not deep, as such there is little smoke visible exiting the window, and it appears to be serving predominantly as an inlet. On the other hand, upper layer in Bedroom 2 is considerably deeper and a large volume of thick (optically dense) smoke is pushing from the window with moderate velocity. While a bi-directional air track is evident, this window is serving predominantly as an exhaust opening.

Figure 2. Fire Conditions at 600 seconds (10:00)

As illustrated in Figure 3, increased ventilation resulted in a increase in heat release rate and subsequent increase in temperature. It is important to note that the peak temperature in Experiment 14 (door and four windows) is more than 60% higher than in Experiment 1 (door only).

Figure 3. Living Room Temperature 0.30 m(1’) Above the Floor One-Story House

Note. Adapted from Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (p. 298), by Steve Kerber, 2011, Northbrook, IL: Underwriters Laboratories.

Based on observed conditions and temperature measurement within the one-story house, it is evident that increasing the ventilation from 1.77 m2 (19.1 ft2) using the front door to 9.51 m2 (102.4 ft2) with the front door and four windows did not return the fire to a fuel controlled burning regime and further, did not improve interior conditions.

It is important to note that these experiments were conducted without coordinated fire control operations in order to study the effects of ventilation on fire behavior. Conditions changed quickly in both experiments, but the speed with which the fire transitioned from decay to growth and reached flashover was dramatically more rapid with a larger ventilation area (i.e., door and four windows).

Two Story House

Experiment 2 was conducted in the two-story house using the door on Side A as the only ventilation opening. The door was opened ten minutes after ignition (600 seconds). Experiment 15 was also conducted in the two-story house, but in this case the door on Side A and four windows were used as ventilation openings. One window in the Living Room (Floor 1, Side A, below Bedroom 3) Den (Floor 1, Side C, below Bedroom 2) and two windows in the Family Room (Side C) were opened sequentially immediately after the door was opened, providing more than eight times the ventilation area as in Experiment 2 (door only).

Figure 4. Ventilation Openings in the Two-Story House

In both Experiment 2 (door only) and Experiment 15 (door and four windows), increased ventilation resulted in transition to a fully developed fire in the compartment of origin. Flames were seen from the family room windows in Experiment 15 (see Figure 5). However, in Experiment 2, no flames were visible on the exterior (due to the distance between the fire compartment and ventilation opening) and a bi-directional air track developed at the door on Side A (smoke out the top and air in the bottom). In Experiment 15, a bi-directional air track is visible at all ventilation openings, with flames visible from the windows in the family room on Side C. No flames extended out the ventilation openings on Side A or from the Den on Side C (see Figure 5). The upper layer is extremely deep (particularly considering the ceiling height of 16’ in the family room and foyer atrium. The velocity of smoke discharge from ventilation openings is moderate.

Figure 5. Fire Conditions at 780 seconds (13:00)

As illustrated in Figure 6, increased ventilation resulted in a increase in heat release rate and subsequent increase in temperature. It is important to note that the peak temperature in Experiment 15 (door and four windows) is approximately 50% higher than in Experiment 2 (door only).

Figure 6. Living Room Temperature 0.30 m(1’) Above the Floor One-Story House

Note. Adapted from Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (p. 299), by Steven Kerber, 2011, Northbrook, IL: Underwriters Laboratories.

Another Consideration

Comparison of these experiments answers the questions if increased horizontal ventilation would 1) return the fire to a fuel controlled state or 2) improve interior conditions. In a word, no, increased horizontal ventilation without concurrent fire control simply increased the heat release rate (sufficient for the fire to transition through flashover to a fully developed stage) in the involved compartment.

Examining thermal conditions in other areas of the building also provides an interesting perspective on these two sets of experiments. Figure 7 illustrates temperatures at 0.91 m (3’) during Experiment 1 (door only) and Experiment 14 (door and four windows) in the one-story house.

Figure 7. Temperatures at 0.91 m (3’) during Experiments 1 and 14

Note. Adapted from Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (p. 99, p. 162), by Steven Kerber, 2011, Northbrook, IL: Underwriters Laboratories.

Thermal conditions not only worsened in the fire compartment, but also along the flow path (for a more detailed discussion of flow path, see UL Tactical Implications Part 7) and in downstream compartments. Temperature in the hallway increased from a peak of just over 200o C to approximately 900o C when ventilation was increased by opening the four additional windows.

Unplanned Ventilation

Each of the experiments in this study were designed to examine the impact of tactical ventilation when building ventilation was limited to normal leakage and fire conditions are ventilation controlled (decay stage). In each of these experiments, increased ventilation resulted in a rapid increase in heat release rate and temperature. Even when ventilation was increased substantially (as in Experiments 14 and 15), it was not possible to return the fire to a fuel controlled burning regime.

It is also possible that a door or window will be left open by an exiting occupant or that the fire may cause window glazing to fail. The impact of these types of unplanned ventilation will have an effect on fire development. Creation of an opening prior to the fire reaching a ventilation controlled burning regime will potentially slow fire progression. However, on the flip side, providing an increased oxygen supply will allow the fire to continue to grow, potentially reaching a heat release rate that will result in flashover. If the opening is created after the fire is ventilation controlled, the results would be similar to those observed in each of these experiments. When the fire is ventilation controlled, increased ventilation results in a significant and dramatic increase in heat release rate and worsening of thermal conditions inside the building.

If the fire has self-ventilated or an opening has been created by an exiting occupant, the increased ventilation provided by creating further openings without concurrent fire control will result in a higher heat release rate than if the openings were not present and will likely result in rapid fire progression.

What’s Next?

I will be at UL the week after next and my next post will provide an update on UL’s latest research project examining the influence of vertical ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction.

Two tactical implications from the horizontal ventilation study remain to be examined in this series of posts: the impact of closed doors on tenability and the interesting question can you push fire with stream from a hoseline?

The last year has presented a challenge to maintaining frequency of posts to the CFBT Blog. However, I am renewing my commitment to post regularly and will be bringing back Reading the Fire, continuing examination of fundamental scientific concepts, and integration of fire control and ventilation tactics.

References

Kerber, S. (2011). Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction. Retrieved July 16, 2011 from http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fireservice/ventilation/DHS%202008%20Grant%20Report%20Final.pdf

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures:
Tactical Implications Part 7

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The seventh tactical implication identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) is the influence of changes in ventilation on flow path.

“Every new ventilation opening provides a new flow path to the fire and vice versa. This could create very dangerous conditions when there is a ventilation limited fire” (Kerber, 2011).

Air Track and Flow Path

Air track and flow path are closely related and provide an excellent framework for understanding the influence of changes in ventilation on fire development and flow path.

Air Track: Closely related to flow path, air track is the movement of air and smoke as observed from the exterior and inside the structure. Air track is used to describe a group of fire behavior indicators that includes direction of smoke movement at openings (e.g., outward, inward, pulsing), velocity and turbulence, and movement of the lower boundary of the upper layer (e.g., up, down, pulsing).

Observation of air track indicators may provide clues as to the potential flow path of air and hot gases inside the fire building. As discussed in previous posts in this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6), movement of air to the fire has a major impact on fire development. Movement of hot gases away from the fire is equally important!

Flow Path: In a compartment fire, flow path is the course of movement hot gases between the fire and exhaust openings and the movement of air towards the fire.

Both of these components of flow path are important! Movement of hot gases between the fire an exhaust openings is a major factor in heat transfer outside the compartment of origin and presents a significant thermal threat to occupants and firefighters. When the fire is in a ventilation controlled burning regime, movement of air from to the fire provides the oxygen necessary for fire growth and increased heat release rate (impacting on conditions in the flow path downstream from the fire.

Flow path can significantly influence fire spread and the hazard presented to occupants and firefighters.

Reading the Fire

Before engaging in the meat of this UL Tactical Implication, quickly review essential air track indicators used in the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame (B-SAHF) fire behavior indicators organizing scheme.

Figure 1. Air Track Indicators

As illustrated in Figure 1, key indicators include wind direction and velocity (consider this before you even arrive on-scene), directions in which the air and smoke are moving, and the velocity and flow of smoke and air movement.

Take a look at Figure 2. Consider all of the B-SAHF indicators, but pay particular attention to Air Track. What is the current flow path? How might the flow path change if one or more windows on Floor 2 Side A are opened prior to establishing fire control?

Figure 2. Residential Fire in a 1 ½ Story Wood Frame Dwelling

Photo courtesy of Curt Isakson, County Fire Tactics

UL Focus on Flow Path

Tactical implications related to flow path identified in Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) focus on creation of additional openings and changes in flow path as a result of “crews venting as the go” (p. 296). This is only one issue related to flow path!

The UL experiments showed that increasing the number of flow paths resulted in higher peak temperatures, a faster transition from decay to growth stage and more rapid transition to flashover. However, this is not the only hazard!

As previously discussed in the series of posts examining the fire in a Washington DC townhouse that took the lives of Firefighters Anthony Phillips and Louis Matthews, operating in the flow path presents potential for significant thermal hazard.

In this incident, the initial attack crew was operating on the first floor of a two-story townhouse with a daylight basement. When crews opened the sliding glass doors in the basement (on Side C), a flow path was created between the opening at the basement level on Side C, up an open interior stairway to the first floor, and out the first floor doorway (on Side A). Firefighters working in this flow path were subjected to extreme thermal stress, resulting in burns that took the lives of Firefighters Phillips and Mathews and serious injuries to another firefighter.

Figure 1. Perspective View of 3146 Cherry Road and Location of Slices

Note: From Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE Washington D.C., May 30, 1999, NISTR 6510 (p. 15) by Dan Madrzykowski and Robert Vettori, 2000, Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute for Standards and Technology.

Figure XX illustrates thermal conditions, velocity and oxygen concentration at various locations within the flow path.

Figure 10. Perspective Cutaway, Flow/Temperature, Velocity, and O2 Concentration

The temperature of the atmosphere (i.e., smoke and air) is a significant concern in the fire environment, and firefighters often wonder or speculate about how hot it was in a particular fire situation. However, gas temperature in the fire environment is a bit more complex than it might appear on the surface and is only part of the thermal hazard presented by compartment fire.

Convective heat transfer is influenced by gas temperature and velocity. When hot gases are not moving or the flow of gases across a surface (such as your body or personal protective equipment) is slow, energy is transferred from the gases to the surface (lowering the temperature of the gases, while raising surface temperature). These lower temperature gases act as an insulating layer, slowing heat transfer from higher temperature gases further away from the surface. When velocity increases, cooler gases (which have already transferred energy to the surface) move away and are replaced by higher temperature gases. When velocity increases sufficiently to result in turbulent flow, hot gases remain in contact with the surface on a relatively constant basis, increasing convective heat flux.

For a more detailed discussion of this incident and the influence of radiative and convective heat transfer in the flow path, see the prior posts on the Washington DC Townhouse Fire Case Study.

Wind Driven Fires & Flow Path

While operating in the flow path presents serious risk, when fire behavior is influenced by wind, conditions in the flow path can be even more severe. In experiments conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrated that under wind driven conditions, both temperature and heat flux, which were twice as high in the “flow” portion of the corridor as opposed to the “static” portion of the corridor (where there was no flow path). See the previous posts on Wind Driven Fires for more information on flow path hazards under wind driven conditions:

Discussion

The sixth and seventh tactical implications identified in the UL Horizontal Ventilation Study are interrelated and can be expanded to include the following key points:

  • Heat transfer (convective and radiative) is greatest along the flow path between the fire and exhaust opening.
  • Exhaust openings located higher than the fire will increase the velocity of gases along the flow path (further increasing convective heat transfer).
  • Flow of hot gases from the fire to an exhaust opening is significantly influenced by air flow from inlet openings to the fire (the greater the inflow of air, the higher the heat release rate and flow of hot gases to the exhaust opening).
  • Flow path can be created by a single opening that serves as both inlet and exhaust (such as an open door or window).
  • Thermal conditions in the flow path can quickly become untenable for both civilian occupants and firefighters. As noted in an earlier NIST Study examining wind driven fires, under wind driven conditions this change can be extremely rapid.
  • Closing an inlet, exhaust opening, or introducing a barrier (such as a closed door) in the flow path slows gas flow and reduces the hazard downstream from the barrier.
  • When the fire is ventilation controlled, limiting inflow of air (e.g., door control) can slow the increase in heat release rate and progression to a growth stage fire.
  • Multiple openings results in multiple flow paths and increased air flow to the fire, resulting in more rapid fire development and increased heat release rate.

What’s Next?

The next tactical implication identified in the UL Horizontal Ventilation study examines an interesting question: Can you vent enough (to return the fire to a fuel controlled burning regime)? This question may also be restated as can you perform sufficient natural horizontal ventilation to improve internal conditions. The answer to this question will likely be extended through the Vertical Ventilation Study that will be conducted by UL in early 2012!

References

District of Columbia (DC) Fire & EMS. (2000). Report from the reconstruction committee: Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE, Washington DC, May 30, 1999. Washington, DC: Author.

Kerber, S. (2011). Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction. Retrieved July 16, 2011 from http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fireservice/ventilation/DHS%202008%20Grant%20Report%20Final.pdf

Madrzykowski, D. & Kerber, S. (2009). Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions. Retrieved (in four parts) February 28, 2009 from http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/Wind_Driven_Report_Part1.pdf; http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/Wind_Driven_Report_Part2.pdf;http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/Wind_Driven_Report_Part3.pdf;http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/Wind_Driven_Report_Part4.pdf.

Madrzykowski, D. & Vettori, R. (2000). Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE Washington D.C., May 30, 1999, NISTR 6510. August 31, 2009 from http://fire.nist.gov/CDPUBS/NISTIR_6510/6510c.pdf

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (1999). Death in the line of duty, Report 99-21. Retrieved August 31, 2009 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face9921.html

 

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures: Tactical Implications Part 5

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The fifth tactical implication identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) is described as failure of the smoke layer to lift following horizontal natural ventilation and smoke tunneling and rapid air movement in through the front door.

In the experiments conducted by UL, both the single and two story dwellings filled rapidly with smoke with the smoke layer reaching the floor prior to ventilation. This resulted in zero visibility throughout the interior (with the exception of the one bedroom with a closed door). After ventilation, the smoke layer did not lift (as many firefighters might anticipate) as the rapid inward movement of air simply produced a tunnel of clear space just inside the doorway.

Put in the context of the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame (B-SAHF) fire behavior indicators, these phenomena fit in the categories of smoke and air track. Why did these phenomena occur and what can firefighters infer based on observation of these fire behavior indicators?

Smoke Versus Air Track

There are a number of interrelationships between Smoke and Air Track. However, in the B-SAHF organizing scheme they are considered separately. As we begin to develop or refine the map of Smoke Indicators it is useful to revisit the difference between these two categories in the B-SAHF scheme.

Smoke: What does the smoke look like and where is it coming from? This indicator can be extremely useful in determining the location and extent of the fire. Smoke indicators may be visible on the exterior as well as inside the building. Don’t forget that size-up and dynamic risk assessment must continue after you have made entry!

Air Track: Related to smoke, air track is the movement of both smoke (generally out from the fire area) and air (generally in towards the fire area). Observation of air track starts from the exterior but becomes more critical when making entry. What does the air track look like at the door? Air track continues to be significant when you are working on the interior.

Smoke Indicators

There are a number of smoke characteristics and observations that provide important indications of current and potential fire behavior. These include:

  • Location: Where can you see smoke (exterior and interior)?
  • Optical Density (Thickness): How dense is the smoke? Can you see through it? Does it appear to have texture like velvet (indicating high particulate content)?
  • Color: What color is the smoke? Don’t read too much into this, but consider color in context with the other indicators.
  • Physical Density (Buoyancy): Is the smoke rising, sinking, or staying at the same level?
  • Thickness of the Upper Layer: How thick is the upper layer (distance from the ceiling to the bottom of the hot gas layer)?

As discussed in Reading the Fire: Smoke Indicators Part 2, these indicators can be displayed in a concept map to show greater detail and their interrelationships (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Smoke Indicators Concept Map

Air Track

Air track includes factors related to the movement of smoke out of the compartment or building and the movement of air into the fire. Air track is caused by pressure differentials inside and outside the compartment and by gravity current (differences in density between the hot smoke and cooler air). Air track indicators include velocity, turbulence, direction, and movement of the hot gas layer.

  • Direction: What direction is the smoke and air moving at specific openings? Is it moving in, out, both directions (bi-directional), or is it pulsing in and out?
  • Wind: What is the wind direction and velocity? Wind is a critical indicator as it can mask other smoke and air track indicators as well as serving as a potentially hazardous influence on fire behavior (particularly when the fire is in a ventilation controlled burning regime).
  • Velocity & Flow: High velocity, turbulent smoke discharge is indicative of high temperature. However, it is essential to consider the size of the opening as velocity is determined by the area of the discharge opening and the pressure. Velocity of air is also an important indicator. Under ventilation controlled conditions, rapid intake of air will be followed by a significant increase in heat release rate.

As discussed in Reading the Fire: Air Track Indicators Part 2, these indicators can be displayed in a concept map to show greater detail and their interrelationships (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Air Track Indicators Concept Map

air t

Discharge of smoke at openings and potential openings (Building Factors) is likely the most obvious indicator of air track while lack of smoke discharge may be a less obvious, but equally important sign of inward movement of air. Observation and interpretation of smoke and air movement at openings is an essential part of air track assessment, but it must not stop there. Movement of smoke and air on the interior can also provide important information regarding fire behavior.

An Ongoing Process

Reading the fire is an ongoing process, beginning with reading the buildings in your response area prior to the incident and continuing throughout firefighting operations. It is essential to not only recognize key indicators, but to also note changing conditions. This can be difficult when firefighters and officer are focused on the task at hand.

UL Experiment 13

This experiment examined the impact of horizontal ventilation through the door on Side A and one window as high as possible on Side C near the seat of the fire. The family room was the fire compartment. This room had a high (two-story) ceiling with windows at ground level and the second floor level (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Two-Story Dwelling

In this experiment, the fire was allowed to progress for 10:00 after ignition, at which point the front door (see Figure 3) was opened to simulate firefighters making entry. Fifteen seconds after the front door was opened (10:15), an upper window in the family room (see Figure 3) was opened. No suppression action was taken until 12:28, at which point a 10 second application of water was made through the window on Side C using a straight stream from a combination nozzle.

As with all the other experiments in this series fire development followed a consistent path. The fire quickly consumed much of the available oxygen inside the building and became ventilation controlled. At oxygen concentration was reduced, heat release rate and temperature within the building also dropped. Concurrently, smoke and air track indicators visible from the exterior were diminished. Just prior to opening the door on Side A, there was little visible smoke from the structure (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Experiment 13 at 00:09:56 (Prior to Ventilation)

As illustrated in Figure 5, a bi-directional air track was created when the front door was opened. Hot smoke flowed out the upper area of the doorway while air pushed in the bottom creating a tunnel of clear space inside the doorway (but no generalized lifting of the upper layer.

Figure 5. Experiment 13 at 00:10:14 (Door Open)

As illustrated in Figure 6, opening the upper level window in the family room resulted in a unidirectional air track flowing from the front door to the upper level window in the family room. No significant exhaust of smoke can be seen at the front door, while a large volume of smoke is exiting the window. However, while the tunneling effect at floor level was more pronounced (visibility extended from the front door to the family room), there was no generalized lifting of the upper layer throughout the remainder of the building.

Figure 6. Experiment 13 at 00:10:21 (Door and Window Open)

With the increased air flow provided by ventilation through the door on Side A and Window at the upper level on Side C, the fire quickly transitioned to a fully developed stage in the family room. The heat release rate (HRR) and smoke production quickly exceeded the limited ventilation provided by these two openings and the air track at the front door returned to bi-directional (smoke out at the upper level and air in at the lower level) as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Experiment 13 at 00:11:22 (Door and Window Open)

What is the significance of this observation? Movement of smoke out the door (likely the entry point for firefighters entering for fire attack, search, and other interior operations) points to significant potential for flame spread through the upper layer towards this opening. The temperature of the upper layer is hot, but flame temperature is even higher, increasing the radiant heat flux (transfer) to crews working below. Flame spread towards the entry point also has the potential to trap, and injure firefighters working inside.

Gas Velocity and Air Track

A great deal can be learned by examining both the visual indicators illustrated in Figures 4-7 and measurements taken of gas velocity at the front door. During the ventilation experiments conducted by UL, gas velocities were measured at the front door and at the window used for ventilation (see Figure 3). Five bidirectional probes were placed in the doorway at 0.33 m (1’) intervals. Positive values show gas movement out of the building while negative values show inward gas movement. In order to provide a simplified view of gas movement at the doorway, Figure 8 illustrates gas velocity 0.33 m (1’) below the top of the door, 0.33 m (1’) from the bottom of the door, and 0.66 m (2’) above the bottom of the door.

A bidirectional (out at the top and in at the bottom) air track developed at the doorway before the door was opened (see Figure 8) as a result of leakage at this opening. It is interesting to note variations in the velocity of inward movement of air from the exterior of the building, likely a result of changes in combustion as the fire became ventilation controlled. The outward flow at the upper level resulted in visible smoke on the exterior of the building. While not visible, inward movement of air was also occurring (as shown by measurement of gas velocity at lower levels in the doorway.

Creation of the initial ventilation opening by opening the front door created a strong bidirectional air track with smoke pushing out the top of the door while air rapidly moved in the bottom. Had the door remained the only ventilation opening, this bidirectional flow would have been sustained (as it was in all experiments where the door was the only ventilation opening).

Opening the upper window in the family room resulted in a unidirectional flow inward through the doorway. However, this phenomenon was short lived, with the bidirectional flow reoccurring in less than 60 seconds. This change in air track resulted from increased heat release rate as additional air supply was provided to the fire in the family room.

Figure 8. Front Door Velocities

Note: Adapted from Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (p. 243), by Stephen Kerber, Northbrook, IL: Underwriters Laboratories, 2011.

While not the central focus of the UL research, these experiments also examined the effects of exterior fire stream application on fire conditions and tenability. Each experiment included a 10 second application with a straight stream and a 10 second application of a 30o fog pattern. Between these two applications, fire growth was allowed to resume for approximately 60 seconds.

The straight stream application resulted in a reduction of temperature in the fire compartment and adjacent compartments (where there was an opening to the family room or hallway) as water applied through the upper window on Side C (ventilation opening) cooled the compartment linings (ceiling and opposite wall) and water deflected off the ceiling dropped onto the burning fuel. As the stream was applied, air track at the door on Side A changed from bidirectional to unidirectional (inward). This is likely due to the reduction of heat release rate achieved by application of water onto the burning fuel with limited steam production.

When the fog pattern was applied, there was also a reduction of temperature in the fire compartment and adjacent compartments (where there was an opening in the family room or hallway) as water was applied through the upper window on Side C (ventilation opening) cooled the upper layer, compartment linings, and water deflected off the ceiling dropped onto the burning fuel. The only interconnected area that showed a brief increase in temperature was the ceiling level in the dining room. However, lower levels in this room showed an appreciable drop in temperature. Air track at the door on Side A changed from bidirectional to unidirectional (outward) when the fog stream was applied. This effect is likely due to air movement inward at the window on Side C and the larger volume of steam produced on contact with compartment linings as a result of the larger surface area of the fog stream.

The effect of exterior streams will be examined in more detail in a subsequent post.

Important Lessons

The fifth tactical implication identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) is described as failure of the smoke layer to lift following horizontal natural ventilation and smoke tunneling and rapid air movement in through the front door.

Additional lessons that can be learned from this experiment include:

  • Ventilating horizontally at a high point results in higher flow of both air and smoke.
  • Increased inward air flow results in a rapid increase in heat release rate.
  • The rate of fire growth quickly outpaced the capability of the desired exhaust opening, returning the intended inlet to a bi-directional air track (potentially placing firefighters entering for fire attack or search at risk due to rapid fire spread towards their entry point).

Tactical applications of this information include:

  • Ensure that the attack team is in place with a charged line and ready to (or has already) attack the fire (not simply ready to enter the building) before initiating horizontal ventilation.
  • Cool the upper layer any time that it is above 100o C (212o F) to reduce radiant and convective heat flux and to limit potential for ignition and flaming combustion in the upper layer.

Note that this research project did not examine the impact of gas cooling, but examination of the temperatures at the upper levels in this experiment (and others in this series) point to the need to cool hot gases overhead.

What’s Next?

I am on the hunt for videos that will allow readers to apply the tactical implications of the UL study that have been examined to this point in conjunction with the B-SAHF fire behavior indicators. My next post will likely provide an expanded series of exercises in Reading the Fire.

The next tactical implication identified in the UL study (Kerber, 2011) examines the hazards encountered during Vent Enter Search (VES) tactical operations. A subsequent post will examine this tactic in some detail and explore this tactical implication in greater depth.

References

Kerber, S. (2011). Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction. Retrieved July 16, 2011 from http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fireservice/ventilation/DHS%202008%20Grant%20Report%20Final.pdf

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures: Tactical Implications Part 4

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The fourth tactical implication identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) is that fire attack and (tactical) ventilation must be coordinated. This recommendation has been repeated in National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Death in the Line of Duty Reports for many years. In fact, most reports on firefighter fatalities related to rapid fire progression contain this recommendation.

Importance of Coordination

Coordination of (tactical) ventilation and fire attack as a tactical implication is closely related to the first two tactical implications identified in the UL study; potential changes in fire behavior based on stages of fire development, burning regime, and changes in ventilation profile that increase oxygen supplied to the fire.

If air is added to the fire and water is not applied in the appropriate time frame the fire gets larger and the hazards to firefighters increase. Examining the times to untenability provides the best case scenario of how coordinated the attack needs to be. Taking the average time for every experiment from the time of ventilation to the time of the onset of firefighter untenability conditions yields 100 seconds for the one-story house and 200 seconds for the two-story house. In many of the experiments from the onset of firefighter untenability until flashover was less than 10 seconds. These times should be treated as very conservative. If a vent location already exists because the homeowner left a window or door open then the fire is going to respond faster to additional ventilation openings because the temperatures in the house are going to be higher at the time of the additional openings (Kerber, 2011, p. 289-290)

The Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on-line course and report provide an example of firefighters are at risk when ventilation is performed prior to entry, fire attack is delayed, and other tactical operations such as primary search are initiated.

In UL’s hypothetical example, the firefighters make entry into the one-story house, search the living room (fire compartment), the kitchen, and dining room shortly after forcing the door and ventilating a large window in the fire compartment. Consider a somewhat different scenario, with the same fire conditions.

Companies respond to a residential fire with persons reported during the early morning hours. A truck and engine arrive almost simultaneously and while the engine lays a supply line from a nearby hydrant, the truck company forces entry, ventilates a window on Side A, and begins primary search (anticipating that the engine crew will be right behind them to attack the fire). The engine completes a forward lay and begins to stretch an attack line after the search team has made entry.

Figure 1. Timeline and Progression of Primary Search

Figure 2. View of the Living Room (Fire Compartment) from the Door on Side A

As illustrated in Figure 3, visible flaming combustion when the door is opened at 08:00 is limited to a small flame from the top of the couch just inside the door on Side A. However, in the 30 seconds that it takes for the search team to make entry, flaming combustion has resumed and flames are near or at the ceiling above the couch. The search team may estimate that they have time to complete a quick search of the bedrooms (likely location of the reported persons). However, fire development progresses to untenable conditions within a minute, trapping the crew on Side D of the house.

Figure 3. Fire Progression in the Living Room 00:08:00 to 00:10:00

As the search team completes primary search of Bedroom 2 and moves towards Bedroom 3 in the hallway, conditions have deteriorated to an untenable level. Figure 4 illustrates the change in temperature at the 3’ level in the Living Room (fire compartment). Shortly before the search team reached Bedroom 2, fire conditions in the living room began to change dramatically, with temperature at the 3’ level transitioning from ordinary to extreme, quickly becoming untenable in the living room, hallway and adjacent compartments. In addition to this significant change in temperature, flames (with temperatures higher than the gas temperature at the 3’ level) significantly increase radiant heat transfer (flux) to the surface of both fuel packages and firefighters protective equipment.

Figure 4. Temperature at the 3’ Level

Note: Figure 4 illustrates temperature conditions starting eight minutes after ignition. The fire previously progressed through incipient and growth stages before beginning to decay due to lack of ventilation.

Why the Dramatic Change in Conditions?

As discussed in UL Tactical Implications Part 1, Fires in the contemporary environment progress from ignition and incipient stage to growth, but often become ventilation controlled and begin to decay, rather than continuing to grow into a fully developed fire. This ventilation induced decay continues until the ventilation profile changes (e.g., window failure due to fire effects, opening a door for entry or egress, or intentional creation of ventilation openings by firefighters. When ventilation is increased, heat release rate again rises and temperature climbs with the fire potentially transitioning through flashover to the fully developed stage (see Figure 4 and 5).

Figure 5. Fire Development in a Compartment

Captain James Mendoza of the San Jose (CA) Fire Department and CFBT-US Lead Instructor demonstrates the influence of ventilation on fire development using a small scale prop developed by Dr. Stefan Svensson of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

The prop used in this demonstration is a small, single compartment with a limited ventilation opening on the right side (which in a full size building could be represented by normal building leakage or a compartment opening that is restricted such as a partially open door or window). The front wall of the prop is ceramic glass to permit direct observation of fire conditions within the compartment.

As you watch this demonstration, pay particular attention to how conditions change as the fire develops and then enters the decay stage. In addition, observe how quickly the fire returns to the growth stage and develops conditions that would be untenable after the window is opened at 12:17.

Download Doll’s House Plans (or Doll’s House Plans: Metric) for directions on how to construct a similar small scale prop.

Fire development and changes in conditions following ventilation in this demonstration mirror those seen in the full scale experiments conducted by UL. Increasing ventilation to a ventilation controlled fire, results in increased heat release rate and transition from decay to the growth stage of fire development.

The same phenomena can be observed under fireground conditions in the following video clip of a residential fire in Dolton, Illinois (this is a long video, watch the first several minutes to observe the changes in fire behavior).

It appears that the front door was open at the start of the video clip and the large picture window on Side A was ventilated at approximately 00:47. Fire conditions quickly transition to the growth stage with flames exiting the window and door, causing firefighters on an uncharged hoseline that had been advanced into Floor 1, to quickly withdraw.

As discussed in UL Tactical Implications: Part 1:

  • Fires that have progressed beyond the incipient stage are likely to be ventilation controlled when the fire department arrives.
  • Ventilation controlled fires may be in the growth, decay, or fully developed stage.
  • Regardless of the stage of fire development, when a fire is ventilation controlled, increased ventilation will always result in increased HRR.
  • Firefighters and fire officers must recognize that the ventilation profile can change (e.g., increasing ventilation) as a result of tactical action or fire effects on the building (e.g., window failure).
  • Firefighters and fire officers must anticipate potential changes in fire behavior related to changes in the ventilation profile and ensure that fire attack and ventilation are closely coordinated.

Coordinated Tactical Operations

Understanding how fire behavior can be influenced by changes in ventilation is essential. But how can firefighters put this knowledge to use on the fireground and what exactly does coordination of tactical ventilation and fire attack really mean?

Tactical ventilation can be defined as the planned, systematic, and coordinated removal of hot smoke and fire gases and their replacement with fresh air. Each of the elements of this definition is important to safe and effective tactical operations.

Ventilation (both tactical and unplanned) not only removes hot smoke, but it also introduces fresh air which can have a significant effect on fire behavior.

Tactical ventilation must be planned; these two elements speak to the intentional nature of tactical ventilation. Tactics to change the ventilation profile must be intended to influence the fire environment or fire behavior in some way (e.g., raise the level of the upper layer to increase visibility and tenability). The ventilation plan must also consider the flow path (e.g., vent ahead of, not behind, the attack team; vent in the immediate area of the fire, not at a remote location).

Tactical ventilation must be systematic, exhaust openings should generally be made before inlet openings (particularly when working with positive pressure ventilation or when taking advantage of wind effects).

And as pointed out in the UL Study (Kerber, 2011), tactical ventilation must be coordinated. Coordination of ventilation and other tactical operations requires consideration of sequence and timing:

Sequence: Ventilation may be completed before, during, or after fire attack has been initiated. Sequence will likely depend on the stage of fire development, burning regime, time required to reach the fire.

If the fire is small and staffing is limited, it may be appropriate to control the fire and then effect ventilation (e.g., hydraulic ventilation performed by the attack team). This approach minimizes potential fire growth,

In general, when the fire is ventilation controlled (as those beyond the incipient stage are likely to be), ventilation should not be completed unless the attack line(s) can quickly apply water to the seat of the fire. In a small, single family dwelling this may mean that the attack team is on-air, the line is charged, and the entry door is unlocked or has been forced and is being controlled (held closed). In a larger building, this may mean that the attack line has entered the structure and is in position to move onto the fire floor or into the fire area.

The key questions that must be answered prior to implementing tactical ventilation are:

  1. What influence will these ventilation tactics have on fire behavior?
  2. Are charged and staffed attack line(s) in place?
  3. Will the attack team(s) be able to quickly reach the fire?
  4. How will this impact crews operating on the interior of the building?

Coordination requires clear, direct communication between companies or crews assigned to ventilation, fire attack, and other tactical functions that are or will be taking place inside the building.

Important: While not a tactical implication directly raised by the UL study, another important consideration is the hazard of working without or ahead of the hoseline. While a controversial topic in the US fire service (where truck company personnel generally work on the interior without a hoseline), searching with a hoseline provides a means of protection and a defined exit path. Staffing is another key element of the operational context. If you do not have enough personnel to control the fire and search; in most cases it is likely the best course of action to control the fire and ensure a safer operating environment for search operations.

What’s Next?

The next tactical implication identified in the UL study (Kerber, 2011) examines information that may be obtained by reading the air track at the entry point opening. This implication will be expanded with a broader discussion of air track indicators and how related hazards can be mitigated to improve firefighter safety.

References

Kerber, S. (2011). Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction. Retrieved July 16, 2011 from http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fireservice/ventilation/DHS%202008%20Grant%20Report%20Final.pdf

 

Note: Figure 4 illustrates temperature conditions starting eight minutes after ignition. The fire previously progressed through incipient and growth stages before beginning to decay due to lack of ventilation.

Why the Dramatic Change in Conditions?

As discussed in UL Tactical Implications Part 1 [LINK], Fires in the contemporary environment progress from ignition and incipient stage to growth, but often become ventilation controlled and begin to decay, rather than continuing to grow into a fully developed fire. This ventilation induced decay continues until the ventilation profile changes (e.g., window failure due to fire effects, opening a door for entry or egress, or intentional creation of ventilation openings by firefighters. When ventilation is increased, heat release rate again rises and temperature climbs with the fire potentially transitioning through flashover to the fully developed stage (see Figure 4 and 5).

Figure 5. Fire Development in a Compartment