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Catching up and Chimney Fire Stuff

It feels like I am always just catching up! This time of year what else can you do. Working, holiday things, kids, shopping, class, passing the sick bug around! It seems like an endless loop that never ends leaving you wondering when will I have time!

Luckily I did have time to head to Fairfax City this past week to attend the 8 hour seminar “The New Firefighter: Intelligent Firefighting in lightweight Construction”. My brother and I along with about 200 other firefighters got to listen to a great seminar from BC Pete Vandorpe, and Firefighter Dalton from the Chicago Fire Department. The class focused on how to make intelligent decisions in newer construction homes. They exposed us to all kinds of data regarding the burn tests Underwriters laboratory has been doing on new construction components. While I was familiar with a lot of the studies it was great to hear from the guys that actually participated in them. I could go on and on about this but I’ll share two of the best things I gathered from the class.

1. Todays wood is different. The wood we have today is farmed and not allowed to age, affecting density so even when it is a true 2×4 is loses the potential to withstand heat and fails faster.

2. We have to stop calling training fires ‘Live Fires”. The fuel packages we use even in acquired structure burns are no where close to what happens out in the field. We need to call them “Simulated Fires” so that a false sense of security is not created in the public and in the younger firefighters we are training.

This was without a doubt a great class, sure some of the science stuff was dry but it is important in what we do. In order to make sound tactical decisions we have to analyse data, study fire behavior and building construction.

While I was away, I received a couple of requests to share some thoughts on Chimney Fires, so here are some.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FePpS_fIBA]

Chimney fires can be tricky because we can be lulled into a sense of self security. Usually they are not all that difficult, and there in lies the problem.

ALWAYS CHECK THE ATTIC!!!! Thsi should go without saying but the fuel loads in attics are ridiculous! In newer construction homes the chimneys are not as insulated as the older ones and the fire can extend into the attic space and what was once a contained chimney fire, is now an out of control attic fire.

Place a chimney kit in service this time of year. You kit should be some type of metal bucket, a canvas tarp, and fire-place shovel. This allows you to cover the carpet in front of the fire-place, and scoop out the burning debris into the bucket from the fire-place and remove them safely outside. Some like to include a mirror to try to look into the flu and chimney pipe, I am not a fan as I find it always fogs up.

Some people like to use chimney bombs. I am indifferent to them. A chimney bomb is essentially dry chemical extinguisher agent in a plastic baggie that you  drop in from the roof, through the top of the chimney. The bag melts due to the heat and the agent extinguishes the fire. I have seen it work and seen it not work, it is definitely a less damaging way to extinguish the fire as using water can damage the chimney cracking the mortar due to the rapid cooling effect.

However DO NOT be scared to utilize water application if you feel that the structure is in danger. I have had to use direct water application before and while it may damage the chimney water is still the best way to put a fire out.

Chimney fires can sneak up on you in a hurry, we need to treat them as STRUCTURE FIRES until we prove they are contained to the chimney and or fire-place.

Lastly thanks to everyone who listened to the first “Average Jakes Views From The Jumpseat”. The next episode will be coming VERY SOON so stay tuned to Firehouse.com .

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word and STAY SAFE!

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