You are a firefighter and upon arrival at the scene of a working fire you have a lot of decisions to make. One of the most key decisions a chief officer, or firefighter following standard operating procedures has to make in the early stages of a building fire is whether to ventilate or not? The strategy of venting fire buildings must be approached from many angles. In the United States it has long been accepted that there are three criteria for making that decision. Vent for life, safety or the fire with that in mind firefighters must make themselves aware of the effects of ventilating structure before making the that decision. All fire departments should have a set of standard operating procedures (SOP’s) that serve as a frame of reference for firefighters when determining how best to handle a fire situation. Venting for life is a situation that is routinely part of those SOP’s.
The Jefferson Parish Louisiana Fire Departments SOP’s relating to venting for life states: “Firefighters may create openings, or break windows, to gain access from an exterior position to carry out a primary search in a high-risk area of the structure.” These openings are most often windows that can be in an area adjacent to the fire or in another area of the fire building that is deemed most effective. This method of ventilation is called V-E-S (vent, enter, search) and while it is a common practice among fire departments it is a strategy that is often filled with hazards but may produce great rewards for the search team. Employing this method requires accuracy (venting the correct windows); and anticipation of the potential of fire spread. This operation needs to be carefully communicated to all concerned on the fire scene to anticipate the effects of what is about to happen. Just as in venting for life when a decision is being made to perform a venting operation for the fire situation careful thought must be placed on the objective. The primary objective is to reduce heat levels and improving visibility for the crews working on the interior of the fire building.
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When deciding where to vent in this situation it almost seems like an easy one – vent the room you are working in. This can in fact be a decision that proves fatal for you and the crew you are working with. Though ventilation needs to be carefully coordinated with the interior crews, unless an escape route is being created no ventilation procedure should be performed by a crew working in the fire building. Most structure fires are burning in a ventilation-controlled environment and while the fire is burning it is searching for air.
Opening a window can cause a negative pressure situation and the fire will race in the direction of the source of air and if the new air supply is in or behind the room where crews are working the results can be a disaster. Another factor in venting a building where crews are operating is water pressure. The introduction if a new air supply will cause the fire to increase the burn rate therefore increasing the heat level of the fire. That being said, fire crews must have the proper water pressure to deal with the fire if it grows. As with all fire operations if you are not sure that venting for the fire is the best direction just remember that life safety always comes first. Quite often the first ventilation procedure (and the most dangerous) is at the entry way of a structure.
... that the department is comprised of six stations with 676 firefighters currently working in Costa Mesa. I learned that their station averages ... water. This truck is used for ventilation, forcible entry, and carrying extra tools to fight the fire. As he was giving me ... and could cause seriously injury.” Lastly, He showed me the air bag system that they use for car accidents. “These bags ...
This is most often seen as a necessity and not typically considered the first ventilation action. However, firefighters must be observant in order to identify a situation where a fire is burning in an under ventilated state. This is where ventilating for safety comes into play. Firefighters must be aware that the rapid introduction of air at an entry way can cause the fire to intensify and escalate causing a flashover, smoke explosion or back draft which can difficult for initial attack team to handle.
Therefore, it can be a good idea to perform an initial ventilation procedure prior to forcing entry through a doorway. With these openings made it will, lower room temperatures, help prevent flashover’s and back drafts and generally ease the firefighting operation. As shown there are many reasons to ventilate building at an early stage of fire operations. It may be in an attempt at relieving conditions for firefighters and trapped occupants within. It is also seen as a method to prevent the most extreme fire behavior, rapid-fire progress as well as controlling spread of the fire. Before any ventilation is performed the firefighter must make the decision based on one intention – what is the objective? If firefighters keep this in mind while approaching a fire scene they will more often than not achieve the results desired..