Ryan and I had the honor of sitting in on a UL/NIST class today on Fire Dynamics Research to Tactical Solutions. We appreciate the time and effort that was put into the class and the fireground application examples that were given. These help to bridge the gap between the â€œScientific Lab Stuffâ€ and the real world fireground. But we were struck by the difference between the information the UL/NIST group is putting out and the information the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) is putting out. For those who do not know ISFSI was chosen to be the agency that develops the training programs to accompany the results of the testing done by UL/NIST. The message UL/NIST is putting out is NOT the message ISFSI is putting out. The fire behavior message is clear, and today it was made even more clear than it ever has been through ISFSI. The information on flowpaths was great! In reality most of us had already started using this information after the Beacon Street fire. We understand that ISFSI has an enormous challenge on their hands, translating all results into a program that can be used to effectively instill this information to the fire service as a whole. Unfortunately, we think that there is a major disconnect between the two agencies.
The message we received today was pretty clear: â€œdecide if you are going to do an interior or exterior attack, but keep in mind these are some possible results of your actionsâ€¦â€ Also, if your company is standing with a charged line waiting to make entry why not flow some water into the fire room? The big caveat being, which is not clarified from the ISFSI/ SLICE-RS camp, is that it should only be applied in the form of a smooth or straight stream otherwise you run the risk of pushing fire. To those who have been following the ISFSI/ SLICE-RS camp, they have always pushed for this tactic, and never acknowledged that fire can be pushed. The reality is, a properly applied straight stream or smooth bore stream, minus the circular, â€œZâ€ or â€œSâ€ patterns, will actually cool the fire, and not push products of combustion. UL/NIST acknowledges that a fog stream does have this ability, and will result in a â€œhigh-temperature pressure wave,â€ or cause a Smoke Explosion in the area of lowest pressure within the flowpath. These two concepts alone are light years away from the points ISFSI is putting out. For example the Modern Firefighting website says: â€œThe long-accepted concept that fire streams push fire is a myth.â€ That statement is either misinformed, false or an outright lie. Which is it? More to the point why would the company charged with disseminating this information allow a statement like that to make it to their website? Here at Firefighter basics we have been made aware of several fire departments around the country that have put out new SOPâ€™s based on ISFSI/SLICE-RS. The SOPâ€™s state â€œAll visible fire will be extinguished from outside before entry to a structure fire is madeâ€. There are some variations of that order. If SLICE-RS is the hands- on classroom version of the UL/NIST studies, where would a department get the idea for an SOP like that? Let alone multiple fire departments.
Some key points taken from this phenomenal conference, which are easy to adopt into oneâ€™s firefighting tool box are listed below:
â€¢ â€œTransitional Attackâ€ is nothing new (weâ€™ve been doing it for dozens of years), and is a good tactic. The main thing isâ€¦ complete the transition, and get in the building.
â€¢ â€œFast Water,â€ another tactic which isnâ€™t new, should be widely embraced. Something we have always taught here at FF Basics is that 90% of your problems will disappear once you put the fire out. But remember, if rapid interior placement of your hoseline is delayed, you should not delay applying water to the fire, even if it is from the outside (Without fear of pushing hot products of combustion onto your victims). Studies have proven that you will cool the environment, and reduce further fire spread within the structure/ compartment.
â€¢ Rescue is still a high priority, and will always remain our highest priority. We donâ€™t have to make it into a separate tactical objectiveâ€¦ it will always be a major strategic objective, which is practiced at all times. This is not to be confused with the quote from the SLICE-RS camp, stating that â€œRescue is a target of opportunity.â€ Just because an engine company is stretching a line, a search should still be conducted by all units on the fireground. Refer to our point above: Once the fire is out, 90% of your problems have been solved. Extinguishment still needs to remain a top priority, while Rescue is still being conducted. Another point to remember: â€œRemove the hazard from the victim, not removing the victim from the hazard.â€ This is a safer, and more effective technique for saving lives.
â€¢ Ventilation/ Exhausting the fire must be adequate for the heat/ fire/ fuel load of the structure. If the hole isnâ€™t big enough, your ventilation is ineffective. Think of a wood burning stove with a fire box twice the size of the stock size, but you are still using the stock vent pipeâ€¦ You will have lots of heat in the firebox, but it wonâ€™t be able to be fully vented out of the smaller diameter pipe. This will result in smoke and other products of combustion backing up and coming out of the stove, instead of the vent pipe. This same principle applies to the single family home to the large, â€œBig Box Stores.â€ If you canâ€™t vent to the correct level needed, donâ€™t bother even cutting the hole, it will only result in more oxygen unnecessarily getting fed to support the combustion process.
â€¢ Another misnomer that was clarified was the belief that â€œVenting = Cooling.â€ This is not the case when done by itself. Cutting the appropriate sized hole in the roof will not alone cool the space. BUTâ€¦ with properly applied water, heat will be dissipated, and there will be cooling. Alone, this will only introduce more Oxygen, and dare we say itâ€¦ a Flowpathâ€¦ This isnâ€™t a new concept, the idea of a coordinated attack and ventilation strategy. The science has only reinforced the need to carry this tactic out simultaneously.
With the manner in which ISFSI has been defending their concepts as science one would hope they would restrict deviations from that science. Instead they have been repeatedly forced to back track, make corrections or, which as is most common, accuse the person who is bringing up their concerns as being stuck in the past. The results from the UL/NIST study ARE a key role in the future of the fire service operations and fireground strategy. To allow the message to become convoluted and misinterpreted by the very group that is supposed to be doing the education is a shame, and a massive disservice to the fire service.
There wasnâ€™t any new snakeoil sales, or â€œbetter, more modernâ€ ways to fight a fire taught from this conference; only reinforcement of sound firefighting techniques, with science to back it up. Most of this has been taught or known for years, but has been overlooked because of new, fandangled acronyms, or people toting â€œbetterâ€ ways to practice our craft. Aside from the obvious fact that the fires we fight today are different from the ones our predecessors fought in the 50â€™s, 60â€™s, and 70â€™s, many of our tactics have not changed too vastly. One thing that has changed, is how we teach our recruits. Our predecessors were taught about fire behavior, most of our new recruits throughout the country get more training on how to put on an SCBA and turnout gear, than what a fire will do under certain conditions.
If there is one take home that we got from this program, it is to keep training, ask good questions, and dig in a little deeper into the science and behavior of a fire within the structure/ compartment. As always, stay safe, keep training, and keep it basic.