Firefighting, Structural Firefighting

THE ART OF READING SMOKE

Issue 9 and Volume 158.

BY DAVID W. DODSON The current trend to get “back to the basics” of structural firefighting is indeed refreshing in a firefighting world that includes the challenges of providing public education, specialized rescue services, EMS, hazardous materials, and weapons of mass destruction/homeland security response. One of the “basics” gaining headway is the ability to “read smoke” to help predict fire behavior within a structure. The ability to read smoke has been around for many decades-the fire officers handling America’s fire epidemic in the 1970s became quite proficient at the skill. Unfortunately, these sound tacticians felt that the ability to read smoke was based on experience and intuitiveness and couldn’t necessarily be taught except for repeated practice at actual fires. Further, the skills these fire officers developed in reading smoke don’t readily apply to today’s fire. Low-mass synthetics and the consumer trend toward “big box” purchasing have led to a more…

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