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Do you teach your firefighters how to read heat? If so, how?

Back in the 'old days' (before my time) firefighters without hoods would be able to tell if they were too far in. Now, in no way am I advocating not using hoods. However, those salty firemen were able to read heat conditions and knew when to get down and when to get out!

So I put this question to the mob. How do you read heat and smoke conditions? Do you teach probationary firefighters? Or, is this skill mainly for fire officers?

Thank you in advance for your responses.

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Hello Jay,
Excellant question. As being now classified as a "salty fireman" with 48 years in the service, as you stated, we did not have the safety gear now avaiable today. My first gear was an old leather hement (bougth in 1938), canvus Body Guard coat and pants, yes canvus! like what salvage covers were made from. The inner liner was a rubber backed wool liner that snapped into the canvus coat, Siren brand rubber boots and suspenders. I had to purchase my gloves and those were mule hide brand. The first indiacation was as your ears began to warm up it was time to go. When I began in 1969, the materials we encountered were still basically class a. Our scba was a 15 minute sling pack which we used only after we cound no longer stand the smoke. Believe it or not, you could eat a lot of smoke before donning the air pack.

Many fires were extinguished with a 3/4 booster line. With class a material burning you had a longer time frame to get in and direct attack the fire. The smoke was an indication, if it suddenly began to bank to the floor, it was time to back out. If the fire started to dance the cieling in the smoke, you were in a bad situation and time to back out.

We were taught the combination fog attack from the outsidew of the building if heavly involved. If we had fire showing from two or more window we used the combination attack. Everything in the interior is ruined by the heat and smoke, if no person is susspected to be in the house, combine was the answer. You could take a 1500 sq ft, house with heavy fire showing from all the windows, 2- 1-1/2 lines, 125 gpm nozzle, PDP @ 150, two firefighters could start at the front of the house, stick nozzle inmto the window, rotate clockwise until smoke turns white, shut-off ,go to next window and do the same. When you got to the back of the house, the fire was basically out and you used only about 300 gallons of water.

Today we have a total differant varity of chemicals burning. Flash points are lower, flashovers are quicker due to synythtic material used today revert back to basic matterial when heated and that basic material is petrolium based. In my early career from the start of a fire flash over was an estimated to be 10 to 12 minutes. Today, flashover may be 4 to 6 minutes after ignition.

Our PPE protects us to much! We are allowed to go deeper into the red zone and we are insulated from the tremendose heat being generated. I have exited a home, where my helnet was scorched, face shied bubbled, scba strap melted, all refelective stripping gone of PPE coat.

How do we teach firefighters how to read heat and smoke? Using real fires are to only way. Firefighter must learn the differant layers of smoke and what they represent.Simulators and drill buildings with hay fire will give a false since of security. Doctors don't learn how to operate using fake people. For our field, we must be allow to burn structures to introduce them to the real thing. Yes, some who apparently lacked real under standing of fire behavior and got some people injured and killed. In the years we allowed to burn abandoned homes, over 100, we never had a reported injury, minor burns, yes, sore bones due to climbing over tables and chairs, yes. We were very careful in how we set up the building and head count in, head count out.

Take care and be safe!
Captain BOB
We are taught to read heat or smoke by the color,not only by touching..But ! all fire fighters are taught to gear up,i mean all gear.,if they are entering and structure fire.Fighting fire from and distance out side is different, you may not have to wear the hoods,depends on how large the structure fire is,at the scene...From the beginning and the start ,,and fire fighter is taught all the ways to fight fire,no difference from and Officer,or Lit.. At most of the scenes,we are watched by our county,fire Officials,that will ,and do keep records of how fire departments are running ,and looking on,checking us out..
We are told by our chief,officers,who goes in,and who fights the fire from out side..WE work as and TEAM.....

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