By Ryan Pennington
For Firefighting In Canada
As I sit and listen for the 100th time to the recording of the Toronto Fire Services response to the hoarding fire on the 20th floor of 200 Wellesley St. in September 2010, one thing stands out: firefighters could not attack from the sides.
Over the past two years, during which I have taken on the topic of fighting fires in hoarding conditions, one glaring similarity comes out every time I reach out to a fire department to learn from its experiences: the firefighters attacked from the sides. In the case of Wellesley Street – which was the worst hoarding fire in Canada – firefighters simply could not access the unit of origin from the sides given its location on an upper floor of the building. (See the December 2010 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada and the October 2011 issue of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly – at www.firefightingincanada.com – for more on the Wellesley Street fire.)
Attacking from the sides offers firefighters a safer environment, provides for more entry and exit points, and allows firefighters to make an assessment of the interior conditions before committing firefighters to the interior. Let’s take a look at this common attack strategy when it comes to dealing with fires in hoarding conditions.
Since the days of Homer and Langley Collyer in Manhattan – they were the first real documented hoarders, eccentric brothers who were found dead in March 1947 among the 140 tons of collected items in their Harlem home – the fire service has been dealing with the problem and challenges of hoarding. The reach of this disorder is being felt worldwide. Compulsive hoarding disorder crosses all borders, races, and income levels. It can affect people in your district the same as it did in Manhattan in the 1940s. One advantage today is the availability of information; a new awareness of this problem has been brought to the world by television shows that document the struggles of people who are affected by hoarding.
Read the full article here.
By Linda Willing
I recently wrote a column about working with older, less motivated crews. In this column, I said that officers must insist on accountability with their crews, but “you don’t have to be a jerk about it.”
In response to this column, a reader contacted me.
“What about the times when you have to be a jerk?” he said.
I asked him to clarify.
“Well, what about the situation where you’ve given a firefighter several warnings and he’s still coming to work late? Or a firefighter won’t wear full protective gear no matter what you do?”
“Write them up,” I said.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” he replied. “They force you to be a jerk and write them up.”
From The Economist
The accelerating pace of modern life is a common lament but American firefighters have more reason to complain than most. In the 1970s draughty homes filled with furniture made from natural materials were slow to burn. It typically took a quarter of an hour or more for an accidental fire to reach flashover, the point at which everything flammable in a room spontaneously ignites. These days, thanks to well-insulated modern homes and fixtures stuffed with hydrocarbon-based foams, flashover can happen in less than three minutes.
As a result, firefighters no longer have the luxury of scouting out a domestic blaze before it takes hold. That can be deadly. “If you’re caught in a room when flashover occurs, you’re pretty much guaranteed to die,” says Ed Walker, director of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. This is especially true in America, where firefighters “tend to be aggressive and want to go inside to fight fires”, he adds.
Tragically, flashovers have killed dozens of first responders in the past decade, despite improvements in protective clothing. Ironically, modern fireproof suits may themselves be partly to blame. In the past, firefighters would have physically felt the heat building towards flashover and have been forced to retreat. In today’s fully encapsulated suits, they must rely instead on visual cues that flashover is imminent, such as flames rolling over the ceiling or a scrumpled-up ball of paper bursting alight. These folkloric warnings are dangerously imprecise.
For the past five years scientists at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts have been trying to understand flashovers in order to predict exactly when they will occur.
By Ryan Pennington
As I listen to the audio recording from the fire in Baltimore County, Md., that claimed the life of Firefighter Gene Kirschner, I reflect on a lesson learned from my recent rapid intervention train-the-trainer class. If a Mayday were to occur the firefighters most likely to facilitate a rescue are the ones already operating inside the structure.
If you have an emergency and need assistance, the firefighters nearest you will be in the best spot to help — if they are not experiencing the same emergency. Are you prepared to help a fellow firefighter in their time of need? Let’s take a look at some self-rescue and crew rescue situations where you can help save a brother or sister firefighter. Are you ready to manage a crew members Mayday?
The first and foremost thing that needs to be addressed in the event of an emergency is the need for help. The list of situations needing attention vary in each department but should always include things such as an SCBA emergency, entanglements, collapse, and disorientation. Each of these should remain constant on everyone’s list. If you think that you are in a tight spot, call the Mayday. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if the problem can be easily resolved.
By Stephanie Rice
Columbian staff writer
The call came over the radio — “Rescue One, priority three” — and Vancouver Fire Department Capt. Bob Carroll and firefighter Natalie Newgent stood up from the kitchen table at Station 3 and headed to the vehicle bay.
Instead of climbing into the fire engine, they got into a sport-utility vehicle, dubbed Rescue One, and headed for Roosevelt Elementary School, a few miles away.
The call was for an allergic reaction. Carroll, a firefighter-paramedic, explained it was ranked a priority 3 call because a school nurse had treated the student with a dose of epinephrine.
Had the call been about a person who had not received epinephrine, the call would have been ranked a higher priority and an engine would have been dispatched.
En route to the school, Carroll contacted the responding two-person crew from American Medical Response, a private ambulance company. The ambulance and SUV arrived at the school at the same time. A short while later the student, with a sheepish smile on his face and his mother walking beside him, was wheeled out and loaded into the ambulance.
In the meantime, the fire engine remained at Station 3, with a three-person crew ready to respond to fires or higher-priority medical calls.
Read the full article on The Columbian.
Wildfire hazard is a growing threat to communities around the United States. In 2011, the National Interagency Fire Center reported nearly 75,000 wildfires in the U.S., the majority of which were a result of human activities. Preferences for second homes, suburban lifestyles, and the desire to live closer to nature have pushed populations into the “wildland-urban interface” (WUI) — areas with more vegetation, parks, and forests than their city center and older suburb counterparts. Living closer to nature offers many benefits, but all too often the risk of brush, grass, or forest fires gets overlooked. This guide is designed to help planners and local communities (PDF, 4.2 MB) considering wildfire regulations to understand their options and implement a successful public process to adopt effective WUI tools that match local needs.
By John B. Tippett Jr.
The perfectly executed, well-coordinated fire attack is, for many of us, the Holy Grail. We read about it, train for it and plan relentlessly to make it happen. Then the alert comes in announcing a structure fire. We don our PPE, board the apparatus, buckle up and head to the scene, all the while expecting that our planning and training will pay off. The plan seems to work exceedingly well in our heads, on white boards and table tops, and even in scenario-based drills.
Then the first engine company makes a wrong turn or misses the plug or parks right in front of the occupancy, blocking out the truck company. The domino effect continues if other firefighters—secret members of the Murphy’s Law Society—don’t follow the attack plan. Perhaps the back-up line goes to the opposite side of the structure from the attack line and begins to put its own hit on the fire from the outside. Flow dynamics are reversed, driving punishing heat and smoke back onto the interior attack team. Or perhaps an individual or crew enters the scene with a different vision of how the plan should be executed and imparts their own will, derailing all efforts to put out the fire in an organized fashion. Colin Powell once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” This applies to our world: There are fire attacks destined for success due to intricate planning, only to be overturned by people who don’t follow the plan.
So how do we leverage all the energy we put into planning as we transition from the drill scene to the emergency scene? It takes work, discipline and an unwavering commitment to team performance. It takes study, repetition and a focus on balancing risk with worthwhile outcomes. Part of the process includes absorbing all that we can from the lessons of others—both the good and the not-so-good. Let’s focus on the lessons aspect by analyzing an excerpt from Near-Miss Report #08-334, as well as several other resources, to improve our opportunity for success.
By Mary Rose Roberts
For Fire Chief
A NIOSH fatalities report led the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment to update NFPA 1981, a SCBA standard for emergency service, as part of its three-year revision cycle. The 2013 changes include improvements to voice intelligibility, face-piece thermal performance, reserve air requirements and performance requirements for optional buddy-breathing systems.
The standards council issued the change in the latest edition, with an effective date of Dec. 17, 2012. It officially was released to the public last month, said David Trebisacci, senior fire protection specialist at the NFPA. Trebisacci said the standards body modified the performance requirements for the non-electronic communications performance tests and supplementary voice communications systems performance test. In addition, Trebisacci said the committee added several additional tests including one for emergency breathing safety systems cold temperature performance tests (EBSS); a lens-radiant heat test; and a lens convective heat flame-resistance test.
As part of the update, NFPA 1404, Fire Service Respiratory Protection Training, now requires that “the individual shall exit from an IDLH atmosphere before consumption of reserve air supply begins,” while NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, will require that an exit strategy is practiced when the SCBA cylinder reaches a reserve air volume of 600liters or more.
Read the full article here.
From Fire Service Today
A major new study released today by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), concludes that firefighting crews of five or six members—instead of three or four—are significantly faster in putting out fires and completing search-and-rescue operations when responding to fires in high-rise buildings.
“Unlike most house fires, high-rise fires are high-hazard situations that pose unique operational challenges to fire service response. How big a fire gets and how much danger it poses to occupants and firefighters are largely determined by crew size and how personnel are deployed at the scene,” says lead researcher Jason Averill, a NIST fire-protection engineer. “It’s not simply that larger crews have more people. Larger crews are deployed differently and, as a result, are able to perform required tasks more quickly.”
The Report on High Rise Fireground Filed Experiments explores the outcome of the experiments funded by the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program and conducted in a 13-story vacant high-rise office building in Crystal City, Va., with the support of local-area fire departments. The study involved 48 separate controlled experiments, plus 48 corresponding computer-modeling simulations, which evaluated three types of representative fires, from slow- to fast-growing.
Read the full article on Fire Service Today.
By Ryan Pennington for Firefighting in Canada
Other than protecting life, extinguishing fire is the top priority of firefighters at any fire call; this requires the responding engine, quint, ladder truck, or whatever water-carrying vehicle you have, in order to place hoselines into service and advance on the fire.
A crew of firefighters should looked like a well-oiled set of pistons firing in unison as we arrive, estimate, and carry out the fire attack. This task should be shared with all firefighters as we strive for the perfect stretch. Being the leader of a crew making the hoseline deployment can be difficult; our jobs as backwards-riding, street-level firefighters should be to lessen the load of the decision makers by having the knowledge and discipline to function under their command and make the stretch.
Let’s take a look at the five Ws of hoseline responsibility and how they are shared with the entire crew to put out the fire as quickly and efficiently as possible.
With today’s staffing issues, the first W of hoseline operations – Who is responding to the fire? – is the most important. First-arriving crews should have an idea of the number of expected responding units and their training levels. Establishing the number of firefighters, apparatuses and supervisors can help firefighters select the appropriate hoselines.
An officer needs to make crew assignments based on staffing levels and the abilities of the firefighters. For example, a 64 millimetre (two-and-one-half-inch) hoseline requires more technique and manpower to deploy and manoeuvre than a smaller hose. Choosing this option – rather than a more manageable 45 millimetre (one-and-three-quarter-inch) hoseline – with an inexperienced crew, could cause a delay in initial knockdown.
Read the full article here.