Topic: Research

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The science behind fire suppression--and a pitch for home fire sprinklers

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c7c4b15b970b-800wi|border=0|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c7c4b15b970b-800wi|alt=Firemen house fire|title=Firemen house fire|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c7c4b15b970b image-full img-responsive!]]>Have you heard? The fire service has started embracing a series of scientific experiments that's producing quantifiable data to help determine how to best fight fires. This scientific approach is said to be altering fire suppression tactics used by firefighters. Fire service journals, websites, and conferences are all highlighting this fire-attack-based-on-science phenomenon. And suppression people (like me) are absorbing, debating, and applying the latest information.I support the scientific approach to studying fire dynamics and fire attack. I truly applaud the work of the good people at UL, NIST, NFPA, and other organizations for their efforts to publicize and promote their findings. I truly believe this data will improve our understanding of fire dynamics in the modern built environment and lead to changes in the way many approach fire. And, I truly believe this will lead to reduced line-of-duty firefighter injuries and deaths.However, the science really isn't all that new, and the application of the science really isn't so complex. Also, the resulting perspective towards a “revolutionary change” in fire suppression is actually a little short-sighted. Again, these statements are not meant to critique the people doing the research, or the research. They are great people who are more intelligent than me. But, let me explain my claims and challenge you to dig a little deeper.First, fire does not burn any differently now than before. It is, in fact, a science. It can be, and has been, replicated in various laboratories for decades. Its behavior can be predicted and controlled by changing certain variables affecting the combustion process, such as various aspects of the fuel load or oxygen supply. As an example, in the early 1950s, Keith Royer and Floyd Nelson published their research in the Iowa State Training Bulletin, Water for Fire Fighting. In it, they stated,  +“The Firefighter is more interested in the amount of heat that is being produced when the attack is made and the fact that the oxygen supply to a fire does more to set limits on heat production than the amount of fuel available. +Of more specific interest to the firefighter rather than the total fuel load is the rate at which heat energy is being released during the actual fire.”Sound familiar? Since its discovery, fire has been an exothermic chemical reaction emitting heat and light. I must agree that our understanding of fire behavior through scientific research has improved greatly over the decades, especially in recent years, and this research needs to continue. Also, the built environment in which fires are occurring +has changed significantly+ in recent decades,]]> which has impacted the fire dynamics we are facing today.Moreover, scientists have always been very smart people, and they now have even cooler toys than ever before. They can breakdown, verify, validate, and explain the aspects of both the combustion process and the suppression process with remarkable detail. They can now show data in the form of colored graphics, computerized models and simulations, and videos that can grab a firefighter's attention. It's important for all of us to understand that the science behind the combustion process is complex. Though not a scientist, I believe the science can be simplified and summarized when applied to the suppression process without compromising results:Fire releases heat. Water absorbs heat. All other variables being equal, the bigger the fire, the more heat released. The more heat released, the more water required to absorb the heat. When the application rate of the water exceeds the heat-release rate of the fire, the fire goes out.While I encourage all to study, learn, and understand the science of fire dynamics in the modern built environment, this basic concept sums it up.Another thought: Suppression people are scrambling to “reinvent” fire attack methods based on new research. One account I read said that science is going to “revolutionize” the way we fight fires. I must say, I find this rather humorous. Many insightful fire officers have understood and applied certain firefighting principles for decades. Their first priority on the fireground has always been to aggressively achieve a rapid knockdown with tank water, often through a window or door for 30 seconds or so. Science has not discovered this tactic, nor are scientists claiming to have done so. They are, however, now proving its effectiveness through their research.The “new science” is a big change for many, a real paradigm shift, as they like to say. I understand that we will be faced with attacking fires in non-sprinklered buildings and dwellings for decades to come, so we need to be talking about how best to do that. But, I must say we are falling short when applying scientific research to fire suppression. Science is “proving” that fire releases heat and that water absorbs heat. Yet, we only seem to be focusing on changing the fire suppression process by improving how we apply big water to big fires. We are claiming to do this in the interest of more effective, efficient, and safer firefighting techniques, which I agree is an important concept.Why aren't we also focusing on changing the fire suppression process in the future by simply applying a little water to a little fire before it gets big? Would this not be a more effective, efficient, and safer means of firefighting? Science has proven the unmatched, suppression capabilities of fire sprinklers. ]]>Why aren't we giving sprinklers as much attention as we are the other revolutionary tactics we claim to have just discovered? It is time that suppression people start viewing – no, embracing – home fire sprinklers as an improved “revolutionary” tactic for the future of firefighting.This post was written by Rick Ennis, fire chief for the City of Cape Girardeau in Missouri and chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition.]]>Related articles !http://i.zemanta.com/355062180_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/355062180_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!]]>Mark your calendars for important fire sprinkler summit !http://i.zemanta.com/354876901_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/354876901_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!]]>Latest Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter details home fire that forever altered a family's life
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Make sure your car does not start a wildfire

Due to the extreme conditions in some areas such as low humidity in the vegetation, extended periods of drought, high temperatures and high winds, extreme caution should be paramount in everyday activities out of doors.  Driving a car is one of the activities we all enjoy during the summer season, especially as we travel for summer vacation time.  Make sure that your road trip is not the cause of a wildfire.  The Arizona Department of Transportation shared some tips: Avoid driving or parking your vehicle in tall grass. (Or any tall dry vegetation) Never throw a burning cigarette out of a vehicle. When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires. Look behind you before driving away from fire-sensitive locations, such as areas with tall grass or campsites, to check for signs of a developing fire. Observe “Red Flag” fire-weather warnings. These warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires. Always use a spark arrestor on internal-combustion engines. You can also: Follow all public-use restrictions and access closures – It is important to check with local agencies about any closures before venturing off road. Be prepared – Carry a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and OHV. Call 911 immediately if you see a roadside fire and give an accurate description of the size and location of the fire including mile marker information, the side of the road (are you traveling east, west etc.), the last exit you passed or nearest landmark. Car Fires themselves can be a cause of wildfires.  A June 14th 2015 article in the Boise Weekly, Car Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Jump Creek, shared that; "Firefighters say a car fire—the third in one week—sparked a wildfire that has scorched more than 330 acres, eight miles south of Marsing."  Another article dated June 19th 2015 on the KCRA.com website, Roadside Truck Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Oakhurst, talked about a pickup truck that caused a fire near Oakhurst, California that burnt hundreds of acres.  Many times simple maintenance items overlooked can cause your car to catch fire.  The NFPA has some interesting statistics on car fires: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage. Facts and Figures Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths. On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week. Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires. Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths. Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire death. You can take simple steps to prevent a car fire: For more information about car fire safety download the NFPA's car fire safety pdf.  Enjoy your road trip wherever your travel plans take you and have a safe and memorable time.
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Make sure your car does not start a wildfire

Due to the extreme conditions in some areas such as low humidity in the vegetation, extended periods of drought, high temperatures and high winds, extreme caution should be paramount in everyday activities out of doors.  Driving a car is one of the activities we all enjoy during the summer season, especially as we travel for summer vacation time.  Make sure that your road trip is not the cause of a wildfire.  The Arizona Department of Transportation shared some tips: Avoid driving or parking your vehicle in tall grass. (Or any tall dry vegetation) Never throw a burning cigarette out of a vehicle. When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires. Look behind you before driving away from fire-sensitive locations, such as areas with tall grass or campsites, to check for signs of a developing fire. Observe “Red Flag” fire-weather warnings. These warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires. Always use a spark arrestor on internal-combustion engines. You can also: Follow all public-use restrictions and access closures – It is important to check with local agencies about any closures before venturing off road. Be prepared – Carry a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and OHV. Call 911 immediately if you see a roadside fire and give an accurate description of the size and location of the fire including mile marker information, the side of the road (are you traveling east, west etc.), the last exit you passed or nearest landmark. Image of car fire in Boise from the Bureau of Land Management Car Fires themselves can be a cause of wildfires.  A June 14th 2015 article in the Boise Weekly, Car Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Jump Creek, shared that; "Firefighters say a car fire—the third in one week—sparked a wildfire that has scorched more than 330 acres, eight miles south of Marsing."  Another article dated June 19th 2015 on the KCRA.com website, Roadside Truck Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Oakhurst, talked about a pickup truck that caused a fire near Oakhurst, California that burnt hundreds of acres.  Many times simple maintenance items overlooked can cause your car to catch fire.  The NFPA has some interesting statistics on car fires: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage. Facts and Figures Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths. On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week. Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires. Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths. Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire death. You can take simple steps to prevent a car fire: • Have your car serviced regularly by a professionallytrained mechanic. If you spot leaks, your car is notrunning properly, get it checked. A well-maintainedcar is less likely to have a fire.• If you must transport gasoline, transport only a smallamount in a certified gas can that is sealed. Keep awindow open for ventilation.• Gas cans and propane cylinders should never betransported in the passenger compartment.• Never park a car where flammables, such as grass,are touching the catalytic converter.• Drive safely to avoid an accident. For more information about car fire safety download the NFPA's car fire safety pdf.  Enjoy your road trip wherever your travel plans take you and have a safe and memorable time.
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Doing the right thing the right way to prevent sparking a wildfire

Now that summer is upon us, we all want to do our part to keep our homes and properties safer in the event of a wildfire but it is so important to act carefully, taking the necessary precautions not to be the cause of a wildfire while trying to do the right thing.  Operating equipment like chainsaws, lawn mowers, and tractors improperly can cause sparks that could ignite a wildfire. We need to act with care to make sure that we are doing the right thing the right way.  A CAL FIRE flyer stated that over 1,600 wildfires are caused in California alone using equipment the wrong way.  You don't want to be the cause of a wildfire by using a mower improperly, like the Golden Gates Estate fire in Florida, or the 22 million dollar Oregon wildfire. Picture submitted for Wildfire Prep Day activity by Debora Rice from North Fork, California Here are some important tractor use and mowing tips to help you do the right thing the right way: (Remember metal blades hitting rocks can spark a wildfire) Mow during the cool time of day generally while there is still dew on the ground, not during the day and especially not when the wind is blowing. Don't top off fuel tanks. Make sure spark arrestors are in proper working order and there is no carbon build up. Keep a shovel and water source or fire extinguisher close by at all times. When transporting tractors, mowers and recreational vehicles make sure that chains on the trailers are not hitting the pavement as you are driving, throwing sparks. Take special care when using mowers and tractors in dry grass that can easily ignite. Remove rocks and metal from the yard that could be hit by the mower and cause sparks. Keep a cell phone with you and dial 911 in the event of an emergency. The US Forest Service (with their One Less Spark One Less Wildfire Campaign) along with Betty White created a cute YouTube video that reinforces how you can be more careful as you act responsibly this year while you work and play outside.
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Fire Chief: Why are we not giving the fire death of a two year old in a new home the attention it deserves?

It took the Baldwinsville, New York, Fire Department only three minutes to arrive at the scene of a recent home fire. The fire had already intensified to the point that a veteran firefighter couldn't make entry. He waited for the engine company's arrival. Inside the home was two-year-old Nora Lamirande, who was napping in an upstairs bedroom while her mother and brother were outside enjoying the spring weather. The brother headed to a neighbor's home as the mother followed, only to return to see the structure in flames. Something left on the stove was the apparent catalyst, per a report on the incident. Despite a valiant effort by firefighters, Nora died--in a home built only two years ago. Why this story, which highlights all the reasons why sprinklers in new construction are necessary, hasn't gotten more attention has baffled Fire Chief Rick Ennis, chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition. He has shared a personal essay on the tragedy with NFPA: Today marks one week since two-year-old Nora Lamirande's funeral, who died in a fire that occurred in a new home, in a new subdivision. A fire in a home that should have had a home fire sprinkler system. A fire that would have undoubtedly had a much different outcome had a home fire sprinkler system been provided and installed by the homebuilder. Last night, I was checking online to see if there had been any updates regarding this fire. I was checking to see if any of the fire service agencies or fire service publication sites had picked up on the incident. Still nothing (again, if anyone can show me that I am missing something, please do so). I came across a story on Syracuse.com posted May 5 that reported that a Gofundme account set up for the family had raised more than $50,000 in one day. The report cited there had been 860 donations, ranging from $5 to $1,000, with one donor writing, "no one should have to bury a child." I admire each and every person that made a donation to that account. But I find it sadly ironic and quite frustrating that we have allowed the National Association of Home Builders to convince everyone from consumers to politicians that a small fraction of that amount of money is “too much” to invest upfront to rapidly get water on a fire and keep this type of tragedy from occurring in the first place. I realize this story is no longer “news”. The fire occurred nearly two weeks ago. Nora's funeral was a week ago. Several other fire deaths, injuries, rescues and “big fires” have since made headlines. The story now is how in the world this fire seems to be passing under the fire service's radar. I did get a reply from the NFPA that assures me they are looking into the fire. I realize that will take considerable time and effort to do so with the thoroughness required. I am just glad to know it is happening. I've received some interesting and valued feedback from others. I wrote an initial response to this tragedy, where I stated "a home fire sprinkler system could have changed the outcome of this fire. We encourage all to research and learn more about this fire and ask the question: Why, in 2015, does a fire like this take a life in a newly built, single-family home?" I am not suggesting that reevaluating our perspective on fire sprinklers is the only way to improve fire suppression, firefighter safety, and service delivery, but I will not back off that it would be an improvement to all of these critical areas of the fire service. In eighteen years as a fire chief, I have consistently avoided using the emotional “burning baby” appeal to justify anything. I am reluctant to allow this incident to be used in such a manner. I cannot claim to imagine how the mother or the family feels right now, nor how they will be moving forward. My intent is simply to use the opportunity this fire offers to create dialogue, to question the status quo. My hope is that at some point in the near future, this fire gets the attention it is worthy of, within the fire service, within the courts, and within political chambers. My hope is that positive change in the future can result from Nora's death. My challenge to us all is that we all help ensure this happens. Please share Ennis' essay via social media and email and help spread the word about this tragedy.
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