In this series of spectacular photographs, Robert Stella captures the phenomenon of flashover in all its intensity. The members of the Hull, MA, Fire Department narrowly escaped without injury.
It is currently believed that flashover is caused by thermal radiation feedback from the heating combustibles within the fire area. When all combustibles within an enclosure reach or exceed their individual flashpoints, simultaneous ignition can take place.
The number of firefighter burn injuries continues to grow despite the falling number of fire incidents. One may surmise from this that our firefighters are being surprised and overcome by flashover more than ever before. The reasons for this are many and varied, and may be debatable. However, we are not detecting flashover indicators as early as we should and reacting with the strategies and tactics necessary to reverse the probability of flashover and/or remove the life hazard (us) before the flashover occurs.
Flashover may be prevented, in most cases, by effective vertical ventilation followed by proper hose line advancement procedures coupled with controlled, coordinated, and supportive horizontal ventilation.
Our layers of personal protection (in some cases encapsulation) have increased our safety factor while allowing us to penetrate and operate deeper inside burning dwellings than ever before. Therefore, we must continue to encourage the basic concepts of staying as low as possible, regardless of our personal protection, and the ability (through training) of knowing exactly where we are within the structure at all times. We must also identify reliable indicators that will warn us of the rapid heat buildup that so often predicts the impending flashover.
Only through training and communication can we operate in our uncontrolled environment with less surprise and therefore more safety.