By Robert Maloney
“If you think about air movement in buildings, you have to also think about the movement of smoke,” Michael Reick told attendees at “Fire Ventilation and Flow Path Control” workshop Monday afternoon at FDIC International. A regional fire chief for the county of Göppingen, Germany, he is also a research engineer and affiliated with the Fire Research Laboratory at the University of Stuttgart.
Noting that Germany, approximately 50 percent of the population live in multi-story dwellings, the stairway is the most important room in such a building. Since it is an exit route for the residents, responders must not allow smoke to spread there from the fire.
Controlling the flow path properly according to the situation will determine the course of the fire. If the air inlet or outlet is increased, the result may be fire growth and spread. If the inlet or outlet is limited, fire growth may likewise be limited.
Reick said the door to the fire compartment should be kept closed to keep the smoke from entering uninvolved areas and to avoid smoke damage. He also outlined several possibilities for maintaining door control.
He also reviewed the use of the fire curtains to control air flow into the fire compartment and the use of fans in keeping areas clear of smoke. Reick used several fire videos to illustrate the effects of proper and improper actions at fires regarding smoke containment, ventilation, and fire control. One incident reviewed is the subject of Reick’s March 2018 Fire Engineering article, “Limiting Fire Damage Through Coordinated Ventilation.”
Limiting fire damage through coordinated ventilation can be accomplished by controlling the door to the fire compartment, he said. However, he cautioned that “no one size fits all” regarding fire tactics, but that “keeping the situation stabilized is the goal.”