First take a look at the video, I’ll wait….
In the video you see a house fire with heavy involvement to the B/C (or 3/4) side of the structure. It looks like it could be an attached garage, or an addition but either way it is burning, and beginning to extend into the other portions of the structure.
You can see heavy pressurized smoke coming from the ridge or apex of the roof, and then BOOM! A hostile fire event. The thing is which is it a smoke explosion, back draft, or does it even matter. To me it seems like a backdraft triggered by the sudden influx of oxygen when the person who you see running from side A opened the door to exit. I could be wrong (not the first time by a long shot) but that’s what I see.
One thing to consider is that our classic definition of “Backdraft” does not seem to apply here. You only see the grayish, yellowish smoke AFTER the event, and at no point did the building look like it was “breathing”. The only indicator we have of any pressure build up in the structure is to take a look at that smoke exiting from the ridge/peak of the roof. Its obvious based on the restricted opening, yet rapid velocity that the smoke is leaving the building that this building is under extreme pressure. The color means nothing as it is white probably because it is being filtered through a ridge vent, or the shingles themselves. The generator of this pressure is the huge fire to the rear.
With the way houses are built, and upgraded to keep in heat and AC to reduce associated costs buildings building up pressure is becoming a more common occurence. Buildings simply do not “breathe” the way they used to. Furthermore these building features are throwing us, because they develop fire conditions that do not meet our “definitions”. In order to combat this we have to develop new ways of doing things, and create new definitions of what today’s fires are doing. We also have to ensure that we are performing comprehensive building and fire assessments PRIOR to entry. It is as simple as performing a 360, I would hope on this 360 any firefighter of officer would notice the heavy fire conditions and the broken windows that looked like an explosion and not failed from the heat of a fire, if not then do some reasearch and find out the difference. Also the glass debris in the yard could indicate that something is a miss.
Bottom line after the event we do not know what condition the building is in, how the fire is now spreading, etc. we have to look for the visual clues because unless we see it (which this engine company did not) then we may not know if we just go charging in like every other time.
Do not keep this video a secret, sit down and show it/discuss it with your crew. Talk about the indicators of hostile fire events, talk about what YOU would do in this situation, then get out there and see if there are any buildings in your area like this, and also get out there pull the lines off the rig and rehearse/train on it before it happens to you.
Leave any feedback, or comments in the comments section, email, or on Twitter (@averagejakeff)
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!