12-26-1999, 12:04 PM #1Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
Flashovers claim over 20 US firefighters lives in 2 years!
'Fire Departments should train firefighters in the various essentials of how to operate in smoke filled environments, basement fire operations,....utilizing a second hoseline during fire attack and identifying pre-backdraft, rollover and flashover conditions'.........NIOSH 1998
LODD - Training is a major feature here.
Are we making progress?
12-26-1999, 07:38 PM #2AffFirehouse.com Guest
I'm not sure how close you follow military fire training, specifically Navy. But in about 86/87, they switched from having a navy nozzle and 4' applicator to having 2 adj nozzles (with deadman grips) on initial attack. This worked very well in the confined unforgiving interior spaces of a ship, especially the engineering spaces. If things went south, you could usually get out with the extra nozzle and crew. Maybe not always pratical here, but something to consider.
12-26-1999, 11:40 PM #3Halligan84Firehouse.com Guest
I agree we have to be ready flashovers and train for these situations regularly. I'm still looking at your technique, I've been through your website and will try some of your stuff the next time i am at the fire academy. My philosophy has always been a rapid attack with alot of water makes the fire go away. If my memory is correct, just about all of our flashover deaths have been to personnel not on a hoseline. Have you ever heard of a flashover fatality while the members were operating a line of any sort? Do European firefighters break off in teams of attack, search and vent crews as is common here? Do members routinely operate remote from a hose line?
12-27-1999, 07:44 AM #4Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
Great point Halligan....it prompted me to review notes and reports I have collated concerning flashover related incidents. You can see that most firefighters who were killed by 'flashovers' were advancing hoselines -
14 fires resulting in 15 firefighter deaths and several related injuries.
2 Fires - No water had been applied at time of flashover/backdraft.
12 Fires - Firefighters who were killed were operating as members of hose teams at time of 'flashover'.
7 Fires - Ineffective (or no) Tactical Venting Actions by on-scene firefighters were contributory.
6 Fires - Other factors were relevant - for example, exterior wind, stack effects, trench effects etc.
2 Fires - Manpower on initial attendance was a major factor where an insufficient number of firefighters were on scene to effect a safe and effective tactical operation.
9 Fires - Openings were made (or naturally occurred) below the area of fire-gas ignition either minutes or seconds before the 'flashover/backdraft' occurred. This fed vital amounts of air to the danger zone! Often, these were access points made by firefighters.
Yes Aff -The provision of a second (back-up) hoseline was non existent in several of these incidents where the initial line continued to work for quite sometime, even though manpower would have allowed a 'safety' line to be positioned.
A major criticism that was common throughout the reports referred to poor 'accountability'
Many of these reports can be viewed at the NIOSH website given above. My findings here are based on several official recommendations
although I have inter-jected some personal viewpoints as well.
Halligan - you ask about European tactics and if we allow crews to work off of (away from) hoselines....quite simply, yes we do! There are instances where interior search teams will be hampered by the restrictions a hoseline will place upon them. However, many European departments do utilise high-pressure
booster lines as an 'easy' lightweight option
and these are sometimes used by search teams as a safety line (firefighting and for showing way out)! I know the Swedish principles of fire attack are strongly supported with a back-up hoseline on every occasion possible. But hey - we lose guys in flashovers too!
The 3D water-fog approach is another tool - based upon recognition & risk assessment of environmental factors within a fire compartment. When a 'compartment' becomes a 'structure' there are a whole range of fireground concerns that can affect outcome and we need to look at the overall picture.
But this form of training will make the biggest impact on firefighter safety and 'survivability' - I am convinced!
Another very good point was raised in the condolences thread paying tribute to the Iowa firefighters tragically killed last week......when children (in particular) are trapped inside - 'all bets are off'....the actions are dictated by those on scene...
Who are we to judge them? However, we must still try and balance a safe approach under such circumstances.
Be careful people........
12-27-1999, 10:36 AM #5Halligan84Firehouse.com Guest
I haven't had time to sit and break down all of the NIOSH reports, but I guess my point is none of these guys were actively extinguishing the fire at the time. To get to the point of your original post, firefighters DO need to be trained to recognize these conditions. The actual training part is difficult right now. I'd love to get a "Can" in my fire academy because we just don't get the fires to learn in. Speaking for myself, I know I'm much more cautious after the first time I felt heat penetrating every area of my gear. We try to run an aggressive search with the truck and engine arriving simultaneously is most cases. We have made slight adjustments over the years to ensure that no matter what, we locate the seat of the fire and get the line to it. As far as tools, having only one thermal imager right now, that is the job of the truck company officer, locate the fire, notify the engine and begin search. The 2nd "tool" is the right size attack line. I know the arguments that start over this, so just give me something that can flow close to 200 GPM with low nozzle reaction and can be adjusted to a straight stream. I think in some cases this is a major problem. I saw at least one fire in the NIOSH site where a booster was stretched and 2 guys died and I have seen a number of departments in this area that still buy 3 stage pumps and use high pressure booster lines for interior attack!
In the aftermath of Keokuk, we'll probably look at what happened and see if we should make any changes also. I won't judge the decisions made there either. I don't know exactly what I would do with 5 guys and 3 kids reported trapped.
12-27-1999, 04:25 PM #6STBURNEFirehouse.com Guest
JERRY KNAPP AND CHRISTIAN DeLISIO FROM ROCKLAND CO. TRAINING INSTITUTE IN NY HAVE REPORTED THAT THEY KNOW OF NO FF SEVERELY INJURED OR KILLED IN A FLASHOVER WHILE FLOWING WATER. THIS WAS PUBLISHED A YEAR OR SO AGO BASED UPON THEIR RESEARCH.
IS THERE ANY DOCUMENTED CASE OF A FF KILLED WHILE FLOWING WATER? IF SO, WHAT TYPE STREAM? I WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED IF ANY FIREFIGHTER FLOWING COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF WATER IN A STRAIGHT OR SOLID STREAM WAS EVEN SLIGHTLY INJURED BY A FLASHOVER.
12-27-1999, 05:17 PM #7Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
STBURNE - Did I say the firefighters were FLOWING WATER at the time of flashover? I did say that in several reported cases the firefighters who lost their lives were manning hoselines. In some cases there may be no surviving witnesses to say if they were flowing water at the time or what type of stream, if any, was in use.
The NIOSH website is full of reports where firefighters were flowing water onto flames seen running the ceiling just a few seconds before they were hit by an 'intense blast of heat' ....... followed by flames filling the space from ceiling to halfway down the doorway......situations where the fire gases ignited!
What is your point???
Your statements suggest that you have a lot to learn about structural firefighting. I have seen firefighters seriously injured by ignitions of the fire gases (whilst flowing water on straight streams) on several occasions!
12-27-1999, 06:33 PM #8AffFirehouse.com Guest
That's the draw back of using a smooth bore or straight stream. You can flow all the water available, but if it isn't at the base it's fairly ineffective. Hence the increased chance for a flashover.
Also, does the Rockland Co. training inst. have a web sight?
12-29-1999, 12:54 PM #9STBURNEFirehouse.com Guest
Aff- not sure if they have a web site or not.
I have used solid/straight stream at the ceiling with outstanding results, very effective on reducing heat, killing the fire, and keeping the thermal balance/visibility/victim survivability intact. When used at the base, not as effective.
Paul- You are correct! I do have very much to learn about structural firefighting. Keep teaching! The best way to learn is to hear about and try/experiment with others tactics and experiences. These occasions where firefighters were injured while flowing straight streams, do you know what kind of GPM they were flowing? Thanks!
12-29-1999, 05:54 PM #10HYTHE FIRE DEPARTMENTFirehouse.com Guest
This is a very interesting topic thread that many of my members will be interested to follow. We are a small rural department in Northern Alberta, Canada. We have the luxury of living in an area that has many older abandoned farm houses. Many of the land owners are more than willing to let us practice with these houses.
In the past few years, we have focused on flash over training in all of live our fire practice excercises. For example, in a select house, we will alter a room (add a lazy boy chair) to allow the fire to build up uncombusted smoke and heat to a point that a flash over is near. At that point, the less experienced fire fighters are able to see what pre flashover conditions look like (i.e. flames appearing and disappearing in the smoke, flame near the ceiling but far away from the seat). Then we are able to demonstrate how a few short burst of water from a 1 1/2" with a fog nozzle, aimed at the ceiling, at a moderate fog pattern can drop the heat down to a safer level.
We are able to do this over and over and over. I am confident that any one of my members is now able to recognize pre flash over conditions and be able control it or get out.
If you have an opportuniy to set up a training excercise like this, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it. Most of my members have seen a flashover from a safe distance. Once you see one, you will never forget what it is like. You will also never forget what it looks and feels like just before it lets loose.
12-29-1999, 07:33 PM #11Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
Scott - your comments also suggest you are likely to be an excellent instructor! Open minded and willing to share experiences but also aware that 'tunnel vision' may restrict your development as an individual. I too am learning and developing my own knowledge every day.
As I said in another thread, our interior attack lines are normally flowing around 150 GPM (US) and I can think of several incidents where the fire 'lit up' against the flow of a straight stream. Sometimes these were ignitions of the fire gases themselves; sometimes they were caused by exterior winds fanning the flames; but on occasions they were 'straight forward' 'flashovers' where the airflow provided by our access point took the fire to the next stage of development. These incidents occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s and since I converted to 'pulsing' the fog pattern I was never caught again. I think there was a lot of luck also involved in that!!!
Chief (Hythe) - sounds like you are making progress. Have you used 'Swede Survival' style 'can' simulators? These provide safer burns under which to train firefighters and provide greater options in terms of controlling various stages of fire development.
Good to talk.......
12-29-1999, 07:50 PM #12smokeaterFirehouse.com Guest
First off, I follow every fire death on firehouse site and try to figure out what went wrong and if I could or would do anything different. Most of the time I find that all the training and equipment can not stop it from happening if it's your time to pay the price for the job we love.
I am no expert on this subject but I hope my input can add some fuel to the fire,
Here we do have the privlage of having a flashover box. Our Vo-Tech has givin our dept. and many others around us the hard to get facilaties to train.
If you arrive early enough to see rollover in a room then you should cool off the room with a short burst to the ceiling with a medium fog stream.
From what an old timer once told me, flashover will usually happen within 5 min. or so. (evinent from burns on fire victims)
that have been overtaken from the smoke, if you can tell, the protected part of their body is untouched from the heat.
(NOT ALL CASES and just one persons observation) so please don't drill my findings.
Over the years I have read alot about using solid bore nozzles and I think this could contribute to flashover and other bad situations.
Here we use only fog nozzles on 1 1/2 and
1 3/4 hose lines and have never seen a problem cooling down a room.
thank you and remember, this is just my simple observation.
12-29-1999, 09:47 PM #13Halligan84Firehouse.com Guest
First, I have to question as to how a straight stream could contribute to a flashover! That comment can’t go unchallenged. If you’re flowing an appropriate stream and cooling the gases you most likely won’t have a flashover.
Second, I have a major problem with statements like “the fire overwhelmed a stream of any type” The quick answer is, you were not flowing enough water in the right spot! Not what nozzle you were using or what technique. That’s basic hydraulics. A fire producing X amount of BTU’s needs the appropriate flow applied to absorb those BTU’s and put the fire out. Sometimes we get lucky and fight it out until the fire has burned away enough fuel to allow extinguishments with our inadequate fire stream.
Third, Let’s assume we have entered a structure that is on fire. Let’s also assume we have selected the right line and are pumping it correctly. As we advance, searching for the seat of the fire conditions begin to deteriorate rapidly. Heat builds, visibility is lost due to heavy smoke, rollover begins. I now have a choice of A) Using the power and reach of a nozzle on straight stream to not only cool the area around me but to possibly reach the seat of the fire for extinguishments or at least cool a much larger area. Or B) Applying a fog stream to the overhead creating a steam cloud, making the conditions much more intolerable and not extinguishing any fire. Or C) Pulsing the stream into the gas phase. From what I read, this does not create steam, but it also isn’t getting me any closer to extinguishing the fire. It seems we are attempting at this point to “control” rather than “kill” the fire. Paul, can you explain further how your technique works from this point? I am trying to keep an open mind and learn something, so I’d appreciate your input.
The point of this is, when the fire approaches flashover you are in a critical situation, why would you shut the line down and how could you possibly use too much water? To return to my original point, I have looked through the NIOSH site again and through a lot of my own information and still haven’t found anything to indicate that a flashover occurred and anyone was killed while actually operating a hand line.
12-29-1999, 10:08 PM #14STBURNEFirehouse.com Guest
We are also fortunate in that we utilize actual structures to conduct live fire training in. I have not been a live burn instructor very long, but for the first 3 years I taught indirect fog attack in flashover training (much different than pulsing the knob). This was all I had been taught and trained on. Experimenting with solid streams to kill flashover I noticed without exception that the solid stream caused less thermal disturbance, left visibility intact, and extinguished the fire. For the past two years I have taught both methods, solid and fog for flashover training and let the students decide. 2 years is not a lot of experience, but in those 2 years, the solid stream has never contributed to flashover, only promptly ended the event before ever occurring. The fog stream rarely extinguished the fire, only knocked it down until the visibility and thermal balance returned to the room, and flared back up again.
12-29-1999, 11:35 PM #15Batt #2Firehouse.com Guest
Haligan84 I am with you on this. Part of the problem with flashovers flowing the right amount of water in the right area.
12-29-1999, 11:35 PM #16Batt #2Firehouse.com Guest
Haligan84 I am with you on this. Part of the problem with flashovers flowing the right amount of water in the right area.
12-29-1999, 11:40 PM #17Batt #2Firehouse.com Guest
Haligan84 I am with you on this. Part of the problem with flashovers flowing the right amount of water in the right area I think FF need to wash the ceiling when they enter the fireroom if they detect the signs of flashover. The quick ceiling wash will cool the heated gases and allow the nozzle team to continue the advancment toward the base of the fire. The man from Engalnd is right by it will FLASH when you are flowing water if it is to little to late.
12-30-1999, 07:05 AM #18Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
'On the fire floor, Engine 3 Captain Don Austin opened the stairwell door and said his crew encountered heavy smoke banking down to floor level with moderate heat. Armed with a two inch line, Austin's crew advanced into the smoke on their knees. Austin said they had gotten about 20 feet in when they encountered an orange glow. Engine 3 opened up the two inch line which Austin said had no effect on the fire. "This Orange glow started to overwhelm us".....One minute later the "fire flashed and the whole floor just lit up"....the crew had fire above and behind them. In seconds the floor became untenable and Austin & his crew, with helmets melting, tried to follow their hoseline out on their stomachs'.
July 1992......Great picture on the front cover!
Admittedly, the Niosh reports are extensive in their coverage and demonstrate that, where 'flashovers' (ignitions of the fire gases) occur, there are many strategic factors that created 'cause for concern'....factors that we most definitely CAN learn from in preventing these kind of situations from occurring again. However, the NIOSH reports clearly demonstrate the potential for flammable gas layers to form above our heads - leading to ignitions - as in the Los Angeles fire described above.
My point is that 'pulsing' water-fog on a 40-60 degree pattern into these gas layers cools and inerts the environment, mitigating or suppressing any potential for ignition.
How can a straight stream contribute to a flashover? Well, it can't! But I guess the point being made was; by failing to use a fog pattern in its place under circumstances similar to LA above, you are really providing no (or little) effect whatsoever in preventing the fire 'flashing'. It is actually your ACCESS POINT that is probably contributing more than anything to a likely flashover.
Where a fire stream is 'overwhelmed' you are right! Its a simple matter of BTUs versus H2O right? But in reality, its more in our ability to APPLY the H2O where the BTUs are and this is the main problem - locating them!
Our 10 MegaWatt fire (a pretty good burn!) will require (theoretically) an application rate of just over a gallon per second. If the water is able to penetrate and cool the fuel effectively then we have achieved our aim. In a 'real' fire our stream is about 20 percent effective as we aim it at the 'orange glow' ahead and a flow nearer 300 gpm will be needed! If we direct our attention and energy to the immediate hazard - the forming gas layers - we can advance closer to the fire in greater safety. Or do as most do (and you are right again) - fight it out until some of the fuel has burned away and the fire size (MW) is reducing to within the capability of our fire stream.
Halligan - you hit the nail on the head....! Yes, we are attempting exactly what you suggest....CONTROL (of the fire's environment) before (or sometimes in unison with) attempting to 'kill' the fire (at it's source).
'Rollover' - Sure, a straight stream will have good effect in knocking that back; but a 'pulsing' fog pattern will do it better!
'Flashover' - sure, a straight stream will cool the room, especially if applied in bursts at the ceiling; but a 'pulsing water-fog pattern will do it better!
'Flammable Fire Gas Layers' (See NIOSH reports and LA above) - a straight stream is not capable of dealing with this hazard - but a 'pulsing' fog pattern (or two) MIGHT!!!
Always be aware of what MIGHT be above your head......or MIGHT be confined in an adjacent compartment!
12-30-1999, 08:26 AM #19Halligan84Firehouse.com Guest
Paul - Thanks for the detailed reply. The fire you described.. the only thing missing is the type of building. Was this the Interstate Bank high rise? If so, I can see where the 2 inch got blown back. High rises have a tremendous fire load and it's no suprise they were overwhelmed. An interesting description I've read compares it to fighting a fire the equivalent of a fully involved supermarket hundreds of feet in the air! I also believe that LA uses fog tips (at least Akron sells one called an LA tip)
I fully agree with you on the need to be aware of what is over your head. A great deal of training on our thermal imaging camera has focused on just that. John Norman advises to think of smoke over your head in a situation like this as unburned fuel. I think that is a great point as well.
Where do flammable fire gas levels fit in? I know about fires progressing through rollover and flashover.. is this an intermediate point in the fire growth or a condition that exists with one or both?
I did pick up on something in another thread that I wanted to ask. How does European vs American building construction affect things? Are european structures furnished more or less the same (BTU content)? Have europeans taken the same extensive energy conservation measures that we see here?
12-30-1999, 09:36 AM #20Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
Good observation Halligan! Although it wasn't Interstate! It WAS a very similar structure (not so high) just a few blocks away. I visited Interstate Bank not long after the fire and had the opportunity of discussing the tactics with Task Force 3 LAFD.
The fire loading is high in these situations I admit. Even though LA do use fog nozzles (another good observation;-)you can bet they were flowing an all out straight stream!
When we (as firefighters) refer to FLASHOVERS we are using the term as a generic reference to a sudden increase in fire intensity and in scientific terms this is not wholly acceptable. There are close links between the two events - flashover & backdraft and sometimes it is almost impossible to decide which event has occurred! The general viewpoint is that flashover is initiated by heat whilst backdraft is initiated by oxygen......right? Only, flashover can also be caused by an air inflow that takes the burning rate into a regime that leads to flashover! But wait - there is more confusion!! A backdraft can be initiated WITHOUT additional oxygen flowing in!! If a layer of flammable gases exists in a high ceiling space, for example, and an ignition source is introduced (a spark from the original fire) then in scientific terms -the resulting ignition may be referred to as
a backdraft! What about if the ignition of the gases occur at an open air 'exit' point (say a window) - the ignition occurs outside the compartment/structure.....this is also a form of backdraft although there has been no O2 flow into the compartment!
The thing is, our techniques are aimed at recognising ALL of these potential fireground hazards and dealing with them BEFORE they occur.
Construction? I think that contents are similar if not identical. However, construction varies throughout Europe, just as in USA and attention is paid to linings and heat-sink when applying the techniques. Shan Raffel (Flyer) from Australia posts here every so often and I know he has done a lot of work in terms of these fog tactics when applied into compartments with different linings etc. You can link to Shan through my website - hit Australia on the menu-bar at.......
12-30-1999, 09:37 AM #21smokeaterFirehouse.com Guest
FLASHOVER occures when a room or other area becomes HEATED to the point where flames flash over the entire surface or area.
The cause of flashover is attributed to the excessive buildup of HEAT from the fire itself.
ALL THE CONTENTS of the fire area are gradually heated to their ignition temperatures.
When they reach this point, simultaneous ignition occures and the area becomes fully involved in fire.
If a fire is in the hot smoldering mode of combustion, only three extinguishment options exist:
REDUCING THE TEMPERATURE
EXTINGUISHMENT BY OXYGEN DILUTION:
The process of seperating the oxygen from the fuel is also called SMOTHERING.
smothering can be accomplished by by introducing water into the FIRE AREA.
Smothering occures when the expansion of steam DISPLACES the oxygen in a confined space.
THE GREATER THE SURFACE AREA OF WATER EXPOSED, THE MORE RAPIDLY THE HEAT IS ABSORBED.
A gallon of water will turn to steam and expand:AT
212 degrees F. 1700 times
500 degrees F. 2400 times
1200 degrees F. 4200 times
The SPEED with which water absorbs heat increases in proportion to the WATER SURFACE exposed to the heat.
MY POINT is that while it is true that a solid bore nozzle can flow more and penatrate the seat of the fire better, the seat of the fire is not always the most important factor in elimanating the hazards of flashover.
By using a fog stream you can:
cool off the room
smother the fire
push heat and smoke out of the house with the expansion of water.
YES, it is true that if you have victims to find it does increase the danger but set your priorities first.
direct and indirect attacts both have there place in a fire so learn the best way for each situation.
12-30-1999, 09:45 AM #22Paul GrimwoodFirehouse.com Guest
Steven - please be aware that our techniques are nothing like 'indirect' fog attack although I appreciate the points you make.
wow - we must have hit the button at the same moment!
12-30-1999, 10:16 AM #23smokeaterFirehouse.com Guest
Good morning Paul,
The main problem I see with your forms is that your questions are so deep in thought that most firemen have to tie off with a rope so we won't get lost (:
An indirect attact in my book IFSTA Fire Streams is : an indirect attack involves directing the fire stream to the upper portion of the room rather than directly onto the burning fuel.
Also to answer an earlier question someone ask is about to much water? Contiuous water aplication will upset the thermal balance, forcing the heat and gases down to the ff working level.
Here is another big kink in the hose of firefighting,
DOES IT HELP OR HURT to setup a positive pressure fan as soon as possible at a house fire?
Here we try to setup a fan as soon as rescue gets on scene. We have not had any adverse effects yet from this practice. It does help cool the area down greatly after the fire is out.
[This message has been edited by smokeater (edited December 30, 1999).]
12-30-1999, 10:34 AM #24STBURNEFirehouse.com Guest
One of the warning signs of flashover is water turning to steam a few feet from the nozzle. A good point was brought up that water needs to be applied were it does the most good. If you are bellying in to a fire, and the water is turning into steam a few feet from the nozzle on a fog pattern, you MUST select straight stream just to get the water to where it will do some good.
12-30-1999, 11:27 AM #25HYTHE FIRE DEPARTMENTFirehouse.com Guest
you had asked if we had ever used a "Swede Survival" style can. The answer is no. Have we ever thought about it? Yes. We were first introduced to the can when I had watched a Learning Channel show on flashovers. AS we are a small department, cost is a major factor. I had talked with other fire departments in our area about bringing one in for a joint training session, but it was rejected. That was when we resorted to creating our own out of old houses.
It would be nice to try the flashover simulator. Right now when we do flashover training, the burn is usually confined to one room, and we will sit outside the door or a window to watch it develope. This is nice because our members can look at it and say "holy crap did you see that" from a safe distance. It would be realy nice to hear them say "holy crap was that hot" when they climb out of the can. If possible, Email me some info on the availability of this device in Canada.
As for a comment on the type of nozzle to use to control flashover conditions, I think you should use what ever you feel will best protect yourself. We have found that the fog pattern shot at the ceiling in short bursts reduces the heat to a point that flashover will not occur. This technique does not seem to generate large amounts of steam that would hamper visibility. Once the heat is lowered, you can focus your attention on the seat of the fire for a short time, and then hit the ceiling again, work on the seat, and then hit the ceiling. Keep on doing this and you will reach the point that the seat will not be generating enough heat to replace what you have eliminated in the ceiling.
Our experience has only been dealing with flashover conditions confined to one or two rooms, or a small home(800 sq feet or less. Thus I can only comment on how we are able to control and extinguish fires in the pre flashover stage. Lucky for us, the only high rises we have in our area are the grain elevators and my house (two storey)
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