Reading Smoke: Beyond the Basics of Fire Behavior

Click to EnlargeDave Dodson returned to FDIC for a workshop version of his ever-popular “Reading Smoke” presentation at FDIC 2010. Speaking to a room of several hundred firefighters, Dodson reviewed numerous videos of fire incidents, encouraging students to offer conjectures on what happens next and examining and reexamining footage for indicators of a hostile fire event. Dodson asked students to look past the obvious and focus on the smoke to help determine what is occurring.

“All of us have a basic understanding of fire behavior,” Dodson said. “What we are focusing on is not what’s in the textbook, but what’s happening at two in the morning at Mrs. Smith’s house.” Dodson told students that what the fire service is learning about fire dynamics, in studies by organizations like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL), is forcing us to rewrite textbooks and completely changing how we understand fire behavior.

Click to EnlargeDodson reviewed the types of smoke and changes in smoke during incidents, and discussed the problem of finding the language to deal with smoke reading. Dodson also emphasized tactical solutions for fireground operations.

The lead instructor for Response Solutions, LLC, Dave Dodson is a regular speaker at FDIC and contributor to Fire Engineering. His “Art of Reading Smoke” presentation is available as a DVD from Fire Engineering Books and Video.


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