Archive for January, 2010

2010 Congreso Internacional Fuego y Rescate

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

At a formal dinner on 23 January 2010, Chief Ed Hartin was recognized as an honorary member of Company 1 “Germania” of the Valdivia, Chile Fire Department. In addition, he was awarded a commendation for supporting the ongoing professional development of the members of Company 1 “Germania” of the Valdivia, Chile Fire Department and encouraging them in their efforts to share their knowledge with Chile’s fire service.

Commendation for Support of Company 1 “Germania”


Left to Right: Teniente Juan Esteban Kunstmann, Chief Ed Hartin, Capitán Francisco Silva V.

On 24-27 January 2007, the Company 1 “Germania” of the Valdivia, Chile Fire Department hosted the first international fire service congress to be held in South America. Participants included over 150 firefighters and officers from Chile, Peru, Argentina, and the United States. The congress provided an opportunity to participate in both classroom and hands-on workshops on a wide range of fire service topics including fire behavior, ventilation, search, rapid intervention, technical rescue, and extrication. While topical areas were diverse, the congress had a substantive emphasis on compartment fire behavior with lectures presented by CFBT-US Chief Instructor Ed Hartin and Geraldo Crespo of Contraincendio in Buenos Aires, Argentina and practical training sessions conducted by Ed Hartin and Juan Esteban Kunstmann of the Valdivia Company 1 “Germania”.

Lecture Presentation


Lecture presentations by CFBT-US Chief Instructor Ed Hartin included (click on the links for a copies of the presentations):

CFBT practical skills sessions were held at the Valdivia Fire Department’s training center and focused on developing basic skill in nozzle technique and understanding fire development in a compartment.

This is My Nozzle! There are many like it, but this one is mine…


Center: Ed Hartin

Practicing Nozzle Techniques


Right: Teniente Juan Esteban Kunstmann

International Collaboration


Left to Right: Battalion Chief Danny Sheridan, FDNY and Capitán Giancarlo Passalacqua Cognoro, Lima, Pe?u Cuerpo General de Bomberos Voluntarios

Congratulations to the members of Company 1 “Germania” for their success with the first Congreso Internacional Fuego y Rescate! I look forward to working with these outstanding fire service professionals in their ongoing efforts to learn and share knowledge with the fire service throughout Chile, Latin America, and the World.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

Recent Extreme Fire Behavior

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Two recent events in Baltimore, Maryland and Gary, Indiana point to the criticality of recognizing key fire behavior indicators and understanding practical fire dynamics.

Five Firefighters Injured in Baltimore

Early on the morning of Friday, January 15, 2010, the Baltimore City Fire Department was dispatched to a residential fire Southeast Baltimore. First arriving companies observed a row house of ordinary construction with a large volume of smoke and flames issuing from the basement and extending to the first floor.

According to a department spokesperson, the first engine took a line through the front door to the rear kitchen area where crew had some trouble finding the basement stairs. Another engine company went to the rear with a line to the outside stairwell leading to the basement and was just starting down the stairs. The first truck vented some skylights on the roof as well as the front basement windows. As crews were attempting to access the fire, some type of transient extreme fire behavior resulted in flames blowing through the unit and out the front door, rear stairwell, second floor windows, and skylights. The firefighter from the first arriving truck assigned to the roof described the sound of a freight train coming through.

Five firefighters injured as a result of this explosive fire behavior phenomenon were transported to area hospitals. The officer of the first in engine company was admitted to the Bayview Burn Center, where he is listed in stable condition

Find more videos like this on

What Happened?

As always when a video of an incident involving extreme fire behavior is posted to the web, there is ongoing debate about what happened. Was it a backdraft? Was it a flashover? An interesting debate, but the value is not so much in being “right”, but in understanding how these phenomena occur, what might have happened in this incident, key indicators that may (or may not) be visible in the video, and most importantly how to prevent this from happening to us and the firefighters that we work with!

Flashover: sudden transition to fully developed fire. This phenomenon involves a rapid transition to a state of total surface involvement of all combustible material within the compartment.

Given adequate fuel and ventilation, a compartment fire may reach flashover as it develops from the growth to fully developed stage. However, when fire development is limited by the ventilation profile of the compartment, changes in ventilation will directly influence fire behavior.

For many years firefighters have been taught that ventilation reduces the potential for flashover. However, when a fire is ventilation controlled, heat release rate is limited by the available oxygen. Under these conditions; increasing air supply by creating opening results in increased heat release rate. This increased heat release rate may result in flashover.

If a fire is sufficiently ventilation controlled and a high concentration of excess pyrolizate and unburned flammable products of combustion accumulate in a compartment, the outcome of increased ventilation may be different.

Backdraft: Deflagration of unburned pyrolyzate and combustion products following introduction of air to a ventilation controlled compartment fire and ignition of the fuel/air mixture. This deflagration results in a rapid increase in pressure within the compartment and extension of flaming combustion through compartment openings. Occurrence of this phenomenon requires an atmosphere in which the fuel concentration is too high to deflagrate without introduction of additional oxygen.

As introduced in Extreme Fire Behavior: An Organizational Scheme, extreme fire behavior phenomena can be classified on the basis of outcome and conditions (see Figure 1)

Figure 1. Extreme Fire Behavior Classification.


Use of this approach may aid in making sense of what may have occurred in the Baltimore incident. But, it is often difficult to classify extreme fire behavior phenomena into discrete, black and white categories. What is the dividing line between a ventilation induced flashover and a backdraft. One key difference may be the speed with which heat release rate increases, but where is the dividing line (see Figure 2)?

Figure 2. The Gray Area.


Keep in mind that while being right is great, it is more important to work through the process of figuring things out to improve your understanding.

Near Miss in Gary

Monday morning January 18, 2010 firefighters in Gary, Indiana were operating at a residential fire at 24th and Massachusetts when they experienced a near miss involving rapid fire progression. Have a look at video of this incident and give some thought to what influenced fire behavior. Also look at the similarities and differences between the extreme fire behavior that occurred in the Baltimore and Gary incidents.

Master Your Craft

Back on Task!

I have been extremely busy working on a project for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and preparing for the International Fire & Rescue Congress in Valdivia, Chile. Next week’s post will provide a quick update on training conducted at the Congress.

After returning from Chile, I will be back on task with examination of the concept of battle drills to develop effective reaction to worsening fire conditions while operating in an offensive mode.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

Reading the Fire 13

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

As we start the New Year it is a good time to reaffirm our commitment to mastering our craft. 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 residential fire.

Residential Fire

Early on the morning of December 23, 2009, the Cheektowaga Police department was dispatched to 305 Highland Drive in Cheektowaga to investigate a 911 call for an unknown type problem. The female caller was screaming, but the dispatcher was unable to determine the nature of the emergency. The first arriving police unit discovered a residential fire with persons trapped, and requested fire response. The police officers rescued a male victim from just inside the door, but fire and smoke conditions prevented them from assisting the other occupants.

The Hy-View Volunteer Fire Company responded with a first alarm assignment and observed flames showing on Side C.

Download and the B-SAHF Worksheet.

Watch the first 1 minute 10 seconds (1:10) of the video. This segment was shot from Side B at the B/C Corner.  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? If presented with persons reported (as the first arriving companies were) how would you assess potential for victim survival?
  5. How would you expect the fire to develop over the next two to three minutes

Now watch the remainder of the video clip and answer the following questions:

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. A voice heard in the video states that this was a backdraft. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Hy-View Volunteer Fire Company personnel recovered two female civilian victims from the residents. However, all three victims died as a result of smoke inhalation.

Master Your Craft

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO