This multiple part blog has been focusing on the ventilation factors that are present on the fireground. The factors in which we cannot control but have a significant impact on the operations. Part 1 focused on door failure while Part 2 focused on window failure during testing. If you have not read those parts please go back as the information presented are necessary pieces of the puzzle.
As stated and written in a previous parts which was originally stated very eloquently by Dan Madrzykowski from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Engineers can't predict the time to failure and neither can firefighters - hence the need to size-up, wear your PPE and SCBA when you are in a building that you think is on fire, cool the gases to take away the potential of a rapid transition to flashover if a window fails, and then operate from a location so that you are upwind of the bulk of the exhaust gases if possible. Bottom line expect that the window or door will open/fail when you least expect it."
The title indicates we are going to focus on tactical considerations. But first, we must ask; is it possible or necessary to consider factors we cannot control? Please let me answer that for you. It is absolutely necessary for officers, firefighters and incident commanders to predict what will and what may happen next. We must be two or three steps (at least) ahead of the incident.
That statement highlights the necessity for all of us to spend greater time educating ourselves in fire behavior and building construction. If you can strengthen your ability to understand fire science and how the building construction impacts the fire you can then start making sound fireground decisions.
This blog will focus on this topic looking at case studies. I want to bring real world examples to you not just theory. Real world case studies where one of our brothers paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Front view of the fire structure that took Captain H. Johnson's Life (NIOSH Photo)
Captain Herbie Johnson from the Chicago fire department was killed in the line of duty on November 2, 2012. Capt. Johnson died saving his men. "He was trying to get us out but he couldn't get himself out," said firefighter-paramedic Mike Imparato - http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-03/news/ct-firefighter-d...
Photo #2 Hallway in which Captain H Johnson was operating prior to incident. Note the space heater that the victim was near when he yelled for help and the metal door that had been attached to a doorway to the covered porch and was warped by the heat. (NIOSH photo)
Today we write and learn from this tragedy so we can become better firefighters and officers with the goal of not repeating history.
A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) computer-modeling study of the 2012 Chicago house fire reveals the conditions that unleashed a surge of searing gases, leading to the death of a veteran firefighter.
NIST examined the fire dynamics of the incident at the request of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Chicago Fire Department. Simulations conducted with NIST’s Fire Dynamics Simulator examined the fire’s temperature and pressure at various locations and the resulting flow path. With the agency’s SmokeView visualization software, NIST researchers also developed a graphical representation of the fire’s behavior and the conditions that firefighters likely experienced during the course of their interior operations.
The simulation shows that fire in a covered back porch caused a closed steel-faced, wood-framed door to crumble, releasing pressure and causing hot gases to pour into the adjoining hallway where the victim and another firefighter were advancing a fire hose. The coincidental timing of the responders “interior attack” and the door’s failure proved to be deadly. In less than 5 seconds, the flow of gases caused the hallway temperature to soar, from about 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) to at least 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit), the study found.
The victim, a 54-year-old captain, was overwhelmed by the rush of fire gases. He was removed to the exterior, revived by paramedics, and transported to a hospital, where he died.
NIST computer-modeling report - http://www.nist.gov/el/fire_research/chicago-120214.cfm
NIOSH Line of Duty Death (LODD) Report 2012-28 http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face201228.html
Since 1999, NIOSH has issued reports on 15 fires in which changes in flow paths have resulted in 17 “line-of-duty” deaths of firefighters, in addition to civilian deaths and injuries to responders. Failure of a door or window, collapse of a ceiling, and uncoordinated ventilation during a firefighting operation are among the variety of factors that can rapidly alter a fire’s flow path.
Including the Chicago tragedy, NIST has used its Fire Dynamics Simulator to study six fires that have resulted in firefighter deaths. Insights into fire behavior and thermal conditions gleaned from these studies have helped to shape research aimed at improving the safety and effectiveness of firefighters.
NIST research, conducted with Underwriters Laboratories demonstrates that applying water from the exterior of a burning structure—before attacking the fire from the inside—can reduce the potential for high-speed flows of hot gases to develop and ignite.
While there is still more data that needs to be gathered it is clear that water reduces temperatures and takes the energy away. Some feel this takes the focus off of the victim and onto the fire. Some debate we must put the victim first. I couldn't agree more! The victim must always come first! Transitional attack has its place on the fire ground and as we saw in this video water cools the environment and saves lives even Firefighters lives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgTlJ7rAWtA#t=118
Applying water will cool the environment, decreasing the chances for window and door failure, which in turn decreases the flow paths. It is clear that we must control the building. We must extinguish the fire. We must get water on the fire the quickest way possible. And to clarify my statements through the window is not for every fire or every situation.
However, it must be a tactical consideration to save lives, extinguish the fire and control the building.