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OK! I have a question. I have brought this up to the past few groups I have worked with. It stems from the video of the kids (recruit firefighters) from the DC area putting on the demonstration to the pre-school kid and they get burned. If you haven’t seen it – here is a short clip. Demo very short.wmv
This also springs from recent firefighter injuries and fatalities. Guys falling through fire weakened floors. Here is my question?
“How do you know when it’s getting too hot”?
When I fought fires (when I actually crawled around inside) we had no hoods and rubber ¾ length pull up hip boots. My dad told me “if you’re ears start to get hot – you need to evaluate your environment”. If I was crawling on a floor with fire underneath me, I knew it because my knees would start to heat up (quick).
The manufacturers of our turnout gear today have done a fantastic job of protecting us. They say that there are built in thermal barriers to keep heat away from the body. In fact, they say that if you are getting hot in your bunker gear, so hot that it is getting very uncomfortable very quickly, you are in too much heat and you are very close to being in trouble.
So I go back to the question! “How do you know when it’s getting too hot”? If it’s too hot when you begin to feel it – how do you really know?
We used to use our exposed skin to tell us. We’re supposed to have no more exposed skin. If it were me today, I’d expose something! My wrist or cheek comes to mind. I don't mean I would not wear one glove or not wear a hood. I mean I would stop occasionally (as the officer for sure) and quickly expose something and mentally compare it with may previous (exposures).
As I stated in the beginning of the Blog – I asked many firefighters recently and no one really gave me an answer. I got a lot of looks – but no hands went up! No volunteers! No answer! Am I right, do you still expose skin or is there another way. I hope it’s not waiting till your helmet eye shield starts to melt over your SCBA facepiece. Please – serious question! “How do you know when it’s getting too hot”?

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Comment by Dan Rice on August 1, 2011 at 10:05am

There isn’t one that I have found, heard of, or tried other than being prepared for what changes might occur while inside a structure. Proper size up, smoke reading, building construction and all other aspects being done properly is the way to prevent getting your men in danger. Now as far as not feeling heat inside a structure, I guess get promoted because your gonna feel it. If it hurts then you are in to deep but simply feeling atmosphere changes is the way to tell how hot its getting. Any of my men ever remove a piece of PPE or purposefully expose skin inside a structure I’m going to blow my mind as any company officer should. I think that your question may it be a good one, does not have an answer sir. You are going to feel heat in a fire, there is no way around it. When we do camp fires in a training building (small middle room burns ) that are far from being the magnitude of a true working fire situation you feel heat. Now it doesn’t burn or hurt but you feel the temperature change. It’s the name of the game, has been and will continue to be up to the day they replace us with something better.

Be Aggressive,


Comment by Skip Coleman on June 14, 2010 at 4:00pm
Thanks Aj - Mike, That is your opinion and I respect that. I believe that when you can feel "hot" through your gear as AJ said - it;s dangerously hot in that area. So I go back to the original question" What can we do so we don't get to the point of feeling heat?" The only thing I can come up with is what I have stated. If you have ideas please provide them. Please don't include things that are beyond the control of the searcher such as "controlling the environment". That shouldn't be your focus as a searcher. If you are "controlling the environment "- are you "searching"??? Please help and tell us how you do it in Albuquerque short of and prior to feeling heat on your face.
Comment by Aj Bonnett on June 14, 2010 at 12:04pm
"When you can feel the environment through your bunker gear - it's getting dangerously hot in that area. " - Exactly.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on June 14, 2010 at 11:43am
-I think your underlined quote is exactly the point AJ is trying to make; you ARE advocating, for however short a period of time, removing PPE inside of the IDLH... and or a person in your position that is unacceptable.
Comment by Skip Coleman on June 14, 2010 at 7:20am
I must have not been clear in the paragraph above when I originally wrote the blog. Here is a quote from above. " I don't mean I would not wear one glove or not wear a hood. I mean I would stop occasionally (as the officer for sure) and quickly expose something and mentally compare it with may previous (exposures)." I don't think I can get any clearer in my intent than that. I think we have gotten so far from the basics (using your God given senses that we have lost invaluable tools. Any Aj, please ask any clothing manufacturer or rep. When you can feel the environment through your bunker gear - it's getting dangerously hot in that area.
Comment by Aj Bonnett on June 13, 2010 at 11:21pm
There is not much in the fire service that has not changed significantly since the 80s. The fires are hotter, the equpiment is better and we as firefighters are smarter. David Dodson has written a great ISO text with an emphasis on "reading smoke" Armed with information from his book, a well managed competent IMS, and a TIC in operation, I don't see a need to remove a piece of PPE. We all agree the PPE of today is great. But it is not a space suit. You can still feel the environment through your face piece, hood covered areas, hands, and knees. In fact, I think it is irresponsible to suggest removing a piece of it. There are young and inexperienced firefighters everywhere that may misunderstand your suggestion.
Comment by Skip Coleman on June 12, 2010 at 6:42am
Nuff said - You are the first person who has said he can feel heat through his facepiece. Perhaps you can. And buy the way, The last search I did was in the late 1980's with MMR MSA SCBA.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on June 11, 2010 at 6:29pm
-Never claimed Brennen said not to search in zero visibility.. I said that. What I attributed to Brennen and the others was aggressively controlling the environment... making the building behave.
-Sometimes conditions do worsen and that gets back to sloppy ventilation. Reacting firefighters find themselves in these circumstances. Be a thinking firefighter and not a reacting one.
-As for aggressive searches looking or kids; I do a lot of that so there's no need for grandstanding. I know what it is to push aggressively during a search.
-But back to your original question, if you reread my responses I'm certain you'll see the answer within. Again, what I said is that firefighters will feel heat on their cheeks through the lens of their face piece. I'm not sure when you did your last search but I could feel the heat on my face, through the face piece, last night.
Comment by Skip Coleman on June 11, 2010 at 12:02pm
Sometimes we crawl into building with some limited visibility and shortly after, visibility worsens. If I were in there looking for your kid, I don't think you would want us to stop the search till conditions improved. I don't ever reading any quote from Tom Brennan saying "no one should ever be searching in zero visibility." I would be interested where you got that. I don't recall getting a lot of hear through my facepiece either. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on June 11, 2010 at 1:11am
-Skip, as I stated, no one should be searching in zero visibility. Controlling the environment is the key to safe operations as sited by myself and that of our esteemed colleagues that I mentioned. Frank Branigan and Vincent Dunn, in addition to icons like Tom Brennan have all been teaching us to, "make the building behave".
-Firefighters will feel differences in temperature variations through their bunker gear and face piece to indicate proximity to fire and as one of many indicators to conditions but firefighters should never feel pain due to heat exposure, through their gear due to thermal impact. If they do it's to late.
-Heat will be felt earliest on the face area, the checks, EVEN WHILE WEARING AN SCBA FACE PIECE. The skin on the face will often detect the differences in temperature before other areas of the body. Think of the heat radiating off a street on a hot summer day or the steam from a hot shower. This is were heat is sensed immediately and in which we take the most aggressive measures to protect ourselves. We feel radiant heat fluctuations through the lens area of the SCBA face piece before any other area of the body.
-As for the exposed skin... absolutely, unequivocally, no way ever should a firefighter deliberately expose skin to use it as a heat gauge during an interior structural firefighting operation.
-Recently we have had two members seriously injured during operations that specifically involved gloves. In both instances the fire conditions were not extraordinary and serve to illustrate the absolute need for proper PPE that is properly worn, as well as the excessive nature of the heat generated in the modern occupancy fire.
-The answer to your question is aggressive ventilation coupled with an ongoing size up evaluations and a heightened Situational Awareness of the operation. Avoid tunnel vision at all costs and use all of your senses.

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