- Smoke Conditions Forecast the potential effects of the advancing fire and smoke. (Thick black velvety smoke usually signals the presence of highly combustible gases, presenting an extremely volatile atmosphere. Pressurized smoke indicates a high-heat environment with the potential for rapid fire spread. In that instance, you should consider whether to "fight" the fire or take "flight.")
- Visibility Evaluate the visible thermal layer. (Low visibility occurs in volatile environments that exhibit the potential for rapid-fire development.)
- Heat Conditions High-heat conditions with low visibility are indicative of highly volatile environments. Rapid cooling, coupled with a coordinated ventilation effort, is required.
- TIC Reading Evaluate the temperature reading, if one is available, as well as the gray scale differential. (Bright white areas typically signify high-heat conditions. Rippling waveforms are indicative of radiant heat, and/or flames overhead.)
- Time How long has the fire been burning? And what effect has the fire had on the structural integrity of the building?
- Gut Feeling What does your gut tell you based on your experience, previously obtained size-up information, and crewmember reports? Is the fight worth the risk?
"FIGHT OR FLIGHT" ACTIONS
The decision to either "fight or flight" must be decided immediately upon the recognition of rapid or advanced fire development (signaling an impending flashover situation). Any delayed action or inaction will undoubtedly result in the injury or quite possibly the death of those firefighters in the immediate area.
- 60-degree Semi-fog in the Overhead Employ short burst(s) of water using a 60-degree fog pattern applied to the combustible gases in the overhead areas, in an effort to push the flames and associated gases back away from the nozzle crew, while immediately reducing the temperature of the superheated gases, dropping their intensity to temperatures below their ignition temperature.
- Penciling/Pulsing Direct short straight stream bursts in the overhead area. Short- duration bursts, using a straight stream in the room's upper corners (including along the walls) will help reduce the temperatures of the combustible gases in the overhead, lowering them to temperatures below their ignition temperature, thereby preventing a flashover from occurring. (Note: The direct application of water to the base of the fire will be necessary to achieve final knockdown.)
- Direct Application to the Base of the Fire Final knockdown and the ultimate means of fire suppression is achieved by the proper application of an effective stream to the base of the materials that are burning.
Flight This is the immediate decision to evacuate/retreat to an area of safe refuge.
- Evacuation Immediately exit from the super-heated environment via a primary or secondary means of egress (such as stairs, windows, ladders, etc.).
- Retreat Immediately make a lateral movement to a position of isolation/safety (such as a wall breach, or some point of isolation behind a closed door or barrier).
In Part 3, we will conclude our series by outlining the final three topics, discussing the coordination of ventilation efforts, fire-stream management and progress reporting...plus a review of our entire 10-step plan for creating smarter and safer interior attacks.
Tim is a 17 - year student and educator of the fire & emergency services, a former Assistant Fire Chief for Missouri City Fire & Rescue Services, Texas and a former Firefighter/Paramedic with the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department. Tim has earned B.S. degrees in Fire Administration, Arson and an A.S. degree in Emergency Medical Care from Eastern Kentucky University. Tim is a contributing editor to numerous publications including the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) monthly publication The Voice and the Fire & Emergency Television Network (FETN) in which he is the writer/developer of the featured "SURVIVAL!" program. You can contact Tim by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.