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Alright! The blog has been there for weeks. Only one comment. I just finished teaching to 100 or so firefighters from the south east. No one there had an answer!

I really can't believe it. 300,000 firefighters in the United States and no one can tell us how to tell if it's getting too hot in the atmosphere they are in.

Come on - if your shy, get over it and help us out. How do you monitor heat conditions inside a burning structure???


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Comment by Phil Jose on February 12, 2010 at 3:33pm
Hey Skip, Loved reading through the discussion and will throw my 2 - cents into the arena.

1. What are you doing at training fires? If you are melting helmets while teaching the newbies what "normal" is then you are doing them a great disservice.

2. Conditions incompatible with life at the floor level means 200f at the floor. Who knows what it would be at the ceiling by that time. There was a time when, protected by a canvas coat and day boots, we expected that firefighters would crawl in low, below the smoke, and make the fire attack. The same is not true today. Biology indicates that floor air temperatures above 125f would prevent even the most dedicated of those "old school" guys to rethink their attack. They would, by necessity, either wait for the ventilation, apply water, or find another way into the fire compartment. Today that same firefighter would crawl well past that point, into temperatures well above 300f, in zero-visibility, and consider it a "normal" fire attack. The kicker is that they would PROBABLY be successful due to the protection provided. The downside is that the opposite of success in this circumstance is serious injury or death.

Enough pontificating. If it is too hot to put your hand above your head while crawling you are already in too deep. You have three choices. 1. Exit the space 2. Ventilate the space 3. Apply water. And, I guess, I could add a 4th (but IMHO a bad choice) move further in and hope. Hope is not a plan.

All of the above presumes you do not have access to a TIC. If you have it, bring it, use it, and expect it to break. Ceiling temperatures above 500f should give you pause. (See Keokuk Iowa LODD from NIST if you haven't already. Temps go from near ambient to over 1500f in less than 1 minute)
Comment by Jeff Goins on February 11, 2010 at 5:32pm
Thanks Chief. You always raise the important and thought provoking questions. This subject really jumped out at me because it's something that I try and speak about often. Please keep the questions and ideas coming.
Comment by Skip Coleman on February 11, 2010 at 3:48pm
I didn't think you did. Just trying to get people to realize that if they get "hot" they are in trouble! Your comments are welcome and very well respected.
Comment by Jeff Goins on February 11, 2010 at 2:22pm
Just to clarify something Chief Coleman, I don't go in with bare ears. I use a 2 ply hood and it gives me plenty of early warning especially in the below mentioned moden lightweight building construction. I work in an area located in east Atlanta Ga that has a mix of new and old construction so I've attempted to find a method that will be reliable at any structure. I mentioned the firesnakes not as an indication for a workable timeline but rather an indication to start moving towards a different zipcode if you see them. I fully agree that at 700 degrees nothing is left to save. This has been a reliable method for many years now.
Comment by Skip Coleman on February 11, 2010 at 1:38pm
John brings up a great point about the structures we are in as well. We are seeing more and more firefighters ending up in the basement when all they wanted to do was be on the first floor. More about that later.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on February 11, 2010 at 1:32pm
Skip, you hit the nail on the head by saying, what's worth saving at 700 degrees! We should be trained as many have said to recognize a go or not to go situation, before you go. Again we are back to training, but I like Jeff's method, kinda like mine I mentioned earlier in the post.
Comment by John Forristall on February 11, 2010 at 12:12pm
I agree with a lot of what's being discussed but I will add this opinion. The "old school" reliable tachniques are great if you have old school structures and some real life experience either in training scenarios or at the jobs. The new consideration we need to add to this is the new fuel loads in the tighter more energy efficient buildings. The methods that where considered relatively safe just a few years ago may not be so reliable in the next fire. The growth stage of a fire can be more rapid and can have more violent results. This combined with faster alarm and response times can put us in harms way in a time that may not allow for a safe retreat.
I think the TIC as a tool can be instrumental in being able to recognize trouble. Like everything we do, good training or lack of it will have significant impact on a safe outcome.
Comment by Skip Coleman on February 11, 2010 at 12:00pm
Thanks for the input Jeff.
From what I remember about Flashover, the lower end temperature for flashover is 700+ degrees. Way too hot to be in or near. Your bare skin (ears) will start to "sting" at around 250 to 300 degrees dry heat in only a few seconds. Waiting for the Fire Snakes means your waiting way too long. Again, what's around that's worth saving at 700 degrees??? Just my thoughts.
Comment by Jeff Goins on February 11, 2010 at 11:51am
Ok Chief I gotta add to this blog. I'm probably gonna take a beating from the safety police on this but it has worked for a long time and continues to work. The comments about PPE being so advanced that pre flashover has become very difficult to indicate are true. What I do is wear a 2 ply hood with the ear flap from my leather tucked inside. When the bees start stinging my ears its time to make a decision. "Put out or get out" ! This has worked time and again " SAFELY". Other old school techniques are to always watch overhead and be looking for firesnakes. Firesnakes to the readers are the streaks of fire you see in smoke just prior to flashover. If you don't have a charged hose in place to cool the smoke you would be best advised to find somewhere else to hang out. Firesnakes are an undeniable indication of imminent flashover. Another technique is to simply open a nozzle directly over your head to see if water will come back down. If no water comes down its time to cool smoke to give enough time to locate the seat of the fire for extinguishment. Lastly I work for a Dept. that does have thermal imaging cameras and they are a great tool for determining room temperature but they are only a tool. TIC's are subject to failurre and require batteries. My ears dont require batteries yet but when they do it will be for a hearing aid and not sensory perception.
Comment by Skip Coleman on February 10, 2010 at 3:53pm
Excellent point - in fact - I believe the lens on your face piece is only good to 550+ degrees F. for a few minutes. Also, dirt has a very harmful affect on the bunker gears temperature rating. And we all know how we like dirty "macho" looking gear.

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