Firefighting research: Applying the science

The science is clear on the benefits of cooling a fire from the outside before going interior, now it’s a matter of putting it into practice


In their Fire-Rescue International presentation "Fire Safety Through Advanced Research," Oklahoma City Dep. Chief Cecil Clay and National Institute of Standards and Technology Fire Protection Engineer Dan Madrzykowski discussed taking fire behavior research findings to the streets.

Clay, an early adapter to ventilation control and initial exterior attacks, said choosing the right terminology helped sell this new approach to firefighting. Using the term "reset" to describe what happens when the fire is cooled from the outside prior to an interior attack was something firefighters understood and accepted.

The department also required on-scene officers to use a thermal imaging camera and make interior temperatures part of their size up reports. This let everyone know that, and when, the reset was working. Fires typically drop from more than 1,000 degrees to less than 200 degrees right after a reset.

Those firefighters who were on early successful resets became the technique's biggest proponents within the fire department, Clay said.

Madrzykowski said that firefighting textbooks now being created incorporate tactics learned from flow-path fire experiments. The goal, he said is to develop a standard that will make fire attack science based, rather than anecdotal, much the way NFPA 921 did for arson investigation.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs is expanding its FSTAR program to include real-world examples of the tactics working as well as its collection of fire research data. Departments with modern firefighting tactics successes are asked to share their stories with FSTAR.

Memorable Quote
"We weren't doing a good job at 360-degree size ups. We were doing windshield reports. Without a 360, you are just guessing." — Dep. Chief Cecil Clay, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Fire Department

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