The “75/-25%” Solution: A Fireground Safety and Survival Concept

Todd Harms provides insight into the Phoenix Fire Department’s training program incorporating the “75%/25%” concept – 75% on staying out of trouble and 25% on getting out of trouble.


The major causes of the deaths of firefighters in the United States have not changed over the past 100 years. In fact, years ago, Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix Fire Department classified firefighter line-of-duty fatalities in six categories: Heart attack Driving and riding to or...


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During an incident, we want operating crews to “prevent the event.” First, all firefighters must complete a basic scene size-up of the incident. When considering thermal insult, the initial view from the exterior of the building is vital for firefighter safety and survival. The following basic questions should always be considered when sizing up thermal insult:

  • Where is the fire?
  • What stage is the fire in?
  • Where is the smoke coming from?
  • What are the volume, velocity, density and color of the smoke?

Once signs of flashover are present, crews should take the following necessary steps to “prevent the event”:

  • Ventilation – Horizontal, vertical or hydraulic ventilation completed by engine and ladders company crews can eliminate this danger.

  • Cool the atmosphere – Engine companies operating on the interior need to quickly cool the interior atmosphere when the signs of pending flashover are present. The fastest method of doing this is to apply water to the ceiling above the firefighters.

    Historically, firefighters were taught never to apply water to smoke. They were told, “Don’t open the nozzle until you see fire.” That was then. In today’s flashover conditions of high heat and zero visibility we need to cool the atmosphere. Any property in these rooms is ruined. If we don’t cool the room, flashover will occur. Protective clothing can only offer protection for a short time.

  • If interior conditions cannot be modified, leave the building.

For firefighters to remain safe and survive in today’s fireground environment they must operate consistently in the 75% range of firefighter safety. Training is now beginning to focus on ways to operate and manage within this concept and keep firefighters safe.


Todd Harms has 22 years of fire service experience, the last 16 years as a member of the Phoe-nix Fire Department. He is assigned as a battalion chief in Battalion 2.