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Mark J. Cotter's Blog (50)

MFA Tools and Rules - Reversing Polarity

So, think you know how to fight fire?  Sure you do!  And, as a reader of this blog, you’ve shown your interest in trying to keep up with all of the advances in knowledge that continue to come out of fire dynamics research.  But, have you translated this information into practical use?  That is, have you or your department made changes to your operational procedures that take advantage of the increased speed, effectiveness, and safety of the various MFA methods?  Even if you are…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on April 21, 2017 at 12:16pm — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules: "Attack from the Burned Side"

Today’s example of a revision to a prior firefighting “rule”, inspired by the new perspectives provided by fire dynamics research, regards the direction of our fire attack.  It is a phrase I first saw used by Lieutenant Sean Gray of Cobb County (GA) Fire and Emergency Services in a November, 2011 article in Fire Engineering,…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on April 3, 2017 at 11:21am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules: Put the Wet Stuff on the HOT Stuff

"Don't spray water on smoke" has been uttered as a dismissive command from generations of instructors, officers, and senior firefighters attempting to stop what was viewed as a useless action, and to instead encourage progress to reach and extinguish the seat of a fire.  A result of the fire service's movement from using almost exclusively exterior streams to the currently-standard interior attack (an evolution that has been ongoing for the past 50 years or so, and which, by…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on March 13, 2017 at 7:00am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules: Needed changes

I thought it time to leave for awhile the references to tools in the Modern Fire Attack (MFA) arsenal and instead look at a few of the new tactical rules that should be guiding our actions.  First, though, a few words regarding the whole idea of attempting to create strict edicts for something as dynamic and variable as structural firefighting.  Since one of the things that characterizes a true MFA proponent is avoidance of the words “always” and “never”, pretty…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on February 28, 2017 at 7:00am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules: Preconnects

If “more tools in the toolbox” is a good metaphor for new tactics, then our favorite attack hoseline setups might serve as a more specific comparison to our standard fire suppression approaches.  With multiple available combinations of nozzle types and hose diameters, lengths, and folds for structural firefighting, each fire department typically carries one or more arrangements that best suit its needs.  Selecting the ideal configuration requires consideration of staffing and hazard…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on February 20, 2017 at 6:41am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules - Upgrades

Product development and performance improvement are two processes that are alive and well in the fire service, resulting in a continuous stream of proposed “advancements” for our consideration.  Stronger, lighter, smaller, safer, and faster are typical descriptors of “upgrades”.  Most of these "new" items or methods are actually just modifications of equipment or procedures we already have on hand, with only a few being novel, such as the Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) or Rapid…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on January 24, 2017 at 12:26pm — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules - Having vs. Using

Continuing with our examination of MFA tactics as additional “tools in the toolbox” for the control of structure fires, today’s post will consider the issue of ignoring viable options.  This topic is pertinent to every fire department because, thanks to the hard work of the ISFSI, UL, and many others in developing and distributing information about improvements to firefighting inspired by fire dynamics research, and the fact that these changes are merely modifications of traditional tactics…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on January 16, 2017 at 9:00am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules - Shiny new things

Note: This is the second in a planned series of blogs using the "tools in the toolbox” model to explore the many facets of the profound changes inspired by ongoing fire dynamics research.  As discussed in my first post in this format, I am a big fan of viewing MFA tactics as additional “options” to use for controlling fires in structures.  Besides being non-threatening and accurate, it allows me to break down the various components into more manageable, blog-sized,…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on January 13, 2017 at 7:11am — No Comments

MFA Tools and Rules - Introduction

Note: With the dawn of a new year, I'm determined to become a better blogger.  The Modern Fire Attack series has been running as a self-posted blog for about a year and a half now, and I have simultaneously, though less often, been submitting more general fire service articles under the title of my old column "From the Jumpseat".  Other than the topics, the size of the two (and the effort I put in to them) are roughly the same.  Having long ago begun writing for emergency…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on January 10, 2017 at 12:02pm — No Comments

MFA #37: Thinking Firefighters - Intelligent choices

We are learning that the fireground is more complex than we had previously understood, and we probably still don’t know the half of it.  While the recommendations for tactical changes that have arisen from ongoing fire dynamics research have spawned the most discussion amongst members of our profession, the raw information alone was revolutionary in its own right, even absent the practical applications that followed.  Flow paths, smoke as fuel, and the (actual) effects of hose…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on December 12, 2016 at 6:08am — No Comments

MFA #36: Fight Fire With Water - Correctly

From my perspective - that being someone who entered the fire service just as the era of "surround and drown" was being replaced by the "get in and hit it up close" approach - the most immediate and practical operational change inspired by fire dynamics research is the early application of water.  While the recommendation to delay ventilation also has significant benefits - and loud critics - “opening up”, especially vertically, was a tactic that many of us who worked in small departments…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on November 7, 2016 at 6:30am — No Comments

MFA #35: Small Times - An ideal strategy for the minimally staffed

It can be demoralizing to learn that something to which you had dedicated a lot of time and effort studying, practicing, and promoting has been rendered irrelevant, or at least less relevant, and I speak from personal experience.  The tactical modifications inspired by fire dynamics research that have incited the most rancor are those regarding initial water application targets and ventilation timing, with the proponents of still bypassing showing fire in favor of immediate entry, and of…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on September 13, 2016 at 11:39am — No Comments

MFA #34: Life Safety or Life Saving? - Compatible goals

In an example of how far the arguments against the MFA approach have devolved, we now find ourselves facing critics within the fire service who complain that our tactics have become too safe!  More specifically, they contend that the focus has been taken away from rescuing victims and protecting property to instead maintaining our own safety.  Having been an outspoken advocate of these principles for over…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on August 15, 2016 at 7:05am — 2 Comments

MFA #33: Ventilation Justification - More new excuses for old habits

Continuing my theme of rebutting the new reasons traditionalists are coming up with to avoid changing their approach to firefighting, given that many of its original justifications have been effectively disproven, this post will focus on the air flow component of the "How to Control Combustion" equation, commonly referred to as tactical ventilation.  I addressed the resistance to the use of exterior hose streams in MFA #32: Changing the Rules - New excuses for old habits (at…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on July 18, 2016 at 6:50am — No Comments

MFA #32: Changing the Rules - New excuses for old habits

There has been a steady increase in the fire service’s acknowledgment of the validity of the information provided by recent fire dynamics research, with references to the new understanding now appearing in articles, training materials, and after-case reports (not to mention the occasional blog).  Flow paths, smoke as fuel, wind effects, the inability to push fire with straight streams, and the rapid increase in combustion that results from ventilation are all concepts that have been…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on July 5, 2016 at 11:22am — 2 Comments

MFA #31: The ABCs of AIA* - Modern techniques for interior firefighting

*Aggressive Interior Attack

At every structure fire that is not declared a defensive situation, and after we get past the currently controversial intervention choices (vent, flow water, both, or neither), firefighters of all tactical persuasions will then need to enter the building in order to complete the tasks that remain (search, extinguishment, ventilation, overhaul, salvage).  It is at that point that the traditional and modern fire attack (MFA) methods converge,…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on June 30, 2016 at 6:49am — No Comments

MFA #30: Tactical Disorder - The root of our disagreement

In the ongoing debate over structural firefighting tactics in the era of fire dynamics enlightenment, the topic inspiring particularly passionate sentiment does not so much regard tactics themselves, but the sequence in which they are performed.  Regardless if your belief is that almost all firefighting should be performed indoors and that the only valuable exterior action is ventilation, or if you have embraced all or some of the fire behavior research findings that…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on June 15, 2016 at 6:41am — No Comments

MFA #29: Moving Products - Effective ventilation techniques

Winding up my treatise on ventilation in the modern era, this fifth and final (for now) blog on the topic will focus on the practical changes we need to make for controlling the air flow to a fire, as inspired by our new knowledge of its effects.  Links to sources for additional information on specific techniques will be provided at the conclusion of this installment.  Previous postings have discussed how fire dynamics research findings have required us to re-visit our use of this tactic,…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on May 23, 2016 at 5:43am — No Comments

MFA #28: Balancing Act - Controlling ventilation

This is the fourth installment in a series exploring the impact of our new understanding of the effects of ventilation on compartment fires, and suggesting modifications to that tactic that incorporate that knowledge.  Rather than fill this space with links, any reader wishing to catch up by binge-reading my prior posts on this topic should start at…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on May 10, 2016 at 6:34pm — No Comments

MFA #27: Intended Consequences - The two facets of Tactical Ventilation

Previous postings on this subject addressed the need to reassess our approach to ventilation as a fire control tactic in light of our newfound awareness of the significant increase in heat production it can cause ( and then provided an alternative basis for categorizing the different circumstances in…


Added by Mark J. Cotter on April 27, 2016 at 7:14am — No Comments

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