The video below has been getting a lot of play on the various fire service blog sites, and I have been reading the comments section for all of them. Most of the comments focus on the tactics, ranging from “why were those guys not pulled out”, to “what is the deal with that exterior hose line”. While most of the comments are accurate, and could be debated for days on end I think a lot of people are missing the big picture.
Fire officers for years have been telling us to read the smoke, long before I knew who Dave Dodson was I was hearing this from other experienced fire officers, however I did not really know how to do it. Then I took “The Art of Reading Smoke” with Dave Dodson (I have since sat through it several more times) and my eyes were opened to what I had been missing, specifically that 90% of all hostile fire events where predictable if I just looked at the picture the smoke was trying to paint. Is it exact science? No way, but it is a way to make a more educated guess at what the fire is going to do. People often bullseye on the flames at a fire to make their decisions. Flames are at end potential what was going to happen has already occurred, smoke on the other hand is a view into the future of what is going to happen next. Reacting to the smoke is far more important than reacting to the fire.
In this video the smoke starts out not looking very bad and gets worse in seconds. It does seem that they begin to notice the change but by the time they take action it is too late and the attic has flashed over. You can debate the tactics all day but I do not think you can debate that this was a predictable fire event. The issue is that these guys got lucky, and sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. However the next time lucky may not be good enough. Countless injuries and LODD’s could have been prevented by simply recognizing the picture the smoke is painting.
So take some time this month and go over the reading smoke process here are some videos to assist you in doing so:
Do not just look at them yourself, sit your crew down and watch them together, then do a simple internet search for fire videos and practice it. Also give us some feedback with any other fireground tips, and what you though of the video on the post. Of course as usual we ask that you please spread the word about the blog! Thanks and stay safe.