Like I said in the last post it is that time of year again. The weather is getting colder, and people are finding creative ways to heat their home. In order to properly meet this increase in chance that we may go to a fire in these months we have to understand how frequent these fires occur and become familiar with the types of fires we can be faced with, as each are different and dynamic.
Here are two documents put out by the United States Fire Administration that are worth the read:
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v13i8.pdf Heating Fires in Residential Buildings
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v13i9.pdf Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings
The highlights are this:
An average of 50,000 heating fires occur in residential buildings each year in the United States.
These fires peak in January and decrease in the Summer months.
Confined Fires (Chimney, wood stove) accounted for 87% of these fires.
30% of the non confined fires occurred due to combustibles being to close to the heating source.
The rubber meets the road in that we have no idea how people are going to heat their homes. They could maintain their chimneys and fire places, or they could be using several space heaters, we simply do not know. Yet we have to be ready to respond and react to all of these varying types fo fires, in a dynamic environment. Like everything we do preparation is key.
This time of year more than ever when we get invited into homes for the hundreds and thousands of EMS runs we respond to, take a minuet to take a look around. Is there a fire in the fire-place? What material are they burning? Space Heaters? Kerosene Heaters? Level of contents in the structure? (more stuff in the house, more stuff to burn, bigger fire) If you are in an apartment complex or neighborhood, you can probably guess that if this family is heating their home a certain way then other families in the area are doing the same, and it can give you a clue as to what you may encounter if going to a fire in these buildings.
Additionally do some reading on the types of space heaters, and other ancillary heating devices available. A simple trip to your local hardware store will give you an idea on why types of heaters you will be facing. The people who work there may even be able to give you some valuable information.
Just like with anything else we have to consider the tactical changes we must anticipate during this time of year and involving fires like the aforementioned. Most people do not heat rooms they do not live in, so space heaters typically reside in bedrooms, and other living spaces. That makes these high target areas for victims, but also for heavy fire conditions. Like I mentioned before the amount and type of contents inside a structure has a direct correlation with the possibility to have a fire (contents to close to heating element). You can not ignore the attic either as in cases of chimney fires the chimney insulation may not be adaquet to keep the heat from igniting the attic contents. If you attic is anything like mine then you know how major a fire that can be! Newer chimneys are more susceptible to this as the construction has changed, and usually instead of true masonry chimneys you have metal pipes with masonry facade to give you the classic look but not the classic insulation.
There is a lot of information to cover, and adjustments to make during this season, make sure you take the time to set your engine company up for success and focus your drills on topics like this, and other similar topics.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!