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Tulsa School Fire: ATF Engineer on Fire Behavior

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Thu, 13 Sep 2012|

Chief Bobby Halton talks to the ATF's Jamie Lord about the fire dynamics in the September 2012 fire that injured several firefighters.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

How about all the fire engineering -- out today which anymore from the ATF's. National investigations team -- fire explosions. -- here because we go -- and a buyer of the high school behind us to science and arts building now. And during a fire with two explosions that were caught on tape by -- CBS friends and fantastic piece of tape. We think conjecture for about a week what had happened that we thought -- with the flash -- what's this thing burning we thought you know could you smoke explosion. Well infringing easier when the woman on the part dynamics of what happened that day -- talk a little bit about. What he has what his understanding as the fire about the fire to this point it's still an ongoing investigations of Jamie can't give us. Can't determine -- or anything like that report will be coming out soon. But the ATF -- tremendous -- in the fire service if you have a significant fire you should contact someone you. Certainly if you have any explosion. -- the -- know about it as soon as possible that they can get the proper resources on scene helping secure the scene and begin the investigation probably. They're great friends Firestone has been great studies -- us and they get -- accurate. And scientifically measure improvement was results and information so. Be sure all the ATF. Anytime you have a suspicious fire or fire involving firearms. Or any type explosion -- thank you so much -- spend some time with us and thanks for having me you know we have -- -- -- What do you think happened here what was -- -- dynamics happening here last week. And so a few things we knew when we got on scene basically. His picture -- a -- windows behind the scene and this isn't where the event happen but it's did that job I think to explain it. Did the fire -- show up minority that -- one of these whole big win. Are you where these Big Three quarters -- of these these big guys here the whole things that we got flames coming out the window. -- kind of typically looks from the outside like got room. Fired at him and -- her so they actually get a bit of a knock on him from the outside. Dies down a bit. And actually comes back a little bit accidents that they haven't quite done to the -- of the -- At that point so. At that point they'd -- stop spraying water -- -- as they wanna send guys inside did tonight from the inside and do their search. So they get in there they go down the hall towards the room. And the guys on the -- December innocent smoke in the hallway. Nothing particularly unusual. But they get to the -- the fire was. They they open at one time and they they feel Russian bear so they shut the door and get ready to. -- -- reading them -- water on the fire from the viewers. They -- -- a second time. And that's when they get the first explosion I think that we saw on the video from six and they get. Not then we've got the fire -- -- the front of the windows gunfire coming -- story where they are and they described feeling things going on problem. Then 45 seconds later we get a second bigger explosion. Also that you can see in the video and that's kind of pushing -- the ends of the building comes back up the windows much bigger man. And -- when the firefighters. Luckily I made their way out and thankfully everybody got out safely although several were quite badly injured. So we kind of came in that's about all we knew we got here. But it had the benefit -- really prone through the building looking at building cleansing is how it's all put together. To try to describe. What's going to. So picture this I guess we've got. Sort of just a single story. What you can't see from here. Is down below the ground level there is a big crawl space. So we've got. 45 foot ceiling down there -- we've got a wood floor assembly and an above us is the room where the fire was. But that's very typical legacy construction that utility Chase -- -- saves the put a lot of sure plumbing and such below the floor boards in the floorboards with. Would keep that -- and it would have access holes do it for. You heating ducts and things like that that they need to work on and fill those those buildings. Definite -- -- it's exactly that we better. You know some electrical some steam lines and gas lines all the normal starter expect. Above here our roof is gone now and -- it in the day and -- storm that we had. But we head. Pretty big space under -- through the -- a middle deck. -- defending and we are standing. 7910. Feet of space up there. In addition -- that in the hallways and some of the classrooms we had a drops him. So we got some some -- -- above. Both the drop ceiling and that actually in a lot of places open right up to that -- -- So picture void below. Rumor that fires seem to be -- -- and then a lot of -- space of time. There's normal penetration things -- programs. But nothing. Really -- it's not like typical bacteria. That we. Teach about usually where the fired from -- comes up and you see them -- in the smoke. None of those indicators for this one that something like that Israel might have recovered you say this fire going up another from outside. I wouldn't think about -- could happen. Now look at the size of the window Fred I mean how do you have. Obama -- I guess stepping back to Baghdad is what we're looking at our prior triangle we've got we need oxygen fuel and heats -- And a back -- is typically. We don't have that right mix of fuel and oxygen. And we somehow introduces the air or we mix things in proportion -- -- it. Explode -- remembering that smoke is fuel -- All the stuff that's floating around in the air is just waiting. To be an -- proportionately there in order feel -- and bust them. So if we look at this kind of situation -- he has such big ventilation. But not have a well ventilated. Room completely or it. And way it turned up in the case in this point. Is our fire was actually down in Indian -- the boy's face in the -- so we have. A very under penalty of fire in the crawl space. We have a pretty well -- fire in that room. And then we have a lot of smoke but in the -- -- in the end. And we have a hole in the floor between the crawl space that's -- threw up into the room. That -- a thing of the windows. So when they come in. They've got fire in the room. They see it it's not that by the doorway because there's actually not enough oxygen getting all the way to the back room to burn so they -- -- sort of problem. What they don't know as there's a whole lot of -- side so when they pull it the first time we've got some air brushing and that's probably then beating down and our whole little cooler gravity -- -- so there's kind of training into the fire. Not always fighting here but it's probably stirring things up in the basement so we're getting -- there were mixing in a little bit. And we shut the door and they wit if you said. And if you. Read about actress and anyway it's kind of classic scenario that it takes a few seconds. Before the air you know from opening -- door that -- -- you need some time to mix up the smoke mixed in with the -- and then is when you get your room right. So they open it again. We've now got a pretty well on the -- in the basement we're giving it more oxygen. So we think the first explosion Friday happened in that basement crawl space. Pushes up through the whole mess we get a big fire ball through the windows are you and -- -- our guys back in the hallway down. And now we've got -- out the door we're taking her ceiling tiles bowed out. I'm so now we've -- Explosion in the basement fire in the -- -- room and we've got a bunch of mixing happening and yet it's ominous about five more seconds -- -- mixing. We've got -- coming up the door and that's we have this big explosion kind of primary and most of the space sometime and they -- and feeling like it's from a book. Zones and for a second smokes. And. -- viewed me and magic has used her term. Also Breyer all that great guys witnessed and ATF and you well factory usually teaches now about people paths. So all are -- and -- are always those are people some that we should be aware of at all times. When we're in the building. So and it's insult. How do you get there. In the fuel together and that's and there is gonna. Certifying the path of least resistance against. It's trying not to -- that that we can help it although in this particular scenario I don't think there's any price indicator for them to see. They'll -- you said the classic indicators -- hoping that the -- In my mind Jamie and this is where I had a hard time wrapping my head around the back -- back. But I always thought it had to be. Space confined space but there was -- confined space of religious. It was we just didn't see it we just couldn't say and so you've seen him rushing to confront the accident and then an open space exactly. So there have been some there was probably some -- -- -- -- happening but it's under the floor download or nobody sees it. We see there are some small little bends. Down -- ground level would go -- there but it's so oxygen starved them and it is probably just point area and it's not. Pushing smoke -- -- it's -- inlet to try to feed that fire that you've you've been doing this for. 1520 years -- -- fifteen years actually a very -- investigators. -- thousands. Of it right thousand investigation by the -- definition a couple hundred and we. 'cause a lot of fires in our laboratory and right and I wanted to work with this very closely -- of all the testing -- and you do your own laboratory work. -- and usual of that was. This is that it was variant usually think you know I mean even -- -- -- itself was unusual. But the more we looked into this fire the more you realize that it's kind of the perfect storm conditions you had to have. The fire started just the right place and -- had to have it burn a hole everything for just the right place and yet to have. Just the -- and on the air available across this but not too. I'm so that we open that door that was just sort of -- last little bit that we needed. And there may be and then some -- -- simple. From the burning up the structure underneath so even a small -- from the floor and also -- them it's a very. Unusual thing -- same kind of -- unique very unique and I wouldn't you know hopefully expect to see a lot of these but. No we don't want to -- -- yesterday. It's tough enough. On the fire ground using what we know to predict or try to predict what's going to happen and now we have such a paradigm shift to where. All our normal indicators were absent are lacking and we have such as. Potentially catastrophic event and those gentlemen -- further down the -- way you know you wonder how much. We're -- -- event I think it's important to talk a little bit about fire behavior you'll find him some more emotional time and very very busy. What can firefighters do in today's fire department and -- -- here was not. Mean anything unusual for school wasn't it wasn't no nothing particularly unusual. You know -- -- -- through hundreds of buildings like this and they know no one things that that is being -- I was on and that. Clinton told Greta what -- versions of the sauce store fire we have a massive amount of upholstered furniture and like that -- if anything at citizens than -- and -- They didn't have the clutter and restorative powers. You know clean pretty look at states. Stuff sort of everywhere so it was pretty going pretty there's really structure former. It's really ordinary combustible the creative. Did that by and large which is fascinating. So the firefighters -- get injured they got burned on their hands effort under on -- years and they were wearing all their personal protective clothing. It was all. Inspected it was all in all fitted properly. And we know the -- guys very well we've seen here. What else can firefighters -- in terms of our dynamics is a lot of conversation on terms of research. What are some of the things that that you think -- think of possible there's a lot of guys always go off like that we Wear a mom like a powerful moment -- interiors group. Unfortunately. That. -- but as I understand our dynamics lesson you taught by you and Dan and others. That catastrophic events so fast. Threats picture if it's not so much there's not a temperature threshold where if you get a a bonus points. You're instantly and apple. It's more how much energy of that -- from this fire retirement a time. You know well away from the farm is getting a little radiation to them crawling out of the -- that much and not feeling like he. But it might get hit by flash -- -- -- a big ballpark and you. -- you're playing temperature in that case it's. Thousands Celsius and I don't know what that is very name maybe 18100% cut in the United States engineers -- -- voting system nobody on our -- So you're in the plane temperature but -- -- it for very short of that time so it's just sort of like this and and you're absorbing. -- energy companies never -- -- and you're. And that's -- something that those -- of this balance of energy and how much are we taking in -- are here and hold so much and there's different. Points that are garnering weaker than others as those of Missouri Tennessee. The current -- -- that we points and here. We're gonna do little -- sidebar about here for a couple of about -- but basically what Virginia referring to is that. Typical bunker -- just typical walker here here. Is -- about somewhere between 3540. Depending on you know what they do and what they say is that they've they've raised the total thermal protection. And they put it to seconds and they say it's got. There's a 35 would average about seventeen seconds which is another weird thing in the fire service they say it's a 45 that means seventeen to take that number divided half. So flash over or about 120 degrees for carbon monoxide explodes. So that's great that -- bunker here. But what we Wear on our heads is a much lighter. And this is rated at about a ten. So that that the ten gives us about five seconds of that exposure to heat which is we looked at that. -- blown out of them the men inside the building were wearing hoods just like this one double walled moments as a great hoods and worked -- -- -- perfectly. But it didn't give about protection and you know this is this another interest -- -- -- came out years ago it's called slippery but by globe. And people call the bunker gear for your -- at the time our service and value if there was people say and you'll you'll feel the heat and ya ya ya know I guess the argument of the question that I have. -- we feel the heat isn't it might be too late in these catastrophic event. It is I mean if you feel to feel the need for your -- -- -- you that means like you said you -- gone through all of this not only that is now that. Has all that -- so if you press against yourself and nervous I feel good. He kneeled down after you've been in the fire sure that's wanna -- -- -- needs and that's why -- -- start here has extra padding and hero because -- -- and there. So -- -- thing that. Our brains are pretty important organ while I don't know -- here say that of all the organs I. The Braves should be your favorite and so that has the least amount of protection. Face. Your helmet business and added -- -- a whole lot. Some sort of break here I guess for Rios with a -- there here's got burned their faces number. And so you know it's position in question and will argue look more like this into the future quote free hood. It is that going to be an institution -- -- was used to firefighter very. Decorated firefighter were down firefighters on his and the chief officer would use our part -- thus far parts of the country. And -- came up with this concept. You know in his career after going through a couple of catastrophic. Fires like this where they got -- -- -- And put him up with us it -- to -- Fifteen maybe twenty years ago. Which is a fascinating. Fascinating sidebar. As do you know would have a -- through this tell us about energy absorption. We need to pay attention to what you guys tell us we need to advance -- here we need to. Understand that the dynamics from the are not. Controllable to that extent we can -- or 300 responders suddenly got us by. -- it suddenly -- The guys we talked to captain -- yesterday and the Catholics went for us they walked in it was bad enough there was very little he always real smoke. He was found not always that they were undefeated and they gotten out of the door to low position. So there were no -- there -- they would immediately they were crouching as they want to open that door. So they were improper they were properly they were properly set to advance and -- -- -- of our environment. The gentleman who were out the -- feeding -- were probably standing up. Doing this towards the hall way so that he blasts him no time to react and that thermal insulted is all here -- -- Thing I guess when you know most of the time. That technique -- it's going fire does something weird. It happens very quickly you don't have time to realize that Myers getting hot now it's time ago right kind of -- it up its case yeah it's it's way too late. So Jim can you tell us real quickly once the ATF bring something like this when you win. When we call the ATF is regional teams and then -- in the first responders come from secure the scene. -- a preliminary. Clinic and then you all what what do you call me got a great -- that we noticed this. -- our national response team. And generally we're here at their quest the local. Our department or might be the state firm Marshall whoever's. Got control the scene in -- Usually have their own investigators that are doing a great job and doing everything they can but sometimes. Something like this a little much for two guys. And no heavy equipment to handle on their so at this this coming. You know usually it's maybe some fatalities there are there injuries or it could just be certain large losses and they need some extra help when it. We'll bring their response team in. -- consists of a -- thank you usually four a very yet certified fire investigators. That's a huge benefit there just having somebody else. Bounce ideas -- But we also bring on the whole team of agents just in the interview. And you find that. Half of these are sort of figured out based on what all the witnesses. So we're -- seen on the once. But now again another team of guys that can go around and they can -- up building plans for me all the alarm company. Talked to witnesses -- the fire and undercut all the firefighters. In this kind of other side that we don't have time or something. And you get a guy like me usually a fire engineers so I can help with the -- dynamics of the situation or if there's. My veterans mechanical constantly crawling around in the basements looking for water heaters -- -- systems and answer thing. We'll bring an electrical engineers to help rule in -- around electrical systems or maybe it's mark mapping or some other techniques that help pinpoint -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- They can help us for that or even just a collection evidence to make future. No one is vomit on the -- and you've got. Offensive you -- you lose their heads are more. But I have a fire like this what's the cost me a -- -- -- and it is zero. So this is all year your lovely federal taxes that -- here so that's. To get thing is we can can bring men and it's -- -- for me we cover. Magazine Crane's in the back friendly and here -- -- to heavy equipment that you need for this that this. And it's all. Bills -- the by the -- -- and that's a huge thing for firefighters understands that we're not alone in this fight and that. Guys like Jamie and his team will come under caption this -- -- a comprehensive report. We can digest that report and we shouldn't you'll learn from you know it's a unique event. It's. It's not a unique building and tickets for an -- on to this very team oriented with the -- so this is -- The governments here we're gonna we're here to help break we're gonna come in and take over everything and -- -- it's really hand in hand local people. There working the -- side by side. All the information we've got they've got and vice Versa and you really need that I think understand. What's going on at the -- like this kind of work together. On this and not sort of us coming takeover. And you are all fifty states there's a regional office for the ATF from every state -- America George you've won every state and we've actually respondent internationally anytime some of the country and asked us to come. A lot of Newman and I think you. OK so but you're part of -- national response team because -- regional that can be there. You know you -- -- -- and you know word word nationwide but we've. We've always got a local fire investigators every part of the US has got somebody covering that territory he's probably -- air -- -- -- -- are you see him work concedes all the time. -- calling the regional team like this usually where there within 24 hours so out of college you know. Nine and nine and you book a flight -- Oklahoma and try to get boots on the ground as quickly -- -- And unlike calling type one team which wedge about a million bucks you guys are great yeah -- For you try to -- here -- some some experience remains. And -- and here and a lot more calls yet a third but that's the point and I think. I realize that's our job. I really believe that men like you. -- Stephen Nelson. -- on after all the men and women were. Devoting their lives of fire science and mechanics or science -- mechanical engineering. -- -- -- And you can't measure something that didn't happen. But you're giving us information we never had before you're explaining things to us that we that -- myths and -- debunking that. We can't thank you enough -- what you do and how dedicated you all are -- really -- citizens and firefighters and you know I think. There's so much out there that we have got to know that we were soldiers us now and modern furnishings and modern. Components and lightweight construction that we forget that these -- these legacy buildings the structure fires are every bit as dangerous every bit as deadly. And every -- we can't just you know it's like the president distributor. And we went through and got -- you've got to keep learning throughout thank you -- -- -- award from the ATF national response team. A -- -- weren't Tulsa Oklahoma and remember. Be careful.

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