Harry Carter's New Fire Attack Triangle

Since the goal of this blog is to stimulate thinking out there in the world, I thought I would start right out by tossing down the glove of challenge at your feet. Here is a new view of the world which I think will set a few teeth on edge out...


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Since the goal of this blog is to stimulate thinking out there in the world, I thought I would start right out by tossing down the glove of challenge at your feet. Here is a new view of the world which I think will set a few teeth on edge out there. In this visit with you, I am going to toss out my view of a critical fire service operation. I am going to propose a new way of thinking that will offer you the option of a fight/no-fight decision at the next structural fire you attend. 

Right now it is culturally incorrect in far too many places to even suggest that such an option exists. Hell, people will tell you, we are the fire department and we will fight fires whenever and wherever we find them. Bull! Tell that to the family of the Detroit firefighter who was killed battling a blaze in a worthless, abandoned building back in 2008. Tell it to the firefighting people who are continually injured when the floors underneath them give way and they are tossed into a blazing basement. Tell that to the people who fall through the roof which are built with some form of cracker box truss.
 
Let me suggest to you that I think we are missing an opportunity to save lives during firefighting operations. To that end, I am proposing a totally different sort of fire triangle from any that you have ever seen in you life. This, my friends, is not your father's fire triangle, which we have all heard about during our careers in the fire service.
                                                          
We have long talked about the interaction of fuel, oxygen, and heat. Well my friends, here is my 21st Century cure for what is killing people in our fire service. We need to bring the basic elements together in a way that will cause a heck of a lot more thinking to occur on the fireground.
 
The triangle which I am proposing has as its three legs the following critical information:
 
·                     What is the construction type? (Fuel and its composition)
·                     How long has the fire been burning? (Time)
·                     How many gallons-per-minute are available? (Water supply)
 
I have long taught my fire service students that a firefighting operation can be expressed in a simple mathematical manner.
 
People + Equipment + Water + Labor = Fire is Extinguished
 
During a recent discussion with my best buddy Jack Peltier, this topic came to the forefront of our discussions on the phone. I shared with Jack the thought that there were some serious changes that I would have to make in the upcoming second edition of my IFSTA firefighting text. I mentioned that it would be necessary for me to segment my book into two parts based upon the construction era of the building(s) involved in fires. There are the classic forms of construction which are somewhat durable and there are the new forms of construction which have trouble merely staying one step ahead of gravity.
 
Jack pointed out that I was ignoring time as a component of the firefighting equation. We reviewed a number of recent fires where people were killed or injured and decided that the element of time was being overlooked. One of the questions that can only be answered on rare occasions is "when did the fire start?" We can know when we were dispatched and when we arrived on location, but how can we possibly know when the fire began to attack the structure we see in front of our eye when we arrive?
 
The types of construction in use in your community must be determined during the pre-incident planning process. The age of the various buildings in your community can be determined in a similar manner. Even in the absence of a formal pre-incident planning system, individual members of the fire department can keep an eye on what is happening around them.
 
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