Fire Behavior Education for the Fire Service: Filling the Need

Click to EnlargeIn his "Understanding Hostile Fire Behavior" workshop at FDIC 2010, Deputy Chief (Ret.) Ted Nee of Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department tackled the subject of hostile fire behavior, both in theory and how it relates on the fireground. In his review of various fire phenomena--including backdraft, flashover, smoke explosions, and wind-driven fire dynamics--Nee stressed the need for firefighters to recognize cues indicating these events taking shape on the fireground.

"One important objective of this workshop is to provide working definitions of some of the key fire behavior events such as flashover and backdraft based on a consensus of fire science researchers," Nee said. "Recognizing and understanding critical cues and predicting likely fire behavior are some of the key element in maintaining situational awareness on the fireground and providing for the safety of firefighting crews.

Nee reviewed numerous videos of NIST studies on hostile fire behavior and fireground incidents. He discussed the difference between diffusion flames, typically witness on the fireground as turbulent diffusion flames, and premixed flames, which can be manifested on the fireground in hostile fire events like flashover.

Click to EnlargeNee also discussed the impact of fuel loads in live burn training, and how the arrangement of fuel loads can accelerate fire growth. "When you're doing live burns, it's not just the fuel load, but how you configure it," Nee said.

Nee noted the differences in fire behavior on the fireground today, such as the added fuels and greater fuel loads in today's structures, and modern construction. Nee used videos of recent incidents, such as an eight-alarm fire in Consohocken, Pennsylvania, and a close call in Gary, Indiana, to show hostile fire events in the "real world."  "There's plenty of fuel in your basic residential structure to cause extreme fire behavior," Nee said.

"I really feel that understanding fire behavior is critical for everyone operating on the fireground," Nee continued. "I believe this workshop helps fill an important need in fire service education."

Nee provided students with DVDs containing the course materials and references to everyone so that they could bring the workshop back to their departments. A regular instructor at FDIC, Nee has written in the past for Fire Engineering on considerations for the selection of bunker gear and fire instructor training.

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