Posts Tagged ‘fire development’

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.

Control the Door and Control the Fire

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

A pre-arrival video of a July 23, 2013 residential fire posted on YouTube illustrates the impact of ventilation (making an entry opening) in advance of having a hoseline in place to initiate fire attack. The outcome of increased ventilation mirrors the full scale fire tests conducted by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) during their Horizontal Ventilation Study (see The Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction or the On-Line Learning Module).

Residential Fire

63 seconds after the front door is opened, the fire transitions to a fully developed fire in the compartment on the Alpha/Bravo Corner of the building and the fire extends beyond the compartment initially involved and presents a significant thermal insult to the firefighters on the hoseline while they are waiting for water.

sequence_0000_to_0320

A More Fine Grained Look

Take a few minutes to go back through the video and examine the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) Indicators, tactical actions, and transitions in fire behavior.

0:00 Flames are visible through a window on Side Bravo (Alpha Bravo/Corner), burning material is visible on the front porch, and moderate smoke is issuing from Side Alpha at low velocity.

0:30 Flames have diminished in the room on the Alpha/Bravo Corner.

1:18 An engine arrives and reports a “working fire”. At this point no flames are visible in the room on the Alpha/Bravo Corner, small amount of burning material on the front porch, moderate smoke is issuing at low velocity from Side Alpha and from window on Side Bravo

1:52 A firefighter kicks in the door on Side Alpha

2:02 The firefighter who opened the door, enters the building through the Door on Side Alpha alone.

2:08 Other members of the engine company are stretching a dry hoseline to Side Bravo.

2:15 Increased in flaming combustion becomes visible through the windows on Sides A and B (Alpha/Bravo Corner).

2:31 The firefighter exits through door on Side Alpha and flaming combustion is now visible in upper area of windows on Sides A and B (Alpha/Bravo Corner).

2:49 Flames completely fill the window on Side Alpha and increased flaming combustion is visible at the upper area of the window on Side Bravo. The engine company is now repositioning the dry hoseline to the front porch

2:55 The fire in the compartment on the Alpha/Bravo Corner is now fully developed, flames completely fill the window on Side Alpha and a majority of the window on Side Bravo. Flames also begin to exit the upper area of the door on Side Alpha.

3:07 Steam or vapors are visible from the turnout coat and helmet of the firefighter working in front of the window on Side Alpha (indicating significant heat flux resulting from the flames exiting the window)

3:25 Steam or vapors are visible from the turnout coat and helmet of the firefighter on the nozzle of the dry line positioned on the front porch (also indicating significant heat flux from flaming combustion from the door, window, and under the porch roof).

3:26 The hoseline on the front porch is charged and the firefighter on the nozzle that is positioned on the front porch begins water application through the front door.

Things to Think About

There are a number of lessons that can be drawn from this video, but from a ventilation and fire control perspective, consider the following:

  • Limited discharge of smoke and flames (even when the fire has self-vented) may indicate a ventilation controlled fire.
  • Ventilation controlled fires that have already self-vented will react quickly to additional ventilation.
  • Control the door (before and after entry) until a hoseline is in place and ready to apply water on the fire
  • Application of water into the fire compartment from the exterior prior to entry reduces heat release rate and buys additional time to advance the hoseline to the seat of the fire.
  • Use of the reach of the stream from the nozzle reduces the thermal insult to firefighters and their personal protective equipment.

Also see Situational Awareness is Critical for another example of the importance of understanding practical fire dynamics and being able to apply this knowledge on the fireground.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

FAQ-Fire Attack Questions: Part 4

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

This post will finish up with Captain Mike Sullivan’s Fire Attack Questions. In the coming weeks I will explore the research conducted by UL, NIST, and FDNY on Governors Island last summer (see the video of a presentation on this research at FDIC later in this post). If you have questions or topics that you would like to see addressed in the CFBT-US Blog, please comment on the post or send me an e-mail.

In your Blog about gas cooling you mention combustion products and pyrolysis products. Combustion products being light heat and smoke but can you elaborate on pyrolysis products, are they just the gasses that are off gassing from the fuel?

Smoke is a complex aerosol comprised of gases, vapors, and particulates resulting from pyrolysis and incomplete combustion along with entrained air. So, smoke is comprised of both chemical products of pyrolysis (thermal decomposition of fuel) and combustion products. The chemical composition of smoke is extremely complex and depends on both the type(s) of fuel and conditions under which it is burning, predominantly limitations on ventilation and oxygen concentration.

Smoke is toxic, with incomplete combustion of organic fuels producing substantial amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen containing materials producing hydrogen cyanide. As smoke is a product of pyrolysis and incomplete combustion, it also contains a substantial percentage of unburned fuel, as such, smoke is fuel.

I have read that if smoke is venting from a building then there will be air entering from somewhere. During basement fires where the fire is below the neutral pressure plane you will often see smoke exiting from the front door from top to bottom of the doorway with no apparent entry of air (no neutral pressure plane) and no other vent opening. Could you comment on this?

The mass of smoke exiting from the building must equal the mass of the oxidized fuel and the mass of air entering the building as mass can neither be created or destroyed (law of conservation of mass) as illustrated below.

compartment fire mass exchange

If you see smoke exiting from an opening with a unidirectional air track (out), air is entering somewhere else. Likely, air is entering from multiple locations without presenting an obvious indicator as to the flow paths involved.

Controlling the flow path in this case, involves closing the door. This acts in the same manner as closing the damper in a wood stove. Restricting the exhaust will slow intake of air and reduce the heat release rate until water can be applied (preferably making access through an exterior doorway at the basement level or applying water through a window to further reduce heat release prior to an interior attack.

Recent research by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Fire Department of the City of New York on Governors Island showed that closing an open front door reduced the heat release rate from a basement fire. Battalion Chief George Healey, Dan Madryzkowski, Steve Kerber, and Lieutenant John Ceriello provided an excellent presentation on this research at the 2013 Fire Department Instructors Conference. I strongly recommend viewing the presentation (embedded below)!

Scientific Research for the Development of More Effective Tactics

The following video recording provides an excellent overview of research conducted by UL, NIST, and FDNY on Governors Island to develop an understanding of fire dynamics in the modern fire environment and the influence of firefighting tactics on firefighter safety and effective fire control and ventilation operations.

This presentation was a seminal event in the US Fire Service that emphasized the importance of understanding fire behavior and the connection between solid research (both in the lab and in the field) with operational strategies and tactics. The research is solid, but it is important that all of us understand that it does not answer all of the questions and we should consider context when attempting to apply specific findings in general terms. For example:

  • The suppression elements of the Governors Island tests were conducted using solid stream nozzles as that is the predominant type of nozzle used by FDNY. Tests showed that positive impact can be had using this type of nozzle. An important finding, but it was not intended to address the question of where are solid streams more effective than fog patterns (and where fog patterns are more effective).
  • Tests were conducted on the Vent, Enter, Isolate, and Search (VEIS) tactic. Evidence points to the importance of controlling the flow path by closing the door. This does not mean that this is or is not an appropriate tactic under all circumstances or in all contexts, it simply addresses the importance of controlling the flow path.

The fire service owes a tremendous debt to UL, NIST, and FDNY (and in particular George, Dan, Steve, and John) for their commitment to improving firefighter safety and the effectiveness of firefighting operations. In order to maximize the value of this critically important research, it is essential that we explore the findings and underlying data and make sense of how this information can improve firefighting operations in our communities. More on this in subsequent posts!

Ed Hartin

FAQ-Fire Attack Questions: Part 2

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

nozzle_technique

Captain Mike Sullivan with the Mississauga Ontario Fire Department and I are continuing our dialog with another series of questions related to the science behind fire attack and fire control methods. Mike’s next several question deal with gas and surface cooling.

I know the best way to extinguish a fire is to put water on it but my questions below deal with a situation of large, open concept homes where you can see the entire main floor except the kitchen cooking area, in many cases this area is not separate from the open floor plan but around the corner so we can’t hit the fire until we get around that corner. My questions are all geared around how to cool the environment as you make your way to the fire (if you need to go to the very back of the house to get to the fire, fire can’t be seen).

When you answered the question about the effects of flowing a straight/solid stream across the ceiling it sounds as if this is really only surface cooling and not effectively gas cooling. If this is true then I was wondering what the value of doing this is, what are the main benefits of cooling the ceiling, walls and floor (and any furniture etc. the water lands on)? Also, what do you recommend to those departments that only use solid bore nozzles?

Use of a solid (or straight) stream off the ceiling has some effect on cooling the gases, but this is limited as the droplets produced are quite large and do not readily vaporize in the hot upper layer (great for direct attack, but not so much for gas cooling). The value of doing this is that any energy taken out of the hot upper layer (buy cooling the gases or by cooling surfaces and subsequent transfer of energy from hot gases to the cooler surfaces) will have some positive effect. In addition, hot combustible surfaces, depending on temperature are likely pyrolizing and adding hot, gas phase fuel to the upper layer. Cooling reduces pyrolysis and the fuel content of the smoke overhead.

The following video of the “Nozzle Forward”, Aaron Fields, Seattle Fire Department demonstrates some excellent hose handling techniques and also provides an illustration of how a solid stream nozzle can be used to cool hot gases by breaking up the stream on contact with compartment linings. Have a look at the video between 2:00 and 2:30 where the nozzle is being rotated as in a combination attack while advancing down a hallway. Note that the stream breaks up on contact with the ceiling and walls, providing a distribution of large droplets in the overhead area.

This technique can be quite effective when faced with a large volume of fire and ventilation is provided in front of the fire attack. However, if the hallway is not involved in fire, but there is a hot layer of smoke overhead, this approach is less effective as large droplets are less efficient in cooling the hot gases and much of the water will end up on the floor, not having done appreciable work.

While this will likely generate some hate and discontent, I would recommend that departments using only solid stream nozzles reconsider their choice. This type of nozzle has a number of great characteristics, but also has a number of significant limitations, principal among which is limited ability to cool the hot upper layer when dealing with shielded fires. That said, the firefighter riding backwards or company officer in the right front seat may have limited impact on this decision (at least in the short term). If all you have to work with is a solid stream nozzle, directing the stream off the ceiling to break up the pattern and provide limited gas cooling when dealing with extremely hot gases overhead are likely a reasonable option.

I understand how penciling a fog stream in the hot gas layer is the best way to cool the gases. My concern is this, where I work there are many new homes with open concept, large rooms and little compartmentation. I like the idea of cooling the gases above my head but I still have a large room full of gases that could still flash. Sure I’m cooling the gases around me but if the gases at the other end of the open space flash, I am still in the same room and in trouble. I would prefer to cool that area before I get there. What are your recommendations for this situation?

As a point of clarification, we use the term “penciling” in reference to an intermittent straight stream application. Gas cooling is most effectively accomplished with pulsed or intermittent application of water fog. We refer to this technique as “pulses” (to differentiate this from penciling with a straight or solid stream)

We also have quite a few large residential occupancies with open floor plans. The issue of large area or volume compartments also applies in commercial and industrial building as well. Gas cooling simply provides a buffer zone around the hose team, but other than in a small compartment does not change conditions in the upper layer throughout the space. Gas cooling must be a continuous process while progressing towards a shielded fire. The upper limit of area (or more appropriately volume) is an unanswered question. My friend Paul Grimwood, Principal Fire Safety Engineer with the Kent Fire and Rescue Service in the UK holds that the upper limit with a relatively normal ceiling height is approximately 70 m2 (753 ft2). Paul’s perspective is anecdotal and not based on specific scientific research. However, this is not unreasonable, given the reach of a narrow fog pattern and vaporization of water as it passes through the upper layer. Given the higher flow rates used by the North American fire service, it may be possible to control a somewhat larger area than Paul suggests, but this remains to be determined.

As to an answer to this problem, pulsed application does not always mean short pulses, multiple long pulses with a narrow pattern or a sweeping long pulse may be used to cover a larger area. In addition, large area compartments or open floor plan spaces may require multiple lines to adequately control the environment. The purpose of the backup line is to protect the means of egress for the attack line and this is of paramount importance in an open plan building.

The following two videos demonstrate the difference between short and long pulses. At 115 lpm (30 gpm) the flow rates in these two videos are low by North American standards, but are fairly typical for gas cooling applications in many parts of the world. Short pulses can be used effectively up to approximately 570 lpm (150 gpm) with minimal water hammer, for higher flow rates, long pulses are more appropriate.

When we do these quick bursts of fog to cool the gases we are not using much water compared to the feeling that the best way to handle this is to flow a large amount of water and basically soak the entire area down before you advance through it. I was hoping you could comment on this.

As noted in the answer to your previous question, pulses are sometimes, but not always quick. In a typical legacy residence (small compartments) short pulses are generally adequate to cool hot gases overhead. When accessing a shielded fire, and cooling the hot gases overhead it is not generally necessary to cool hot surfaces and fuel packages such as furniture (it may be a different story in the fire compartment). Water remaining on the floor or soaked into contents did not do significant work and simply added to fire control damage. We should not hesitate to use an adequate amount of water for fear of water damage, but tactical operations should focus on protecting property once (or while) we are acting to ensure the safety of occupants and firefighters.

We often enter house fires where the house is full of smoke but the smoke is not necessarily very hot. In these cases we would not normally cool the gases. From what we understand now, smoke is fuel and with open concept homes this smoke could ignite close to the fire therefore igniting the smoke nearer to us. What I was wondering is what are you teaching in regards to cooling the smoke, do you do it only when you feel a lot of heat or start cooling regardless?

As the temperature of the upper layer drops, the effectiveness of application of pulsed water fog diminishes. That said, if the upper layer is hot enough to vaporize some of the water (i.e. above 100o C), application of water will further cool the gases and provide some thermal ballast (the water will have to be heated along with the gases for ignition to occur).

When presented with cold (< 100o C) smoke, firefighters still face a hazard as gas phase fuel can still be ignited resulting in a flash fire (if relatively unconfined) or smoke explosion. The only real solution to this hazard is to create a safe zone by removing the smoke through tactical ventilation.

Mike and I will continue this dialog next week with a discussion of the protective capabilities of fog streams.

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.

http://buyviagrageneric.com cheap viagra 100mg 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 6

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The sixth tactical implication identified in the Underwriters Laboratories study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction (Kerber, 2011) identifies potential hazards and risks related to the tactic of Vent Enter Search (VES).

Kerber (2011) provides a straightforward explanation of this tactic.

It can be described as ventilating a window, entering through the window, searching that room and exiting out the same window entered…A primary of objective of VES is to close the door of the room ventilated to isolate the flow path…

Origins and Context

While it is difficult to identify or isolate the origins of many fireground tactics, VES has been practiced by FDNY for many years and is described in detail in the Firefighting Procedures Volume 3, Book 4: Ladder Company Operations at Private Dwellings manual (FDNY, 1997). As described in Ladder Company Operations at Private Dwellings, FDNY truck companies are staffed with an officer, apparatus operator, and four firefighters and are divided into two teams; inside team and outside team. While tactics are dependent on the type of structure and fire conditions; VES is performed by the outside team while the inside team works in conjunction with an engine company, supporting fire attack and searching from the interior. In this context, VES is part of a coordinated tactical operation.

It is also important to recognize the impact of changes in the fire environment since the development of this tactic (likely in the 1960s). Changes in the speed of fire development are graphically illustrated in the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) test of fire development with modern and legacy furnishings.

The tremendous fuel load, development of ventilation limited conditions, and rapid transition from tenable to untenable conditions for firefighters following increased ventilation (without initiation of fire control), reduce the time for Firefighters to make entry and control the door when performing VES in the modern fire environment.

Influence on Fire Behavior

The following incident illustrates the rapid changes in conditions that can result during VES operations. This information was originally presented in the post titled Criticism Versus Critical Thinking. This incident involved VES at a residential structure where rapid fire progress required the Captain conducting the search to perform emergency window egress from a second floor window onto a ladder.

Companies were dispatched to a residential fire at 0400 hours with persons reported. On arrival, cars were observed in the driveway and neighbors reported the likely location of a trapped occupant on the second floor.

Given fire conditions on Floor 1, the Captain of the first in truck, a 23 year veteran, determined that Vent, Enter, and Search (VES) was the best option to quickly search and effect a rescue.

The following video clip illustrates conditions encountered at this residential fire:


Find more videos like this on firevideo.net

In his, vententersearch.com post Captain Van Sant provided the following information about his observations and actions:

When we vent[ed] the window with the ladder, it looks like the room is burning, but the flames you see are coming from the hallway, and entering through the top of the bedroom doorway. Watch it again and you’ll see the fire keeps rolling in and across the ceiling.

When I get to the window sill, the queen-sized bed is directly against the window wall, so there is no way to “check the floor” … Notice that you continue to see my feet going in, because I’m on the bed.

Believe me, in the beginning, this was a tenable room both for me and for any victim that would have been in there…

My goal was to get to the door and close it, just like VES is supposed to be done. We do it successfully all the time.

When I reached the other side of the bed, I dropped to the floor and began trying to close the door. Unfortunately, due to debris on the floor, the door would not close [emphasis added].

Conditions were still quite tenable at this point, but I knew with the amount of fire entering at the upper level, and smoke conditions changing, things were going to go south fast…

I kept my eyes on my exit point, and finished my search, including the closet, which had no doors on it. Just as I was a few feet from the window, the room lit off…

Tactical Considerations

Is VES an appropriate tactic for primary search in private dwellings? This question must be placed into operational context bounded by fire dynamics, resources and staffing, experience level of the firefighters involved, potential for survivable occupants, and the fireground risk management philosophy of the department. Consider the following:

  • There have been instances where VES has resulted in saving of civilian life.
  • There have been instances where VES has resulted in significant thermal injury to firefighters.
  • The UL ventilation tests (Kerber, 2011) demonstrate that conditions rapidly become untenable for civilian occupants in rooms with open doors. Rooms with closed doors remain tenable for civilian occupants for a considerable time.
  • VES may result in rapid search of specific threatened areas.
  • VES is a high risk tactic that involves working alone (but if a second firefighter remains at the entry point this is similar to oriented search).
  • VES (as normally practiced) involves working without a hoseline.
  • VES changes the ventilation profile and places firefighters in the flow path between the fire and an exhaust opening (unless or until the door to the compartment is closed)
  • As demonstrated in the UL ventilation tests (Kerber, 2011), thermal conditions change from a tenable operating environment for firefighters to untenable and life threatening in a matter of seconds.

Based on these factors, you may determine that VES is not an appropriate tactic for primary search under any circumstances, or you may determine that it might be appropriate under specific circumstances. The following tactical scenarios may provide a framework for discussion of these issues.

Scenario 1:You have responded to a fire in a medium sized, two-story, wood frame, single-family dwelling at 02:13 hours. You observe a smoke issuing at moderate velocity from the eaves and condensed pyrolizate on the inside of window glazing. A dull reddish glow can be observed through several adjacent windows on the Charlie Side (back of the house), Floor 1.

Given your normal first alarm assignment and staffing Is VES an appropriate option for primary search given the conditions described and potential for possible occupants? Why or why not?

Scenario 2: You have the same building, smoke, air track, heat, and flame indicators as in Scenario 1, but a female occupant meets you on arrival and reports that her husband is trying to rescue their daughter who was sleeping in a bedroom on Floor 2 at the Alpha/Bravo corner of the house.

Given your normal first alarm assignment and staffing Is VES an appropriate option for primary search given the conditions described and reported occupants?  Why or why not?

Scenario 3: You have the same building, smoke, air track, heat, and flame indicators as in Scenario 1, and observe two occupants, an adult male and a female child in a window on Floor 2 at the Alpha/Bravo corner of the house. Smoke at low velocity is issuing from the open window above the occupants. However, before you can raise a ladder to rescue the occupants in the window, they disappear from view and the volume and velocity of smoke discharge from the window increases.

Given your normal first alarm assignment and staffing Is VES an appropriate option for primary search given the conditions described and initial observation of occupants? Why or why not?

Vertical Ventilation Study

UL has commenced a study on the Effectiveness of Vertical Ventilation and Fire Suppression Tactics using the same legacy and contemporary residential structures used in their study of horizontal ventilation. This research project will examine a range of vertical ventilation variables including the size, location, and timing of openings. In addition, further research will be conducted on the effectiveness of exterior streams and their impact on interior conditions.

Preliminary design parameters for the study were developed in conjunction with a technical panel representing a wide range of jurisdictions and types of fire service agencies, including:

  • Atlanta Fire Department (GA)
  • Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue (WA)
  • Chicago Fire Department (IL)
  • Cleveland Fire Department (OH)
  • Coronado Fire Department (CA)
  • Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) (NY)
  • Loveland-Symmes Fire Department (OH)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (MD)
  • Northbrook Fire Department (IL)
  • Milwaukee Fire Department (WI)
  • Lake Forest Fire Department (IL)
  • Phoenix Fire Department (AZ)

Full scale tests are anticipated to begin in January 2012. I will provide updates as this research project progresses.

References

Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY). (1997) Firefighting prodedures volume 3 book 4: Ladder company operations at private dwellings. New York: 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

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

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures: Tactical Implications Part 3

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

UL’s third tactical implication is that there may be little smoke showing when a fire initially enters the decay stage as a result of limited ventilation. These fire conditions may present similar indicators to an incipient fire. However, fire conditions and the hazards presented to firefighters are considerably different.

Visible Indications of Fire Development

In Reading the Fire: B-SAHF, I introduced Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame (B-SAHF) as an organizing scheme for fire behavior indicators. Use of a standardized and organized approach to reading the fire can improve our ability to assess current fire conditions and predict likely fire development and changes that may occur.

Station Officer Shan Raffel of Queensland (Australia) Fire Rescue recently published an excellent article titled The Art of Reading Fire on the FirefighterNation website that provides another view of the B-SAHF indicators and Reading the Fire.

Building factors (particularly the normal ventilation profile, size and compartmentation, and thermal characteristics) can have a significant impact on fire development and how fire conditions present from the exterior of the building. However, this UL tactical implication relates most closely to Smoke and Air Track as well as somewhat indirectly to Heat (but this is the key to understanding what is happening). First a quick review of these key indicators

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.

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).

Heat: This includes a number of indirect indicators. Heat cannot be observed directly, but you can feel changes in temperature and may observe the effects of heat on the building and its contents. Visual clues such as crazing of glass and visible pyrolysis from fuel that has not yet ignited are also useful heat related indicators. Important: Temperature influences smoke and air track indicators such as volume and velocity of smoke discharge.

For a more detailed look at B-SAHF and reading the fire, see the following posts:

How to Improve Your Skills
Building Factors
Building Factors Part 2
Building Factors Part 3
Smoke Indicators
Smoke Indicators Part 2
Air Track Indicators
Air Track Indicators Part 2
Heat Indicators
Heat Indicators Part 2
Heat Indicators Part 3
Flame Indicators
Flame Indicators Part 2
Incipient Stage Fires: Key Fire Behavior Indicators
Growth Stage Fires: Key Fire Behavior Indicators
Fully Developed Fires: Key Fire Behavior Indicators
Decay Stage Fires: Key Fire Behavior Indicators

Stages of Fire Development, Burning Regime, Smoke, Air Track & Heat

While the “stages of fire” have been described differently in fire service textbooks the phenomenon of fire development is the same. For our purposes, the stages of fire development in a compartment will be described as incipient, growth, fully developed and decay (see Figure 1). Despite dividing fire development into four “stages” the actual process is continuous with “stages” flowing from one to the next. While it may be possible to clearly define these transitions in the laboratory, in the field it is often difficult to tell when one ends and the next begins.

Understanding the stages of fire development is important, but this only provides a limited picture of fire development in a compartment. Conversion of chemical potential energy from fuel depends on availability of adequate oxygen for the combustion reaction to occur. As the ambient air in the compartment provides adequate oxygen, in incipient stage and early growth stage, heat release rate is limited by the chemical and physical characteristics of the fuel. This condition is known as a fuel controlled burning regime. In a compartment fire, combustion occurs in an enclosure where the air available for combustion is limited by 1) the volume of the compartment and 2) ventilation. Ventilation in a compartment fire is limited (particularly if doors and windows are closed and intact), as the fire grows and heat release rate increases, so too does demand for oxygen. When fire growth is limited by the available oxygen, heat release rate is slowed and then diminishes. This condition is known as a ventilation controlled burning regime.

Many if not most fires that have progressed beyond the incipient stage when the fire department arrives are ventilation controlled. This means that the heat release rate (the fire’s power) is limited by the existing ventilation. If ventilation is increased, either through tactical action or unplanned ventilation resulting from effects of the fire (e.g., failure of a window) or human action (e.g., exiting civilians leaving a door open), heat release rate will increase (see Figure 1)

Figure 1. Fire Development Curve (Fuel and Ventilation Controlled Regimes)

Several things happen as a compartment fire develops: Heat release rate increases, smoke production increases, and pressure within the compartment increases proportionally to the absolute temperature. These conditions result in a number of fire behavior indicators that may be visible from the exterior of the building. As a fire moves from the Incipient to the Growth Stage, an increasing volume of smoke may be visible from the exterior (Smoke Indicator) and the velocity of smoke discharge will likely increase (Air Track Indicator and indirect Heat Indicator).

It is a reasonably logical conclusion that a smaller volume of smoke and lower velocity of smoke discharge will be observed in incipient and early growth stage fires and the volume and velocity of smoke discharge will increase as the fire develops. However, what happens when the fire becomes ventilation controlled?

Influence of Ventilation on Residential Fire Behavior

Earlier this year, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) conducted a series of full-scale experiments to determine the influence of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction (see Did You Ever Wonder? and UL Ventilation Course).

These tests were conducted in full-scale one and two-story, wood-frame structures constructed inside the UL laboratory in Northbrook, IL. Fires in the one-story structure were all started in the living room (see Figure 2) and involved typical contents found in a single-family home.

Figure 2: One-Story Structure and Floor Plan

As discussed in UL Tactical Implications Part 1 and Part 2, each of the fires during these tests quickly became ventilation controlled due to the fuel load within the buildings and limited ventilation provided by closed and intact doors and windows.

As each fire developed, the volume of smoke visible from the exterior and velocity of smoke discharge increased. This is consistent with fire development within the structure and increasing heat release rate, temperature, and volume of smoke production from the developing fire. Figure 3 illustrates exterior conditions at 05:05 during Test 5 conducted in the one-story residence.

Figure 3: Conditions at 05:05 (UL Test 5)

Interestingly, as the fire became ventilation controlled (as determined by both measurement of oxygen concentration and the heat release rate in the building), the volume and velocity of smoke discharge decreased to a negligible level as illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Conditions at 05:34 (UL Test 5)

This change occurred within a matter of 30 seconds! How might this influence firefighters’ perception of fire conditions inside the building if they arrived at 05:34 rather than 05:04? While presenting much the same as an incipient or early growth stage fire, conditions within the building at 05:34 are significantly ventilation controlled and increased ventilation resulted in rapid fire development and transition through flashover to a fully developed fire.

NIST Phoenix Warehouse Tests

In the Hazard of Ventilation Controlled Fires, I discussed a series of tests conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) at an ordinary constructed warehouse in Phoenix, AZ. These tests were intended to develop information about performance of ordinary constructed buildings related to structural collapse. However, they also provided some interesting information regarding fire behavior.

One of the tests involved a fire in the front section of the warehouse that measured 50’ x 90’ (15.2 m x 27.4 m) with a height of 15’ (4.6 m) to the top of the pitched truss roof. The fuel load for this test included four stacks of 10 wood pallets and the interior finish and combustible structural elements of the building.  All doors and windows were closed at the start of the test.

Figure 5 illustrates a large volume of dark gray to black smoke discharging from the roof of the structure and flames visible from roof ventilators at 03:57. The B-SAHF indicators visible n this photo indicate a significant growth stage fire within this building.

Figure 5. Conditions at 03:57 (NIST Warehouse Test)

However, at 05:31 conditions visible on the exterior are quite different. The color and volume of smoke discharge (Smoke Indicators) as well as the velocity of discharge (Air Track Indicator) may lead firefighters to believe that this is an incipient or early growth stage fire. Nothing could be further from the truth. This fire is in the decay stage as a result of limited ventilation and any increase in ventilation will result in a rapid and significant increase in heat release rate!

Figure 6. Conditions at 05:31 (NIST Warehouse Test)

For more information on these tests see Structural Collapse Fire Tests: Single Story, Ordinary Construction Warehouse (Stroup, Madrzykowski, Walton, & Twilley, 2003) or view the videos of this series of tests at the NIST Structural Collapse webpage.

The Key

Heat release rate and temperature drop as the fire becomes ventilation controlled. Volume and velocity of smoke discharge are a function of pressure (given a constant opening size). Reduction in temperature and corresponding reduction in pressure will result in a smaller volume and lower velocity of smoke discharge.

When the temperature is the same, the velocity of discharge will likely be similar. Figure 1 shows that the temperature inside a compartment may be the same during the growth and decay stages of the fire. If the ventilation profile (number, size, and location of openings) remains the same, similar Smoke and Air Track indicators can be present.

Decay stage incidators may be subtle. Consider the full range of B-SAHF inciators that may be observed under ventilation controlled, decay stage conditions (see Figure 7.

Figure 7. B-SAHF Decay Stage Indicators.

Durango, Colorado Commercial Fire

CFBT-US developed a case study examining an extreme fire behavior event that occurred during a commercial fire in Durango, CO in 2008 injuring nine firefighters and fire officers. The reporting party indicated that there was a large amount of dark smoke coming from the roof of the building. However, when firefighters arrived, they found nothing showing but a small amount of light colored smoke. Why might this have been the case?

Download a copy of the Fire Behavior Case Study: Durango CO Commercial Fire and see if this may have been a result of similar fire development and presentation of fire behavior indicators as seen in the UL and NIST tests!

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

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.

Stroup, D., Madrzykowski, D., Walton, W., & Twilley, W. (2003). Structural collapse fire tests: Single story, ordinary construction warehouse, NISTIR 6959. Retrieved July 16, 2011 from http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=861215

Homewood, IL LODD

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Introduction

While formal learning is an essential part of firefighters’ and fire officers’ professional development, informal learning is equally important, with lessons frequently shared through the use of stores. Stories are about sharing knowledge, not simply about entertainment. It is their ability to share culture, values, vision and ideas that make them so critical. They can be one of the most powerful learning tools available (Ives, 2004). “Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at hand and finding his own way out, does [the student] think” (Dewey, 1910, p. 188).

Developing mastery of the craft of firefighting requires experience. However, it is unlikely that we will develop the base of knowledge required simply by responding to incidents. Case studies provide an effective means to build our knowledge base using incidents experienced by others. This case is particularly significant as the circumstances could be encountered by almost any firefighter.

Aim

Firefighters and fire officers recognize and respond appropriately to the hazards of ventilation controlled fires in small, Type V (wood frame), single family dwellings.

References

National Institute for Occupationsl Safey and Health (NIOSH). (2010). Death in the line of duty: Report F2010-10. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face201010.pdf.

Ives, B. (2004) Storytelling and Knowledge Management: Part 2 – The Power of Stories. Retrieved May 6, 2010 from http://billives.typepad.com/portals_and_km/2004/08/storytelling_an_1.html

Dewey, J. (1910) Democracy and education. New York: McMillan

Learning Activity

Review the incident information and discuss the questions provided. Focus your efforts on understanding the interrelated impact of ventilation and fire control tactics on fire behavior. Even more important than understanding what happened in this incident is the ability to apply this knowledge in your own tactical decision-making.

The Case

This case study was developed using NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty: Report F2010-10 (NIOSH, 2010).

On the evening of March 30, 2010, while operating at a fire in a small single family dwelling, Firefighter/Paramedic Brian Carey and Firefighter/Paramedic Kara Kopas were assigned to assist in advancement of a 2-1/2” handline for offensive fire attack and to support primary search. Shortly after entering the building conditions deteriorated and they were trapped by rapid fire progression. Firefighter Kopas suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her lower back, buttocks, and right wrist. Firefighter Carey died from carbon monoxide poisoning and inhalation of smoke and soot. A 84 year old male civilian occupant also perished in the fire.

Figure 1. Side A Post Fire

Side A Post Fire

Note: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Building Information

This incident involved a 950 ft2 (88.26 m2), one-story, single family dwelling constructed in 1951. The house was of Type V (wood frame) construction with a hip roof covered with asphalt shingles. The roofline of the hip roof provided a small attic space. Sometime after the home was originally constructed an addition C was built that attached the house to a garage located on Side C. Compartment linings were drywall. The house, garage, and addition were all constructed on a concrete slab.

There were several openings between the house and addition, including two doors, and two windows (see Figure 3).

Note: The number and nature of openings between the garage and addition is not reported, but likely included a door and possibly a window (given typical garage construction). NIOSH investigators did not determine if the doors and windows between the house, addition, and garage were open or closed at the time of the fire as they were consumed by the fire and NIOSH did not interview the surviving occupant (S. Wertman, personal communication, November 17, 2010). The existence and position of the door shown in the wall between the addition and garage is speculative (based on typical design features of this type of structure).

Figure 2. Plot Plan and Apparatus Positioning

Figure 3. Floor Plan 17622 Lincoln Avenue

The Fire

Investigators believe that the fire originated in an addition that was constructed between the original home and the two-car garage. The surviving occupant reported that she observed black smoke and flames from underneath the chair that her disabled husband was sitting in.

The addition was furnished as a family room and fuel packages included upholstered furniture and polyurethane padding. The civilian victim also had three medical oxygen bottles (one D Cylinder (425 L) and two M-Cylinders (34 L). It is not know if the oxygen in these cylinders was a factor in fire development. The garage contained a single motor vehicle in the garage and other combustible materials.

After calling 911 and attempting to extinguish the fire, the female occupant exited the building. NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty Report 2010-10 did not specify this occupants egress path or if she left the door through which she exited open or closed (NIOSH did not interview the occupant, she was interviewed by local fire and law enforcement authorities). The NIOSH investigator (personal communications S. Wertman, November 17, 2010) indicated that the occupant likely exited through the exterior door in the addition or through the door on Side A. Give rapid development through flashover in the addition, it is likely that the exterior door in the addition or door to the garage was open, pointing to the likelihood that the occupant exited through this door. Subsequent rapid extension to the garage was likely based on design features of the addition and garage or some type of opening between these two compartments. As similar extension did not occur in the house, it is likely that the door and windows in the Side C wall of the house were closed.

In the four minutes between when the incident was reported (20:55 hours) and arrival of a law enforcement unit (20:59), the fire in the addition had progressed from the incipient stage to fully developed fire conditions in both the addition and garage.

Dispatch Information

At 2055 hours on March 30, 2010, dispatch received a call from a resident at 17622 Lincoln Avenue stating that her paralyzed husband’s chair was on fire and that he was on oxygen. The first alarm assignment consisting of two engines, two trucks, a squad, and ambulance, and fire chief was dispatched at 2057.

Table 1. On-Duty and Additional Unit Staffing of First Alarm Resources

Unit

Staffing

Engine 534 Lieutenant, Firefighter, Engineer
Ambulance 564 2 Firefighter Paramedics
Truck 1220 (Auto Aid Department) Lieutenant, 2 Firefighters, Engineer
Engine 1340 (Auto Aid Department) Lieutenant 3 Firefighters, Engineer
Truck 1145 (Auto Aid Department) Lieutenant, 2 Firefighters, Engineer
Squad 440 (Auto Aid Department) Lieutenant, 3 Firefighters
Chief Chief

Note: This table was developed by integrating data from Death in the Line of Duty Report 2010-10 (NIOSH, 2010).

Weather Conditions

The weather was clear with a temperature of 12o C (53o F). Firefighters operating at the incident stated that wind was not a factor.

Conditions on Arrival

A law enforcement officer arrived prior to fire companies and reported that the house was “fully engulfed” and that the subject in the chair was still in the house.

Truck 1220 (T-1220) arrived at 2101, observed that the fire involved a single family dwelling, and received verbal reports from law enforcement and bystanders that the male occupant was still inside. Note: The disabled male occupant’s last known location was in the addition between the house and garage, but it is unknown if this information was clearly communicated to T-1220 or to Command (E-534 Lieutenant).

Engine 534 (E-534) arrived just behind T-1220 and reported heavy fire showing. E-534 had observed flames from Side C during their response and discussed use of a 2-1/2” (64 mm) handline for initial attack.

Firefighting Operations

Based on the report of a trapped occupant, T-1220B (Firefighter and Apparatus Operator) prepared to gain entry and conduct primary search. Note: Based on data in NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty Report 2010-10, it is not clear that this task was assigned by the initial Incident Commander (Engine 534 Lieutenant). It appears that this assignment may have been made by the T-1220 Lieutenant, or performed simply as a default truck company assignment for offensive operations at a residential fire.

Upon arrival, the E-534 Lieutenant assumed Command and transmitted a size-up report indicating heavy fire showing. The Incident Commander(E-534 Lieutenant) assisted the E-534 Firefighter with removal of the 1-3/4” (45 mm) skid load from the solid stream nozzle on the 2-1/2” (64 mm) hose load and stretching the 2-1/2” (64 mm) handline to the door on Side A. The E-534 Apparatus Operator charged the line with water from the apparatus tank and then hand stretched a 5” supply line to the hydrant at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Hawthorne Road with the assistance of a Firefighter from T-1220.

Figure 4. Initiation of Primary Search

The Incident Commander (E-534 Lieutenant) assisted T-1220B in forcing the door on Side A. T-1220B made entry without a hoseline and began a left hand search as illustrated in Figure 4, noting that the upper layer was banked down to within approximately 3’ (0.9 m) from the floor).

Arriving immediately after E-534, the crew of A-564 donned their personal protective equipment and reported to the Incident Commander at the door on Side A, where he and the E-534 Firefighter were preparing to make entry with the 2-1/2” hoseline. The Incident Commander then assigned A-564 to work with the E-534 Firefighter to support search operations and control the fire.

T-1220 initiated roof operations and began to cut a ventilation opening on Side A near the center of the roof. Note: Based on data in NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty Report 2010-10, it is not clear that this task was assigned by the initial Incident Commander (Engine 534 Lieutenant). It appears that this assignment may have been made by the T-1220 Lieutenant, or performed simply as a default truck company assignment for offensive operations at a residential fire.

As illustrated in Figure 5, a large body of fire can be observed on Side C and a bi-directional air track is evident at the point of entry on Side A with dark gray smoke pushing from the upper level of the doorway at moderate velocity. All windows on Sides A and B were intact, with evidence of soot and/or condensed pyrolizate on the large picture window adjacent to the door on Side A.

Figure 5. Conditions Viewed from the Alpha/Bravo Corner at Approximately

Note: Warren Skalski Photo from NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty Report F2010-10.

The Firefighter from E-534 took the nozzle and assisted by Firefighters Carey and Kopas (A-564) stretched the 2-1/2” (64 mm) handline through the door on Side A and advanced approximately 12’ (3.66 m) into the kitchen. As they advanced the hoseline, they were passed by T-1220B, conducting primary search. The E-534 Firefighter, Firefighter Kopas (A-564), and T-1220B observed thick (optically dense), black smoke had dropped closer to the floor and that the temperature at floor level was increasing.

Figure 6. Primary Search and Fire Control Crews

Questions

Take a few minutes and consider the answers to the following questions. Remember that it is much easier to sort through the information presented by the incident when you are reading a blog post, than when confronted with a developing fire with persons reported!

  1. What B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, & Flame) indicators were observed during the initial stages of this incident?
  2. What stage(s) of fire and burning regime(s) were present in the building when T-1220 and E-534 arrived? Consider potential differences in conditions in the addition, garage, kitchen, bedrooms, and living room?
  3. What would you anticipate as the likely progression of fire development over the next several minutes? Why?
  4. How might tactical operations (positively or negatively) influence fire development?

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

Note: The number and nature of openings between the garage and addition is not reported, but likely included a door and possibly a window (given typical garage construction). NIOSH investigators did not determine if the doors and windows between the house, addition, and garage were open or closed at the time of the fire as they were consumed by the fire and NIOSH did not interview the surviving occupant (S. Wertman, personal communication, November 17, 2010). The existence and position of the door shown in the wall between the addition and garage is speculative (based on typical design features of this type of structure).