Posts Tagged ‘situational awareness’

Reading the Fire 18

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

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

spfld_oh_practical_fire
Photo by John Shafer, The Green Maltese

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

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

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

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

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

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

Master Your Craft

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

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

What’s on Side C

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

The importance of the initial Incident Commander conducting 360o reconnaissance (or quickly obtaining information about conditions on sides of the building that are not visible) has been repeatedly emphasized in National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Death in the Line of Duty reports. This is important to assess both building and fire conditions. However, the building was there prior to the alarm of fire. Situational awareness (SA) does not only apply on the fireground, it must begin well before response. In structural firefighting, the built environment (including the building, its contents, and surroundings) are the ground we fight on and in. Situational assessment and size-up must be ongoing.

View from the Street

The Knead & Feed (see photo below), is an excellent restaurant in Coupeville, WA that serves breakfast and lunch. At first glance this building appears to be an older, one-story, wood frame, commercial with the Delta Exposure being a two-story building of similar construction. Given the age of the buildings, it would be reasonable to assume that they are of balloon frame construction. Looking beyond the building you can see Penn Cove, which provides an excellent view from the back of the restaurant.

need_and_feed_side_a_small

Reconnaissance on Side C

However, the view in this photo begs the question, what’s on Side C? Access to Side C is via an exterior stairway on Side Bravo. Descending this stairway provides access to another kitchen and dining area in the Basement which is not accessible from the interior of the restaurant on Floor 1. Continuing down the stairway, provides access to a bakery at the Basement 2 level. The stairway then continues down to the beach, providing access to Side C…provided that it is low tide.

need_and_feed_side_c_small

Obviously you get a considerably different picture from Side C! However, this is only the beginning of the story.

The Rest of the Story

It may appear that the small, one-story section of building between the Kneed and Feed restaurant and Exposure Delta is part of the exposure due to the color of the building on Side Alpha and the roof line on Side Charlie. However, this assumption would be incorrect as this is the main kitchen for the Kneed and Feed Restaurant.

need_and_feed_side_a_small_annotated

There is no interior access between Floor 1 and the Basement (in either the Kneed and Feed or Exposure Delta). The Basement and Basement 2 levels of the Kneed and Feed are accessed from the exterior on Side Bravo. The Basement of Exposure Delta (apartment unit) is accessed from the exterior on Side Delta. The second floor of Exposure Delta is accessed from the interior.

Continuing down to the Basement level, the section of the building below the main kitchen contains an unprotected stairwell that is open to the underside of the Basement of Exposure Delta and the void space under the wood sidewalk that runs in front of the restaurant and Exposure Delta. The Basement and Basement 2 levels are interconnected this stairway (non-fire rated doors provide access between the stairway and the Basement and Basement 2. This stairway is framed in at the Basement level, but simply enclosed by wood slats at the Basement 2 level.

need_and_feed_side_c_small_annotated

Strategic and Tactical Implications

This building presents considerable challenges due to its construction, configuration, attached exposure on Side Delta, and limited access. The following questions provide a starting point for discussion of strategic and tactical implications for this building and its most significant exposure:

  1. How might the construction and configuration of this building and exposure impact on the B-SAHF (building, smoke, air track, heat, and flame) indicators presented during a fire? How might this vary based on location (Floor 1, Basement, Basement 2)?
  2. How might the open stairwell between the Kneed and Feed and Exposure Delta impact on fire development and spread if the fire originated at one of the basement levels, or within the stairwell itself? How might communication between the stairwell and the wooden sidewalk on Side A impact firefighting operations (note that the sidewalk and void space below extends beyond the access points for Sides Bravo and Delta).
  3. How would the open framing under the Basement of Exposure Delta impact on potential for fire spread from the Kneed and Feed to Exposure Delta (particularly if a fire originated on the Basement or Basement 2 level)
  4. How would tidal conditions impact on access to Side Charlie for firefighting operations or placement of ladders for rescue or secondary egress from the Kneed and Feed or Exposure Delta (particularly the apartment unit in the Basement of Exposure Delta).
  5. What strategies and tactics would provide the safest and most effective approach to confining and extinguishing a fire in each level of this building?
  6. Given the significant threat to Exposure Delta should a fire occur in the Kneed and Feed, what strategies and tactics would be most effective in evacuating the occupants of this building and preventing extension?
  7. Given the multiple occupancies (restaurant, retail, and residential), how would time of day impact on firefighting operations in this building and exposure?

While this building is in my response area, you have challenging buildings in yours as well. Time to find out what’s in your patch! When on a medical response, automatic alarm, performing fire inspections, or just eating breakfast, take the time to look around and ask yourself what if…. Building Factors are the first element in B-SAHF and they are present prior to the fire. Pre-incident planning either on a formal basis (best choice) or informally as an individual or company is essential to safe and effective incident operations.

Thanks!

I would like to extend a special thank you to the owners and staff of the Kneed and Feed for providing the opportunity to learn about their building. While challenging from a firefighting perspective, this is one of the best places to have breakfast or lunch (but particularly breakfast) in our District! If you are on Whidbey Island, stop in for a meal, but bring your appetite.

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

Explosions During Structural Firefighting

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

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

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

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

Download and print three copies of the buy finasteride B-SAHF Worksheet.

Residential Fire-Olathe, KS

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

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

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

Watch remainder of the video and consider the following questions:

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

Residential Fire-New Chicago, IN

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

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

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

Watch remainder of the video and consider the following questions:

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

Commercial Fire-Wichita, KS

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

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

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

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

Firefighter Safety

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

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

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

Next…

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

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

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

Wind Driven Fires

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Seven Firefighters Injured

Seven firefighters were tragically injured in Prince George’s County Maryland on Friday, February 24, 2012. The fire broke out in the basement of a single-family, one-story house located at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale, MD shortly after 21:00 hours.

Note: View from Alpha-Bravo Corner street side. Photo by Billy McNeel.

On arrival, Engine 807B reported a two-story, single family dwelling with fire showing from the basement level on Side Bravo. Seven members from Companies 807 (Riverdale) and 809 (Bladensburg) entered Floor 1 of the building on Side A (East Side) and within eight seconds were enveloped by untenable, wind driven fire conditions. Preliminary reports indicate that firefighters had initiated an interior attack on the fire when a sudden rush of air, fanned by high winds, entered from the rear of the house either from a door or window being opened or broken out. (Brady, 2012). A report on Monday, February 27 indicated that some of the firefighters ran to the back of the one-story home, then entered through a basement door while other members of their company opened the front door in search of a victim (FirefighterNation, 2012).

In a statement to Washington Post reporter J. Freedom du Lac (2012), Chief Marc Bashoor indicated that strong winds were gusting out of the west at up to 40, 45 mph, blowing directly into the burning basement, which had a west-facing door. “As soon as the guys opened the front door and advanced, it blew from the basement, up the steps and right out the front door,” Bashoor said. “It was like a blowtorch coming up the steps and out the door… Without that wind, the hot air and gases would have been venting out of the rear of the house,” he said. “The current of air essentially produced a chimney right up the steps and out the front door.” (Washington Post, 2012).

Firefighters Ethan Sorrell and Kevin O’Toole from Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department remain in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center. Riverdale Volunteer, Michael McLary also remains hospitalized for injuries. The other injured firefighters were released and sent home Saturday evening according to the latest reports.

The wind-fueled fireball that injured seven Prince George’s County firefighters when it blew through the burning house they had just entered was “a freak occurrence,” a department spokesman, Mark Brady, said Saturday (du Lac, 2012).

Chris Naum at Command Safety has an excellent post examining the fire building and weather conditions at the time of the incident. See Residential Fire Injures Seven Firefighters: Wind Driven Conditions Suspected.

Freak Occurrence?

Dealing with an accident involving a serious injury or fatality is extremely difficult, particularly when the complete circumstances and eventual outcome is unknown. What may appear to be obvious in retrospect may also have been not so clear to the individuals engaged in emergency operations. However, one might ask if the fire behavior encountered at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale, MD was in fact a freak occurrence. A freak is defined as a thing or occurrence that is abnormal, markedly unusual or irregular.

The conditions encountered were markedly different than usually encountered in fires occurring in single family dwellings. However, the conditions described in this incident are not unusual when considered in light of the building configuration and wind conditions at the time of the incident. Wind, flow path, and burning regime (fuel or ventilation controlled) have a tremendous impact on fire behavior and potential for rapid fire progression resulting in untenable conditions.

Wind Driven Fires

On April 16, 2007 Technician Kyle Wilson of the Prince William Fire & Rescue lost his life in a wind driven fire occurring in a large, single family dwelling. In the introduction to the investigative report produced by Prince William Fire & Rescue examining this incident, Chief Kevin J. McGee states:

First, the impact the wind had on this event was significant. While weather conditions, and specifically wind, are often discussed in the firefighting environment of wildland fires, it does not receive the same attention and consideration in structure fires. This incident showed the dramatic and devastating effect the wind can have on the spread of fire in a building. The wind forced the fire into the building and caused the sudden change in fire conditions inside, including the “blowtorch” effect witnessed by the crews on the scene (Prince William County Fire Rescue, 2008)

In January, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released Simulation of the Dynamics of a Wind-Driven Fire in a Ranch-Style House-Texas (Barowy & Madrzykowski, 2012) examining fire behavior in the incident that took the lives of Houston Fire Department Captain James Harlow and Firefighter Damion Hobbs on April 12, 2009 while engaged in firefighting operations in a single family dwelling. This report emphasized that potential for wind driven fire conditions can occur in all types of buildings, including single-family residential structures.

NIST research (Madrzykowski & Kerber.(2009a, 2009b) has identified that wind driven fire conditions can be created with wind speeds as low as 4.5 m/s (10 mph) and that while structural fire departments have recognized the impact of wind on fire behavior, in general, standard operating guidelines (SOG) have not changed to address the risk of wind driven fires (Barowy & Madrzykowski, 2012).

Previous posts have examined NISTs research on the issue of wind driven fires:

Flow Path

On May 30, 1999, Firefighters Anthony Phillips and Louis Matthews of the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) died and two others were severely injured as a result of rapid fire progression while engaged in firefighting operations at 3146 Cherry Road, NE. The fire occurred in the basement of a two-story, middle of building, townhouse apartment. Crews entered on Floor 1, Side A and were caught in the flow path of hot smoke and flames when a sliding glass door was opened at the Basement Level on Side C. Previous posts examined this incident in detail:

More recently, the City of San Francisco Fire Department released an investigative report examining the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Lieutenant Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio on June 2, 2011 while operating at a fire in the basement of a two story home with two levels below grade. Failure of a basement window placed the Lieutenant and Firefighter in the flow path between the basement window and their entry point on Floor 1. The investigative report produced by the San Francisco Fire Department details their findings and recommendations related to this incident.

Safety Investigation Report Line-of-Duty Deaths, 133 Berkley Way, June 2, 2011, Box 8155, Incident #11050532

Structural Firefighting Under Wind Conditions

Research and fireground experience point to the following:

  • Building configuration including windows, doors, and open interior stairways can have a significant impact on development of a flow path from the fire to one or more exhaust points.
  • Introduction of additional air to a ventilation controlled fire (without concurrent fire suppression) will quickly result in increased heat release rate.
  • Creation of openings at and above the fire level which result in a flow path with an exhaust opening above the inlet will result in a rapid increase in heat release rate.
  • Thermal conditions in the flow path above the fire and/or downstream from the fire location or will quickly become untenable.
  • Even limited wind conditions can result in wind driven fire conditions.
  • These factors in combination are even more likely to result in rapid fire progression and untenable conditions in the downstream flow path.

It is essential that Firefighters and Fire Officers recognize the influence of ventilation on fire behavior and potential for wind driven fire conditions and adjust their strategies and tactics accordingly. The following guidance is based on recommendations developed through the NIST wind driven fires research as well as data from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) death in the line of duty reports and incident investigative reports by the Texas State Fire Marshals Office.

Potential for wind driven conditions increases directly with wind speed. When wind speeds exceed a gentle breeze (8-12 mph) consider the potential for wind driven fire conditions and apply the following strategic and tactical considerations (CWIFR District Board, 2011):

  • If potential for wind driven fire conditions is identified, this should be communicated to all companies and members working at the incident as a safety message.
  • When possible, operate from the exterior and apply water from upwind directly into the involved compartments prior to interior attack. Even low flow exterior streams applied from upwind can have a significant impact on controlling the fire prior to interior operations).
  • In a wind-driven fire, it is most important to use the wind to your advantage and attack the fire from the upwind side of the structure, especially if the upwind side is the burned side. Note that this may be contrary to conventional offensive tactics that place hoselines between the hazard presented by the fire and potential occupants and uninvolved property.
  • Avoid pressurization of the building without first establishing adequate exhaust openings (2-3 times larger than the inlet). Remember that wind can create the same (or greater) positive pressure as a blower used in positive pressure ventilation (PPV). Pressurization without adequate exhaust can result in extreme fire behavior. Note: This is particularly important when the fire is on the leeward (downwind) side of the building and entry is made from the windward (upwind) side of the building.
  • Consider controlling the flow path by using anti-ventilation such as door control and limiting the use of (horizontal and vertical) tactical ventilation prior to fire control. However, it is essential to remember that unplanned ventilation resulting from fire effects can have a significant impact on the ventilation profile and subsequent flow path(s).
  • Avoid working in the exhaust portion of the flow path (between the fire and exhaust opening) or potential flow paths (between the fire and potential exhaust openings). Unplanned ventilation from fire effects can suddenly change the interior thermal conditions.
  • Identify potential refuge areas, escape routes, and safety zones prior to and during interior operations. Taking refuge in a compartment with an intact and closed door may temporarily provide tenable conditions and a place of refuge until the fire can be controlled or another avenue of egress established.

References & Additional Reading

Brady, M. (2012). Seven firefighters injured battling Riverdale house fire. Retrieved February 26, 2012 from http://pgfdpio.blogspot.com/2012/02/seven-firefighters-injured-battling.html

Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue (CWIFR) District Board. (2011). Board minutes February 9, 2012. Coupeville, WA: Author. [Adoption of Purpose, Policy, and Scope of SOG 4.3.6 Structural Firefighting Under Wind Conditions]

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.

du Lac, J. (2012). Blaze that injured 7 Prince George’s firefighters called ‘freak occurrence’. Retrieved February 26, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/blaze-that-injured-7-prince-georges-firefighters-called-freak-occurrence/2012/02/25/gIQAdGJMaR_story.html?hpid=z3

FirefighterNation. (2012). Critically burned in Maryland house fire, firefighters face long recovery. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.firefighternation.com/article/news-2/critically-burned-maryland-house-fire-firefighters-face-lengthy-recovery.

Madrzykowski , D. &  Barowy, A. (2012). Simulation of the dynamics of a wind-driven fire in a ranch-style house – Texas, TN 1729. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=909779

Madrzykowski, D & Kerber, S. (2009a). Fire fighting tactics under wind driven conditions: Laboratory experiments, TN 1618. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire09/PDF/f09002.pdf

Madrzykowski, D & Kerber, S. (2009b). Fire fighting tactics under wind driven fire conditions: 7-story building experiments, TN 1629. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire09/PDF/f09015.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 Occpational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2008). Death in the line of duty…2007-12. Retrieved February 9, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face200712.pdf

National Institute for Occpational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2009). Death in the line of duty…2009-11. Retrieved February 9, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face200911.pdf

National Institute for Occpational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2009). Death in the line of duty…2007-29. Retrieved February 9, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200729.html

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

Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue. (2007). Line of duty death investigative report. Retrieved February 9, 2012 from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iaff.org%2Fhs%2FLODD_Manual%2FLODD%2520Reports%2FPrince%2520William%2520County%2C%2520VA%2520-%2520Wilson.pdf&ei=b3dKT8LyGfHSiALt5tnrDQ&usg=AFQjCNFBBTfVkWIREXw0-wbd978fWSoP8w&sig2=y6_OEeJvhFSggiKioMESaw

San Francisco Fire Department. (2012). Safety Investigation Report Line-of-Duty Deaths, 133 Berkley Way, June 2, 2011, Box 8155, Incident #11050532 Retrieved February 26, 2012 from http://statter911.com/files/2012/02/Safety-Investigation-133-Berkeley-Way-Printable.pdf

Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office. (2007). Firefighter fatality investigation, Investigation Number FY 07-02. http://www.tdi.texas.gov/reports/fire/documents/fmloddnoonday.pdf

Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office. (2009). Firefighter fatality investigation, Investigation Number FY 09- http://www.tdi.texas.gov/reports/fire/documents/fmloddhouston09.pdf

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

Reading the Fire 16

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Residential Fire

This post examines fire development during a residential fire in Lyons, New York.

Download and the B-SAHF Worksheet.

Watch the first minute and thirty seconds (1:30) of the video. First, describe what you observe in terms of the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame Indicators; then answer the following five standard questions?

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

In addition, consider how the answers to these questions impact your assessment of the potential for survival of possible occupants.

Now watch the video clip from 1:30 until 2:00. Now answer the following questions:

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. What changes in the B-SAHF indicators did you observe?
  3. What indications of fire stream effectiveness did you observe?
  4. What potential avenues of fire extension would you consider based on the type of construction and building design?

As you watch the remainder of the video, consider the changes in observed conditions and what information this might provide the Incident Commander. What information should interior crews report to Command during this stage of incident operations.

More on Reading the Fire

See the following posts for more information on reading the fire:

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

 

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures:
Tactical Implications Part 7

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

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

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

Air Track and Flow Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading the Fire

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

Figure 1. Air Track Indicators

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Curt Isakson, County Fire Tactics

UL Focus on Flow Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wind Driven Fires & Flow Path

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

Discussion

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

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

What’s Next?

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

 

Influence of Ventilation in Residential Structures:
Tactical Implications Part 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

Reading the Fire 15

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Developing and maintaining proficiency in reading the Fire using the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) organizing scheme for fire behavior indicators, requires practice. This post provides an opportunity to exercise your skills using a video segment shot during a commercial fire.

Residential Fire

This post examines fire development during a residential fire in New Chicago, Indiana.

Download and the B-SAHF Worksheet.

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

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

In addition, consider how the answers to these questions impact your assessment of the potential for survival of possible occupants.

Now watch the video clip from 0:30 until firefighters make entry at 3:05. Now answer the following questions:

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. What changes in the B-SAHF indicators did you observe?
  3. How do you think that the stage(s) of fire development and burning regime will change over the next few minutes?
  4. What conditions would you expect to find inside this building now?
  5. How would you expect the fire to develop over the next two to three minutes

The crews working in this video appeared to achieve fire control fairly quickly and without incident. However, consider the following tactical and task related questions:

  1. It did not appear that any member of the first arriving companies performed a 360o recon and size-up (they may have, but this was not visible in the video). Why might this be a critical step in size-up at a residential fire?
  2. It appeared that two lines were run simultaneously (the first line to the door ended up as the back-up line, possibly due to a slight delay in charging the line). How should fire attack and backup roles be coordinated?
  3. Fire attack was initiated from the interior (unburned side). What would have been the impact of the first line darkening the fire from the exterior (prior to entry)?
  4. Were there any indicators of potential collapse (partial) of the roof? How would you manage this risk when working in a lightweight wood frame residence with observed extension into the trussloft? What factors would influence your decision-making and actions?

Reading the Fire

See the following posts for more information on reading the fire:

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO