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Changing the culture?

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  • Changing the culture?

    With all the science being applied to firefighting today this phrase keeps coming up. "We should change our culture".. Now don't get me wrong there are things that need to be addressed, fire fighting is a dynamic field where constant adaptation is required to keep up with the world around us. Getting stuck in routines because that's the way we did it in the past isn't helping our understanding of modern fire behavior. On the same hand fire is a science, it follows set principles, its not that those principles have changed! Using the fire tetrahedron for example: the fire still needs air,heat,and fuel for the chemical reaction to take place. The proportions of those are all that has changed! Fires are hotter, they consume more oxygen, and produce more volatile gasses. To fight these fires the same way is a dangerous practice.

    IMO its not the culture that needs to change! We are always going to have to fight fires from inside, unless we're going to go back to the ancient times and burn cities down. It seems to me the ones that preach otherwise are the same ones that work in rural places and can afford to let a house burn down (allow the fire to burn a ring around the house and contain it) nothing in the science says we can't continue fighting fires from the inside out. Even in the examples when exterior applications of water are applied first, there still has to be a interior follow up.

    The research does show how much we effect fire behavior. In a large way we have been altering fire behavior through ventilation practices. Often times not even realizing what we have done until after the fact. This does need to change!

    But the culture ?

    James Braidwood is considered the founder of interior structural fire fighting. He had the crazy idea that in order to control structure fires one had to get close to it, they had to fight from the inside out . Considered one of the key figures in the development of the London fire brigade in the mid 1800's, he had several publications that can seem hauntingly similar to what we hear about today. The following quote came from one of those publications that was put out posthumously in 1866

    "The door should be kept shut while the water is being brought, and the air excluded as much as possible, as the fire burns exactly in proportion to the quantity of air which it receives " ~ James Braidwood

    Our culture will remain, we will continue to be aggressive! We will because we have to, but maybe we can open our eyes a little bit! For in our culture many of these new findings have been known without all the fancy wordings

  • #2
    If there's something in the culture that needs to change, I would opine that it's the "put the fire out at all costs" aspect.

    All too often we get people hurt, and worse, and still manage to burn the building to the ground.

    And in all too many of the after action reports, we find that people were places they had no business being under the circumstances.

    We're slowly learning that that "battle hardened" dirty gear can kill us, and potentially our families. Not tomorrow - ten and more years from now.

    The research that is being done can help us do a better job dealing with what we face today. At one time, a fireman was considered a journeyman level job, or less. Today we need to be masters at our craft.


    • #3
      Yea I don't buy that! Regardless of what Ben franklin taught we as a culture believe that seconds count because people could be dying before we get there! Seconds count because fires are progressing faster in compartments full of low mass fuels, seconds count because the smoke is the real killer and today's fires produce more of it!

      As far as the fires not being hotter, a free burning fire in a legacy home is probably going to be similar in temps to that of a modern one. The difference is when it reaches that temp!! So imo, yes we as modern firefighters are facing higher temperatures.



      • #4
        And I'm not one to think we should go into every structure. The observent officer can make that call based on what the scene presents them. But if there's any possibility of life.

        We are going in! We will stop doing that.. When people quit living in houses


        • #5
          Originally posted by fire5555
          Has the good Doctor ever been trapped above a fire (conscious or not)? Have his children? What would he recommend we do in that circumstance? Should we just say, "sorry but I'm not Ben Franklin", and go on our way?

          I'm on board with accepting our limitations. There are things we just can't accomplish. We should be able to recognize that when it's true and have the discipline to keep ourselves from NEEDLESSLY and POINTLESSLY getting hurt or killed. But our culture exists for a reason. It has served us well. And it has served the public well.


          • #6
            Originally posted by fire5555
            Fires are not hotter
            Actually they are. Heat sensors have proven it to be true.


            • #7
              Originally posted by fire5555
              If a person decides to put that in a fire report, would suggest have the documentation to back it up and also be able to explain it,,

              When you are setting on the witness stand with an attorney in your face and everyone looking at you
              Put what in a fire report? That modern fires burn hotter? I don't know where that would even go in a fire report. The New York Fire Incident Reporting System does not ask for temperatures or heat release rates or anything else at that level of technicality. I'm sure our system is very similar to other states or national reporting system. Do you put that stuff in your fire reports? How do you ascertain the correct numbers?

              I can't really imagine a circumstance in which the difference between "modern" fires and "legacy" fires would come up in court. But if it did I would be very comfortable addressing it. There is plenty of supporting documentation available that would stand up nicely.


              • #8
                Originally posted by fire5555
                Some departments do narratives on top of the number game.

                Some of the narratives can be interesting reading.
                I'm sure some of them are very interesting. I keep mine short and to the point. Say what needs to be said and not much more.

                But I don't go into heat levels by number and I suspect no one else does.


                • #9
                  I've seen a lot of over analyzed reporting and have never seen temps mentioned ! Regardless when I said fires are hotter it was regarding what time we get there , and the progression the fire has made in that time.

                  In the video showing modern vs legacy fires its obvious which one is hotter , if you got to the fire in 6 mins the legacy fire could be put out with a guy wearing 3/4 boots, no hood, and carrying a bucket of water!


                  • #10
                    Its that Ol' science again .. Fire is going to follow a basic set of principles, with adequate understanding, it can be predicted (in a lab). In the streets, we can't get all the numbers needed to make the most accurate models. We are forced to make educated guesses based on what we CAN see and measure.

                    And while we are seeing and measuring things way different than our grandfather's. Their concept of putting as much water on the fire as quick as possible... Well... The science backs it


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