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Where to start: Training on residential fireground tactics

A review of basic fire development, tactical approaches and residential building construction

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Residential fires are the most common fire that your department will experience and should never be taken lightly.

Photo/Keith D. Cullom

Are you commanding a new crew of firefighters – or maybe a group of recruits? Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin with fireground training.

The best place to start is fire behavior education, as many firefighters have only had a few hours of fire dynamics education during recruit school.

There are a five fire stages: ignition, growth, flashover, fully developed and decay. All firefighters should be able to not only name the five stages, but also comprehend them, so they make strong tactical decisions with fire behavior in mind.

When teaching tactics for a residential structure, it is imperative that you cover and explain – in detail – examples of the different stages. With thousands of videos available online to showcase the different stages, there are plenty of visual aids you can employ to illustrate the techniques.

Methods of heat transfer should be covered next, as it defines, in many cases, how you attack the fire as well as your initial line placement. You should ensure that all firefighters have the ability to recognize the three methods of heat transfer: convection, conduction and radiation. Use examples that are simple to explain so students can easily understand the concept, such as using a metal spoon in a cup of hot water to explain how heat is conducted through the spoon, making it so hot that no one can touch the end that is not in the water. Another method shows how a convection oven moves the heated air around the food to cook faster and more evenly by heat transfer. Be sure to stress that convection is one method that allows a fire to start away from the original fire within a house by carrying products of combustion throughout. It is also the most common means of fire spread in a structure.

Chief Keith Padgett serves as the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Academic Program Director with Columbia Southern University within the College of Safety and Emergency Services. A 42-year member of the fire service, Padgett previously served as fire chief of the Beulah Fire District in Valley, Alabama, and as the chief/fire marshal for the Fulton County Fire-Rescue Department in Atlanta. He is presently the Co-Chair of the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) EMS curriculum workgroup. He also served as a Specialty Educational Board member for the IAFC Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) Section as the chair of the Professional Development/Higher Education sub-committee as well as a director-at-large board member on the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section. Padgett completed the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program through the National Fire Academy and has a Chief Fire Officer Destination through the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). He holds a master’s degree in leadership with an emphasis in disaster preparedness and executive fire leadership and a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration. Connect with Padgett on LinkedIn or via email.