13 Fireground Indiscretions

Mark Emery details 13 indiscretions that have killed and injured firefighters and mistakes officer make.


Here’s the plan: None of your fireground operations will become the subject of a firefighter-fatality investigation report. If this plan is acceptable, you will appreciate this article, which introduces you to "13 Fireground Indiscretions" that have killed and injured many firefighters. By...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

8. Random, undisciplined communication.

Post-incident analysis routinely identify "communication" as a fireground problem. Try this: Search the Internet for a book or manual that specifically addresses fireground communication (not dispatcher information or communication hardware). Specifically seek a reference that addresses how and when to communicate on the fireground. Spare your time and frustration: You won’t find one.

Isn’t it amazing that the most persistent and consistent fireground problem has never been formally addressed by the North American fire service? There are lots of books, manuals, and articles exploring strategy, tactics, pumping, hose, nozzles, ladders – even what’s in your pockets.

Question: When was the last time you identified communication as a fireground problem? Answer: When was your last fire?

9. Poor fire-growth management.

Visualize freelancing fire officers and firefighters implementing personal "action plans" (Indiscretion 5). Now picture a firefighter with axe in hand walking by a big window. Smoke swirls behind the glass. The firefighter looks at the axe, looks at the window, looks around, swings the axe and breaks the window. Why? Just because. Freelancing firefighters breaking windows should make the competent incident manager furious. The breaking of a window by a freelancing firefighter can quickly convert a coordinated fireground into a spastic fireground.

Consider the wood-burning stove: If you want to make the fire in the stove get bigger, you open the damper. Opening the damper provides horizontal ventilation. Horizontal ventilation causes the fire within the stove to intensify. Close the damper (un-ventilate) and the flames magically disappear. Given fuel and heat, fire growth is governed by oxygen. The fire in the stove will not grow until the damper is open.

It is important to remember that a wood stove has a large vertical ventilation opening: the flue. Which would be more "comfortable" for a theoretical firefighter, to be in the stove vertically ventilated or horizontally ventilated? (Neither option would be comfortable.) What would happen if you closed the flue and opened the damper? (In your mind, play with the possible combinations.) Fire is fire.

Available oxygen governs fire growth. For every cubic foot of air consumed by a fire, 537 Btu will be generated. Increasing the cubic feet of air available to a fire produces a commensurate increase in heat as the oxygen is consumed. Fire growth is not magic, it’s chemistry and physics.

Strategic consideration: When you control ventilation strategically you control the fire. Lose control of ventilation tactically and you will quickly lose control of a fire strategically.

10. Insufficient gpm for Btu.

This is simply the selection and deployment of low-flow handlines that are operated without strategic benefit. The typical scenario plays out as follows: The main body of fire has not been identified (Indiscretion 3), there are insufficient resources to support the offensive operation (Indiscretion 6), nobody is watching the clock (Indiscretion 8), and deteriorating/escalating conditions are ignored (Indiscretion 13), thus catching unsuspecting firefighters "by surprise."

Insufficient gallons per minute coupled with poor fire-growth management can quickly transform routine room and contents into an impressive magazine cover. Contemporary, petrochemical-based fireloading requires that big water be applied early. Most fire departments park 1,500 gpm of heat-removal capability at the curb and stretch a 150-gpm handline to the fire. According to my fingers and toes, that leaves 1,350 gpm of heat removal potential at the curb!

Fire doesn’t know the difference between fog, straight, solid, low-pressure or high-pressure nozzles. Fire is not influenced by how impressive your nozzle looks. What impresses a fire is gallons per minute. The strategic math is very simple: When you apply more gpm than there are Btu, you win – and you’ll win every time! (Add foam and you increase the strategic benefit of each gallon applied.)