Tactical Patience and the New Considerations of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction

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Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction

For many of you that have been following my writings and perspectives on building construction, firefighting, command risk management and operational excellence for firefighter safety have long recognized that I have been promoting and advocating the fact the fireground is changining, our stratgies and tactics demand change adn does the demand for increased knowledge within the areas of building construction, fire dynamics, while integrating the art and science of firefighting.

The most recent release of the testing report from Underwriters Laboratories; Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction and the accompaning emphirical data further validates assumptions and presmises that many of us shared based upon field obervations and first hand incident operations related to the dramatic changes being witnessed as a result of operational challenges in a wide varity of occupanies and building types.

This material is a must read for all emerging and practicing company and command officers ( for starters) to being grasping the magnitude and extent of quantifiable data that supports the premise that combat fire engagement and suppression operations and the rules of engagement are going to change and that change is fast approaching. Considerations for Tactical Patience and Adaptive Fireground Management are continued themes I will expand upon in future postings….

Here’s the executive summary of the report and findings from UL. For an download of the entire UL Report, go HERE.

Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program, Underwriters Laboratories examined fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries.  There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades.  These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads.  This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics.  This fire research project developed the empirical data that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury.

Two houses were constructed in the large fire facility of Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, IL.  The first of two houses constructed was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 total rooms.  The second house was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms.  The second house featured a modern open floor plan, two-story great room and open foyer.   Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings.  Ventilation scenarios included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only and ventilating a higher opening in the two-story house.  One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability. 

The results of these experiments provide knowledge for the fire service for them to examine their thought processes, standard operating procedures and training content.  Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments to provide specific examples of changes that can be adopted based on a departments current strategies and tactics. 

For futher insights and the Executive Summary link HERE