By Tom Kiurski
On this training day, we were in the fortunate situation of having a home to train in that was going to be torn down. One nice piece of information was that our firefighters had a full month to use the house prior to demolition. This gave us time to evaluate the types of training that could be done in the house, and schedule them in a way from little destruction to the more destructive training maneuvers as time progressed.
The plan for this day was to do some training on positive pressure ventilation (PPV). Our fire department has three types of fans--one type is on each engine and members are very familiar with it, whereas the other two types are on one piece of apparatus that not all members get to use on a frequent basis. The plan was to have all three fans at training for all members to become familiar with them. In addition, each company would be invited inside the structure to observe the "inside view" of a house being cleared of smoke.
The mechanics of each fan were discussed, and different members were able to start the different fans. We went over a quick review of the capabilities of each fan, since two are gas engines and the third runs off electricity and/or a battery pack. We refreshed ourselves on the old smoke ejectors, how they can be used, and where we have them on our vehicle fleet. We then discussed, with diagrams in hand, the "best practices" for PPV to clear smoke after a fire has been extinguished. Although positive pressure attack (PPA) was discussed, we noted that this drill did not cover that application.
The house had no electricity, and we used a smoke machine to supply the house with the needed smoke to conduct the training sessions. We brought a small portable generator to the home and placed it out of the way of the "classroom" teachings. Once ready to enter the structure, we stopped the smoke. Teams started the fan, checked the pattern, and made an exhaust opening in the house. As the front door opened, the team entered, and had designated areas where they would observe from. It didn't take long for the smoke to thin out, and we discussed changing exhaust openings or opening and closing doors.
One bedroom was smoked up and left full of smoke throughout the training evolution. At the end of the training session, we brought a 1 ¾-inch attack line into the bedroom. We discussed the mechanics of hydraulic ventilation and performed this operation in the bedroom, moving the smoke out of the window.
The nice part of this house is that it had an attached garage that was used as a classroom setting on the day that it rained. On the nicer days we just held the class out in the front yard. It wasn't a lengthy class, but don't equate good training with the length of the class. Much can be learned in a short period of time if the proper plan is in place and followed.
(1) Firefighters performed hydraulic ventilation on this training day. With only one pane of glass removed, ventilation was compromised. When the top section was taken out, ventilation improved.
(2) With the generator out of the way, the front yard or a garage can make for a quiet classroom. This allows power to be added to homes set for demolition.
Tom Kiurski recently retired after 26 1/2 years with Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. He served as training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education with the department. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.