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Why does it seem like we are hurting and killing more firefighters today in flashovers then when we had more fires 30 years ago?

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More plastic and/or hydrocarbon based loads in residences. Higher BTU buildups faster, putting the structures at/near flashover temps right about when we arrive. The more energy effecient structures of today hold in the heat allowing the temps to increase. Better PPE giving more thermal insulation. But probably the most important issue, in my opinion, is training.
The firefighters of today don't have the amount fires as firefighters in the past. This means a lack of experience with fire issues such as flashover and backdraft. The command officers may or may not have much fire experience.
We need to train in recognizing the indicators of flashover and the proper, coordinated ventilation techniques to help control it. We need to train on proper fire attack techniques to control and reduce the fire room temperature to below the flashover temperature before we enter the structure/room.
We need interior firefighters to understand how flashovers develop and for them to understand their PPE. The new gear allows us better protection but also gives us the ability to get farther into trouble before we realize it. Exterior personnel,such as RIT/FAST,Command,Safety, should be actively looking for flashover indicators. This information should be relayed to command and the interior personnel.
I have to agree with the more insulated PPE and Hoods make people think that they are much safer or able to tolerate more heat. I have taken a flashover class followed by the simulator and it was definitely worth it. We are luck to have 3 Engines and 2 Trucks responding on a call of a structure fire plus a Rescue. All staffed with a minimum of 1 officer and 3 firefighters. Still even with that much man power it is useless if people are not trained to recognize the dangers or foolish enough to think that if they are crawling on their belly because ot the heat that some one with no ppe could survive. We use lighter gear and no hoods. Burns have never been a problem for us. I have see gear exposed to extremely high temps. It will not stand up nor is it designed too. I have see people on the job for a while and FFOPS just walk into rooms where you cant see, and no idea where the fire is. What happend to staying down? I think Timmothy has nailed it by Training better and getting back to basics. Right now our FD does not have a flashover simulator. Me and a fellow FF signed up for a state class.
Thank you Michael,
Perhaps Flashover Training should be part of the FFI curriculum. Not all departments across the US have large numbers of people showing up to a working fire. Long gone are the days of having a seasoned veteran watch your back. I explain to my FFI students that at any time after they successfully complete their class, they may be the one riding in the front seat having to make the decisions. As this profession gets older the Firefighters are greener. We need to teach them as much as possible.
As Tim and Mike covered:
Inreased fuel loads
Lack of experience
Need for COORDINATED venting
Reviewing basics
Getting low

Wait for the venting to work.
IC's, Officers and team leaders need to hone up on flashover, smoke and building construction info.
Flashover isn't the only problem. Smoke ignition, weakened floors/structure and just plain too hot conditions are not thought about enough.

I'm an older, in age, FF with not a whole lot of structure experience, so discussions and stuff like this is welcomed and needed.
I think we may be seeing gung-ho guys at the nozzle who: get tunnel vision and/or not aware of their 3 dimensional surroundings; don't educate themselves about subjects like this; don't know when to, or don't want to, back out or get down.

When you notice an increased pattern of guys telling new flashover tales, you've got to wonder why and if we as a whole are gettting it.
The flash tales seem to have a pattren of:
"There we were, got hot, it flashed, went defensive". Asking for details usually reveals things that should've been done different and better. The flash tales also have after-action reminders of toasted helmets, ruined turnout gear and burst hose sections.

Firefighters should be required to go thru flashover training in the academy. I know of several chiefs who will not let firefighters take flashover training because of irresponsible instructors destroying PPE. Chiefs should ensure proper instructors are running the simulator and allow their personal to take part in their vital training. Firefighters must be able to determine the conditions they operate in. Remember we control flashover with proper staffing and tactics that occur in unison with each other, as a truck guy it kills me to say having a charged hoseline is critical. Remember your risk changes based on your position and occupancy. DO NOT CROWD THE HALL OR STAIRS!! It impedes the advance and the retreat. Every fire department seems to have this problem especially stairs. Wouldn’t it be great if the fire department got ladders?
all of the above are certainly factors
buildng construction, better protective envelpes, etc.
we need to teach increased awareness through flashover simulators but remember that these use relatively ligter fire loads than we are seeing out in the field so in our teaching we must stress that simulator flashover conditionsare relatively tame copared to field flashovers with higher BTU-producers. We must also stress that the only reason trainees can witness the flashover is beacuse they are 3-4' below the fire level
All said, Still the best defense is properly wearing your gear and recognition of the signs
we must also teach that the signs should be monitored both on the inside and the outside of the strucutre
what we see inside may not be what is being seen at the CP and vice-versa
in additon, we MUST teach and reinforce proper operational coordination
all one has to do is look at the vent disciplien video on the home page (from you tube) and the reality of uncoordinated operations and rapid fire spread hits home
teach FF's to pay attention to their surroundings at all times
make officers do their jobs which is protection of personnel as the #1 objective above all others
stay safe
I have to say that here in Boston we do not have this problem very often. With our staffing and 3 E's + 2 L's and a rescue (Building Fire Response) we get there quick and tend to get things done very well. The problem lies with the single Engine companies who have to wait for a ladder should know the warning signs before they grab the line and head in. My guess is they don't. They could hold off a minute and wait for the 1st due truck but as most of us know "we have to get in there" the fire may put it self out it seems. We are currently have our new burn building under construction and a flash over simulator is being donated by one of the local business. The chief who is afraid or ruining gear by sending his guys is crazy. Id much rather ask the powers that be for new gear that tell someone at 2am that their son, daughter, wife or husband is never coming back. About bunching up in the hallway and stairs as Frank mentioned? We are firemen thats the one thing we can get right. That must change as well. 20 guys in a hallway is useless, but we do it. As far as the video on youtube it seems there was no span of control or no control at all. Ive gone on long enough....

Mike Gavin
Engine Co. 41
This makes me believe even more that staffing is the key to flashover prevention. A coordinated attack is imperative when trying to reduce the chance of flashover. One of the things that we miss the boat on is ensuring that ALL operations occur simultaneously! 1. Quick response 2. Adequate staffing (1710) 3. Education. This should be part of the FFI curriculum as well as refresher training for company officers.
I think that everyone here has some AWESOME points...but I'll chime in anyway. I feel that two primary issues are 1) Ventilation (or lack thereof, or inappropriate ventilation) and 2) not flowing enough water in conjunction with this ventilation. My thoughts are that we should be reading smoke to the point where we are within what I like to call a "defensible platform," ie you aren't so deep in heavy/pressurized smoke that you can't get out of that position to a safe location. My thoughts are also that we should maintain these positions longer while flowing MORE water into the unburned and burned combustion products until coordinated ventilation occurs AHEAD of us. Then, our position changes as we "domino" toward the seat of the fire. With this, as was stated before, comes the need for TRAINING. Firefighters must be trained to know where, when, and what type of ventilation needs to occur (not just always throwing a fan in the door, like so many people want you to do); they should also be trained to recognize when a 1 3/4" hoseline will not work and how to handle a larger line with fewer people. We throw anywhere between 15-20 people at a fire on our first alarm assignment, but if they don't know how to coordinate and do all this stuff, it is futile.
We do not use fans or "smoke ejectors" during our fire attack for ventilation. Every structure fire we respond to, the stick goes to the roof, as long as there are no obstructions like wires. A line is brought to the front of the bldg regardless of anything showing. If the obvious location of the fire is know, fire showing, a line will be advance the best way to attack it. Our ladder and rescue co guys do a good job of directing us to the best way in when we need it. Most of the time they vent as they go, with a line not too far behind. As we all know that does not always happen. Like you said, its best to take 15 seconds to size up before going right in with no ladder co. No one likes to say it but Id rather loose a few rooms that can be renovated than loose 3 guys to save some replace able items.
I have read all of the responses to this question and I have to say in my opinion that increased fire loads, training, recognition, and newer PPE are definately factors. As well as the fact that we are arriving on scene faster due to better notification, getting us there before flashover occurs. Where years ago the fire had already flashed over prior to our arrival. As several have mentioned, taking a flashover recognition class should be part of FF I/II training as well as training our present members who do not know the warning signs to look for. As was also mentioned, we are losing our senior members to retirement, leaving us less people to share past experiences and mentor our currrent members.


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