Building Construction, Fire Dynamics

Reading Smoke: Understanding the ‘White Smoke’ Traps

Issue 3 and Volume 172.

By Rob Backer, Dave Dodson, and Phil Jose The art of reading smoke (ARS) is not a one-hour DVD training, a four-hour workshop, or even a full-day classroom experience. Reading smoke is a learned skill set that improves with education, practice, and application. Most ARS practitioners are introduced to the topic through one of the aforementioned methods, typically leading to self-empowerment, skill-learning excitement, and experience reinforcement. Developing ARS skills also leads to questions, and—as we have found—many inquiries seeking greater understanding of the topic. The “most-asked” questions or inquiries we receive are linked to the observations of white smoke or “light smoke” showing on arrival at an incident. Those inquiries are most welcome and go something like this: “I was at your reading smoke class last month. You said that dirty white smoke with high velocity means a hot fire, far away. We had a fire last shift and on…

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