Fire Engineering Is Firefighting

Firefighters confront flames at a burning home

Above, firefighters train during a live burn at FDIC International. Photo by Tony Greco

Not to be confused with fire protection engineering–which is primarily concerned with fire safety in buildings–fire engineering, in the particular sense of the term is used in Fire Engineering magazine, is what firefighters do: fight fires. Maybe we should clarify—Fire Engineering has little to do with engineering in the sense of the modern term. These days, the word “engineering” refers usually to electrical engineering, computer engineering, and similar specialized fields of science that look at how systems work. It’s important also to distinguish between the very specific field of fire protection engineering, which deals particularly with fire protection systems in building construction, and the fire suppression and firefighter training, which is and always has been the pivotal concern of Fire Engineering magazine.

The magazine title Fire Engineering is a holdover from Fire and Water Engineering, a previous incarnation. Throughout its history, though, one thing has remained constant: Fire Engineering is dedicated to the craft of the firefighter, and specifically the thinking firefighter. It’s in this sense that Fire Engineering comes closest to the modern understanding of “engineering,” specifically in firefighters who consider the whole system they are dealing with: the building, the dynamics of fire, human behavior under fire conditions, logistics and the availability of fire suppression resources, and so on.

These days, there’s some degree of contention—particularly on social media and the Internet—between various “camps” of firefighters regarding the most effective and safe fire suppression tactics. These divisions fall somewhere along the line of those dedicated to maintaining “traditional” firefighting concepts, usually derived from previous fire department procedures, to those interested in “change” and how the research and study of fire behavior and fire dynamics affects operations. Granted, this is a gross simplification of the ongoing debate and what these individuals and groups stand for, but it’s meant only to be a sketch of the landscape which the thinking firefighter must navigate.

Make no mistake, both of these groups fall into the camp of the “thinking firefighter”—those concerned about how to do the job, and do it well. This is the audience of Fire Engineering. More importantly, Fire Engineering is what these firefighters are doing, everyday—looking at the whole system of fire and emergency response, and devising solutions to the complex problems presented by on the modern fireground. Does that sound like you? If so, you might not just be fighting fire—you might be fire engineering.

Welcome aboard.

For more resources for the thinking firefighter, consider the below assortment of articles and training pieces from Fire Engineering.


Fire apparatus pump panel

Firefighter Training: Pump Operations and More

Check out a selection of some of the most popular archival features from the magazine, including Dave Dodson’s classing “The Art of Reading Smoke.”

Little Drops of Water: 50 Years Later, Part 1 | Part 2

Read some of Andy Fredericks’s classic articles engine company operations.

THE POINT OF NO RETURNR.E.A.D.Y. CHECKS AND THE RULE OF AIR MANAGEMENTTHE BREATH FROM HELLIs Your Department Complying with the NFPA 1404 Air Management Policy?The Rule of Air Management Q & A

Above is a selection of articles from “The Seattle Guys” on air management for firefighters.

Hurricane Katrina Response

Fire Engineering‘s issue dedicated to the 2005 disaster.

Report on the WTC Disaster Part 1 | Part 2

Our two-part report on the 9/11 terror attacks, including rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.


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