Your just cleaning up from lunch, when the tones drop. Engine 1, Engine 2, Ladder 1, Squad 1, Medic 1 and Battalion 1 for the residential fire 1345 West St.
You drop what you’re doing you head to the rig you get all your gear on you jump on the engine, you buckle up and begin putting your pack on. The engine pulls out of the station your officer sees a column of smoke in the sky, you’re going to work!
You arrive and you hop off the rig and pull your hand line to the front door, you may be on the porch landing, you may be right in front of the door but your close, no one is getting a line on this fire before you. You drop to your knees and begin to don your SCBA face peice….then this happens[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cH79ePz_l8]
Now I am not going to quote a bunch of statistics, to you because frankly I do not even know if someone has studied this phenomenon. What i do know is that I have been to enough fires, seen enough videos, and heard enough stories to know that this stuff happens. Hostile fire events come out of open doors and windows, and even under enough pressure can open closed windows and doors or for lack of better term possible vent openings.
Take a look at this video:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH14bA8pkPI]
Not only is the danger of a hostile fire event possible from masking up so close to the structure, but these firefighters are already in an IDLH atmosphere. That smoke the are “eating” is no different from the smoke inside the structure. It contains the aggregates, and cancer producing abilities just the same as any other smoke it makes no difference that it is outside. It is also super heated and could damage your airway.
Now everyone knows I am a big fan of masking up in the rig. However if this is not your style then perhaps you should not mask up so close, to the structure. One approach would be to treat it like a Haz-Mat situation creating Hot, Warm, and Cold zones. Cold zones no PPE required, Warm zone PPE donned, Hot zone all PPE required. This would minimize the risk of the hostile fire event and unneeded smoke intake, that is quite frankly killing us slowly. I do not care how in shape you are the damage the smoke does to your lungs and airway can never be repaired. It may not affect you now but eventually it will, what you do today will minimize its impact.
I am reminded of a story that happened a few years ago on a fire. We arrived and fire was through the roof and it was decided that we would go into defensive operations. My brother on the truck company masked up, was pulling the soffit from side A in order for our hose streams to make access to the attic space. When he inserted his NY Roof Hook and pulled tar from the shingles that had melted and pooled in the soffit space shot out and splattered all over his face piece. Had he been “mask less” because this was a defensive operation that super heated tar would have burned him, and possible gotten into is eyes, and mouth. This could have ended his fire service career! However because he wa a mask up in the truck kinda guy he came off ready to work, and was uninjured.
So whether you are in the mask up in the truck camp or masking up in the yard camp try to be aware of your surroundings and keep away from masking up in front of possible vent openings and in the smoke being produced by the fire.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!