In his Monday FDIC 2011 workshop, veteran Firefighter Art Bloomer of the Kearny (NJ) Fire Department talked about roof ventilation operations and its effects on fire behavior inside structures. Using a vast number of slides from real fire incidents and diagrams, Bloomer described how vertical ventilation can affect fire growth and dispensed practical tricks of the trade for both truck company and engine company members when it comes to performing this crucial firefighting task.
“Today’s new technologies are presenting us with new hazards that can be found on roofs throughout our communities,” Bloomer said. “Cell antennas are everywhere and solar panels are being installed on all different types of buildings. Firefighters need to know the obvious–and not so obvious–problems with this technology and how to work around it safely.”
Bloomer stressed that fire in a compartment tends to travel “from hot to cold.” He discussed considerations for when to perform verticial ventilation, such as whether firefighters can safely operate on a particular roof and for how long. He talked about the benefits of creating a reversible vent hole (such as in a Louver cut) and dealt with operating on peaked and flat roofs.
“There’s a popular quote that states ‘as goes the first line, so goes the fire,'” Bloomer said. “I would like to add to that ‘as goes the ventilation, so goes the first line.’ The coordination and timing of proper ventilation is sometimes overlooked at fires, and the outcome is not always what was desired by the incident commander.”
Bloomer also brought in a small vent prop to demonstrate some of the principles he discussed. “Getting real hands-on training for ventilation is sometimes hard for most departments as actual buildings are hard to come by. Making the most of these opportunities is key to preparing your firefighters to overcome any challenge when it comes to ‘opening up’.”