Review of the FBI
Effective size-up and dynamic risk assessment requires that firefighters and fire officers recognize key fire behavior indicators and have the ability to translate that recognition into a prediction of what is happening now, how the fire will develop, and how fire control and ventilation tactics will influence fire behavior.
B-SAHF, building, smoke, air track, heat, and flame, provides an effective framework for reading the fire. Each situation will be different with each category of indicator having varied importance. However, it is critical to look at conditions holistically and not focus in on one or two indicators.
The building is the starting point. Information about the building is best obtained before the fire starts, but this process must continue during the incident as well. Fire conditions can change both ventilation profile and structural stability. Anticipate these changes!
Smoke and air track are closely related and provide critical information about fire behavior. More important than what you see on arrival or at a specific point in time during the incident are the changes that happen over time. Monitor changing conditions on an ongoing basis.
Heat and flame are important indicators, but must be taken in context with the building, smoke, and air track. Remember that your perception of temperature conditions is modified by the personal protective equipment that you are wearing. Conditions can change faster than you will perceive them!
Putting it All Together
The purpose of making a detailed study of fire behavior indicators is to develop and continuously improve skill in reading the fire as part of ongoing size-up and dynamic risk assessment on the fireground.
Developing a high level of knowledge and skill requires ongoing and deliberate practice. Every time you see a photograph of a structure fire, examine it using B-SAHF and determine what fire conditions are and what you think will happen next! Discuss your observations with the members of your crew. Do they have a different perception? Why? Draw on one another's experience to improve your understanding. Use Figure 8 to practice your skill in reading the fire.
The next article in this series will focus on the interrelationship between the stages of fire (incipient, growth, fully developed, and decay) and the fire behavior indicators.
- Grimwood, P., Hartin, E., McDonough, J., & Raffel, S. (2005). 3D firefighting: Techniques, tips, and tactics. Stillwater, OK: Fire Protection Publications.
- Bryner, N., Madrzykowski, D., Stroup, D. (2005). Performance of thermal exposure sensors in personal alert safety system (PASS) devices, NISTR 7294. Retrieved September 1, 2007 from http://www.fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/NIST_IR_7294.pdf.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). (2007) 1982 Standard on personal alert safety systems (PASS). Quincy, MA: Author.
Related Training Articles:
- Reading the Fire: Building Factors
- Reading the Fire: Developing Expertise
- Reading the Fire: Smoke and Air Track
Do you have a good photograph or video clip illustrating building, smoke, air track, heat, or flame indicators? If you do and would be willing to share it, please send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be working to include photographs and video clips in future articles to provide you with an opportunity to apply your knowledge of fire behavior and skill in reading the fire.
Ed Hartin, M.S., EFO, MIFireE, CFO is a Battalion Chief with Gresham Fire and Emergency Services in Gresham, Oregon. Ed has a longstanding interest in fire behavior and has traveled internationally, studying fire behavior and firefighting best practices in Sweden, the UK, and Australia. Along with Paul Grimwood (UK), Shan Raffel and John McDonough (Australia), Ed co-authored 3D Firefighting: Techniques, Tips, and Tactics a text on compartment fire behavior and firefighting operations published by Fire Protection Publications. Ed has delivered compartment fire behavior training (CFBT) and tactical ventilation training in the US, Australia, and Malaysia. Ed has also authored articles in a number of fire service publications in the US and UK, and presented at the British Fire Service College's annual research conference in 2006. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) at its 2006 Annual Conference recognized Gresham Fire and Emergency Services compartment fire behavior training (CFBT) program as a finalist for an Award of Excellence. At the same conference, the Commission on Fire Accreditation International awarded Ed Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation.