Our enemy has changed, have you?

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has a pretty impressive video posted on their website (which you can see here). The video depicts the differences in fire behavior between older home furnishings and more modern home furnishings. I’ve heard fire service leaders talk about the differences we see in fires today: more smoke, more heat, quicker flashover, etc. But it never really sunk in until I watched the video. In it, you get a side by side comparison of the different environments.

What I found most impressive from the video is the large disparity in time to flashover.

  • Modern Homes – 3.5 minutes to flashover
  • Older Homes – 29.5 minutes to flashover

That’s an impressive difference.

Research though is only good if it gets applied in daily operations. What implications then does this video have on our operations? It is readily visible in the video that current fuel sources put out a great deal more heat and smoke than in the past. This increase in heat and smoke should lead to the need for bigger ventilation openings. But are we accounting for these increases or are we just cutting the same size whole we used to and hoping for good results? Further, how big of a ventilation opening is sufficient? This is particularly important for departments utilizing Positive Pressure Attack. A necessary component of that approach is sufficient ventilation openings to let the fan do its job. Firefighters and officers must ensure that they’re giving sufficient space for the fire to escape before firing up that fan.

I have more questions here than I do answers. UL though promises a final report on this research in October 2010. I’m interested to see what the results are and what guidance it may have for our current operations. As the report is posted, I’ll make sure to pass it along.


About Josh

I am the Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for the Boone County Fire Protection District.
This entry was posted in Be Excellent, The Times They Are a-Changin, Training Officer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Our enemy has changed, have you?

  1. Patrick says:

    This is something that’s not getting enough play in the fire service. Last summer at FRI they presented a number of panels using research from UL and the Chicago Fire Department. It was really quite breathtaking how quickly flashover occurs in newer homes and how quickly lightweight construction collapses. I knew the answer to both was “faster than it used to” but I had no idea HOW fast.

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