Live Fire Training - Part 2

The problem with concrete burn structures is the tendency to provide an unrealistic view of the properties of fire growth and behavior. Another aspect of concrete burn buildings and their content fires that we create is that the ceilings are not...


The following list of materials is all encompassing. It is not meant that all of these items and materials necessarily be used at one time. More importantly they are to be used creatively together or separately to create more realism in fires established in these types of structures.

Another important note is that many of these materials require that they may be attached to walls and ceilings through the use of materials such as angle or straight iron bolted to the walls with hooks or some type of clasp systems coming off the iron strips that are attached to the walls. Which ever application is used it is imperative that you are not compromising the structure or allowing a situation to be created to cause fire extension from one room to another.

For a 20-by-20 foot room (appromaximatley):

  • 1 Wood frame couch without cushions
  • 1 Wooden chair
  • 1 Wooden side-table or end-table
  • 1 Small metal garbage can
  • 1 Set of cloth drapes on a metal rod - not to exceed 48 inches
  • 1 Metal or wood floor or table lamp with plastic shade removed - use cloth shade
  • 10-12 Pallets - to be used as needed not all at once
  • 4 Bails of hay - to be used as needed not all at once
  • 1 Small carpet, thin, without rubber backing or rattan
  • 2 Sheets of compressed wood chip particle board

Suggested Use of the Materials

By reviewing the above list of materials and furnishings we can see the possibilities and creative ways we can enhance the realism that a room and contents fire would produce.Let's began by looking at these items along with their use and setup.

First we have the couch. It is important that when acquiring a couch that it's framing and exterior presentation is predominantly made of wood.It is also important that all cushions are removed since they do not comply with NFPA 1403 due to their chemical makeup which produces an increase in heat and fuel load. We will replace the cushions with thin sections cutoff from the bales of hay acting as the cushions. This will obviously produce a realistic acceptable fire dynamic when it burns.

The wood frame chair may also have a cushion that needs to be removed and replaced by a cut section from the bail of hay. It is then placed in the room where you want it relative to the rest of the furnishings. The same can be said for the wooden side-table or end-table.

The small metal garbage can could be used as the ignition point of the fire by filling it with paper and hay while placing it next to the couch and its cushions made of hay. Or it can be placed in an entirely different location and used to either help start the fire or simply as a prop. This, along with a few pallets placed in a configuration into the setting with some hay, will guarantee ignition. Remember, in order to create the proper fire growth and entrainment of air, it is best to avoid setting the materials and furnishings in the middle of the room. When this arrangement is set, it allows drafting larger air entrainment into the fire causing it to free burn very quickly. You'll create a lot of flame, some heat but less smoke as well as the materials and furnishings being consumed quickly. Instead you should set up your materials and furnishings at a corner of the room but keep them off the walls. This will create steady fire growth and a good fire plume distributing flame, heat and smoke across ceiling areas along with good bank down as is found in structural fires.

The cloth drapery is another feature to add realism to any room and contents fire. In a burn building they should be hung with their metal rod over a possible metal shuttered window opening as usually found on these types of structures. The reason we do not exceed 48 inches of drapery material is because of the likelihood that the material itself may not be a hundred percent cotton and will have an additional makeup of synthetic materials in it.

The floor lamp should be predominantly made out of wood and metal providing for a known combustible type burn. Plastic lamp shades are usually removed due to their plastic makeup of hydrocarbons and heat producing fuel loads. They can easily be replaced or substituted with a makeshift lamp shade made of cloth or heavy cardboard. They can then be placed within their relative setting near the other furnishings.