FDIC International 2017 Class: Fireground Deconstructed

Nick Ledin teaching his class Fireground Deconstructed at FDIC International 2017

Regarding new and different ideas about fireground strategy and tactics, Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Ledin of the Eau Claire (WI) Fire Department emphasized the importance of listening, keeping an open mind, and critical thinking. At his Thursday, April 27 classroom session, “Fireground Deconstructed,” he told students that although fire departments around the United States and around the world may employ a variety of fireground techniques differing from those in one’s own department, this does not mean they are necessarily wrong.

Ledin reviewed laboratory research on fire dynamics such as the time to flashover in rooms with legacy vs. modern furnishings and the importance of door control in ventilation. The divide between the laboratory research on fire dynamics vs. practical fireground experience is illustrated by common phrases such as “science vs. the street,” and “the lab coat vs. the bunker coat.” But it need not be an either/or consideration, he said. The conclusions reached through laboratory research and through practical experience can both be correct in their own context.

For example, Ledin noted the importance of coordinated ventilation on the fireground. Fire incident videos shown illustrated the difference in outcomes of coordinated vs. uncoordinated ventilation. Interior suppression and exterior venitilation personnel must communicate before ventilation is carried out. Formerly, firefighters were taught to “ventilate early and often” and “ventilate as you go.” However, this uncoordinated ventilation may have just fed the fire more air and allowed it to extend into uninvolved areas and also endanger firefighters. Door control is another important factor in ventilation. The importance of keeping a structure’s doors shut before water is applied to the fire was recognized 150 years ago. 

The fireground is constantly evolving, he noted. In 1979, the year he was born, Ledin said, the average home size was 1,400 square feet, whereas in 2017, it is now 2,700 square feet. Moreover, fires are reaching higher temperatures more quickly. According to research, in 2009, a fire in a compartment could reach 600°F in under six minutes, in 2011, 900°F in less than five minutes, and in 2014, 1,600°F in less than four minutes. This emphasizes the importance of speed on the fireground in accomplishing entry, search, and laddering. 

In understanding the fireground of today, firefighters must exercise cognitive discipline and learn all they can about current research on such topics as fire dynamics, water dynamics, building construction, and reading smoke, among others.  

Ledin offered the following quote from the late Tom Brennan, one-time editor of Fire Engineering, “You can never know enough about something that can kill you.”

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