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Stupid article in Wired Magazine about supposedly new firefighting techniques

By Andrew Pollack on 05/28/2005 at 11:56 PM EDT

Wired is carrying an article this month on a technique for using less water in a more deliberate way they call "3-D" firefighting. The method involves using thermal imaging cameras to see the heat patterns in the room, then using just enough water in short bursts to cool the hottest bits without disturbing the thermal layering until you get to the base of the fire. It also talks about using a small amount of water sprayed into a fire filled room then closing the door. The idea is the water expands to steam and cools the room making entry safe.

Its all good stuff -- what annoys me is that its billed as "new".

I'm on a rural call-volunteer department and I've never been taught any other way to handle that kind of situation. I've seen thermal image recordings of it being done live. I've used the technique in training. I've been told stories of a ladder crew without anything but a pressurized water can effecting a rescue by using bursts of spray to keep the hallway from flashing over while in the building. The NFPA "Essentials" guide volume 4 covers the technique, as does the new standard materials being adopted which were produced in large part by the Phoenix department (considered one of the most forward looking in the world, by the way). Ask any firefighter how much water expands when it turns to steam -- and you'll get the answer. Firefighters are not the backward looking idiots stumbling around "putting the wet stuff on the red stuff" as the article would have you believe (though that is a commonly used expression). Fire science is an important part of the job, and chemistry and fire behavior are stressed in any training program. More so, firefighters are trained to act on that science in the split second it matters -- not endlessly debate and discuss it.

Here's some things the article does not mention:

The European departments which rely on the technique more than we do face different conditions. The dominant building type there is noncombustable stonework or brickwork while here in the US most residences are stick built. That means fires there are very hot room and contents fires, but take a long time to spread through a building. Flashover is more common and the need for a good search team is just as critical but very dangerous.

Also, European cities are much more dense in general. It would be pretty unusual to find one of these supposedly advanced crews dealing with an old wooden farmhouse on a cold night with the nearest water in a frozen pond miles away.

I'll put our crews here against any others in the world.

There are  - loading -  comments....

You are right - nothing new with that articleBy Alex Wilson on 05/31/2005 at 11:33 AM EDT
I have been reading Essentials at length recently as I am currently going
through the class (along with Fire I & II). While most of the folks in my
company are pretty slick and smart, we do have some other companies in our area
where the attitude and mentality is "put the wet stuff on the red stuff."

You know it is bad when they have to retake the module tests for Essentials
over twice in order to pass. We just implemented a new SOG for training and
moving from level to level in the fire service. It is designed to prevent that
mentality from creeping into our company. Each fire fighter has to attend 24
hours of con ed in order to be allowed to respond. The state requires that much
over 3 years as an EMT. It always amazes me how many people never take a class
until the last few months of their certification period, and then have to
scramble to find the classes.
Continued education and practice is critical.By Andrew Pollack on 05/31/2005 at 01:15 PM EDT
I've done most of the modules for FF1 but have not take an end test -- and
don't plan to any time soon due to time constraints.

Our base yearly training is also 24 hours just for firefighters, some of which
must be in specific areas to stay on those teams -- RIT, HAZMAT, TECH RESCUE
(AKA Special Operations) and the EMT's have their own very regulated

I hear its changing though. FF1 and FF2 are being phased out in favor of some
new standard with an even higher training load. At some point, the load
becomes too high for a vollie force.
Sounds like we have similar set upsBy Alex Wilson on 05/31/2005 at 03:18 PM EDT
Our special teams have special requirements as well. We have a RIT team and
Vehicle Rescue (which I am on). All have special requirements. The base line
for VRT is the State Certification for Basic Vehicle Rescue plus company time
on our tools.

You are right though - it is getting tougher for volunteers to get the
training. Most of our classes start at 1800 during the week and most of us just
make it there right from work. I started Essentials in April, 1 night a week
(4hrs). We won't be finished until mid Sept. In addition, we will be doing the
FF1 & 2 1 night a week. Plus a few weekend days for live fires and such.

Add to that, regular company training, families, work and a house and many
vollies are getting burnt out. I agree the training is needed, but trying to
find the balance is difficult. I am lucky (in some ways) to not have kids
because if I did, they would come first and there wouldn't be much time for
training, let alone, fire calls. We average 1 fire call a day. Also, the wife
is involved as an EMT as well, so she is there as much as I am.

By the way, congrats on the potential promotion to LT.

EMT-B / Probationary Firefighter
Eureka 54, Stewartstown PA (York County)

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