Fire Behavior Indicators and Fire Development - Part 2

It is essential to recognize when the fire is, or may be ventilation controlled and the influence of planned and unplanned changes in ventilation profile.

You have responded to a fire in a one-story single-family dwelling of wood-frame construction. A fire which started in a bedroom on the Alpha/Bravo corner of the structure has gone from fully developed to the decay stage due to a lack of oxygen as building openings (doors and windows) remain closed and intact.

  1. What conditions would you expect to see from the exterior of the structure?
  2. What indicators may be visible from the front door as you make entry?

A fire in the decay stage (particularly when this is due to limited oxygen) still presents a significant threat as conditions can change rapidly.

The fifth edition of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Essentials of Firefighting includes an expanded chapter on fire behavior that provides simple, but solid explanation of the fundamentals of fire behavior and dynamics of compartment fire behavior. The second edition of IFSTA Fireground Support Operations (currently under development) will expand on the basic fire behavior information presented in Essentials to address the influence of ventilation on fire behavior, fire behavior indicators, and reading the fire.

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 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.

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ED HARTIN, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO, a Contributing Editor, is a Battalion Chief with Gresham Fire & Emergency Services in Gresham, OR and owner of CFBT-US, LLC, a training company specializing in compartment fire behavior training. Ed has traveled throughout the world studying firefighting best practices and has delivered training programs throughout the United States, as well as in Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Germany, Croatia, and Sweden. Ed is one of the co-authors of 3D Firefighting: Techniques, Tips, and Tactics published in 2005 by Fire Protection Publications. In addition, he has authored numerous articles for, Crisis Response, and Fire-Rescue magazine. To read Ed's complete biography and view their archived articles, click here. You can reach Ed by e-mail at