On November 26th, 2022, South Fork Fire Rescue (CO) conducted two live-fire exercises in two single-wide trailers scheduled for demolition. A teaching moment occurred for new and seasoned firefighters alike, that we’d like to share with our fire family that follows our page.
In the first trailer, the inside had been completely outfitted with tongue and groove pine, substantially adding to the fuel load in the structure.
A 20-year veteran firefighter led the fire attack team for normal interior operations as it was lit, and the start of the burn seemed completely normal.
As the fire progressed, the fire attack team was near the door of the trailer and was cooling the interior with short bursts from the hose line. As is typical in a structure fire, the smoke began to bank down, reducing visibility inside.
There were no fingers rolling over, and no visible fire from the team’s location, which was about 3/4 of the building length away from the initial start. The team remained in place, observing the banking effects of the smoke.
Without warning, the hot gasses inside of the structure combusted, going from an incipient stage to near flash over in a matter of seconds.
The interior attack leader ordered the team to exit the building, as the fire had instantly deteriorated from a training evolution to a dangerous situation. Simultaneously, the veteran commander outside the structure noticed a dramatic change in the smoke behavior and also ordered the team out.
All firefighters exited safely, and no one was injured in the exercise. Firefighters conduct lengthy training in the signs of trouble when engaging in interior attack. They are also trained to read the smoke coming from the building, which could indicate a potential flashover situation.
The lesson learned today is to simply never underestimate the situation. Two highly experienced veterans with hundreds of hours of burn time conducted the exercise with no concerns and saw no warning signs of danger until the situation devolved in a matter of seconds.
It is imperative to have experienced personnel leading an attack team, and equally important to have the same experience watching from the outside. That being said, never underestimate your opponent, and learn to make instant decisions to evacuate. Again, no warning signs of a flash-over condition were present.
However as learned today, a safe position can become life-threatening quickly, no matter the amount of experience at the helm.
We at SFFR would like to share our experience today with other firefighters that follow our page, simply to remind them to maintain situational awareness, and to pay attention to detail.
The eyes on the outside watching the scene are just as important as the eyes inside the structure. Even when things are going smoothly, account for the 1% of the time that they don’t. Had the fire attack team been deeper into the structure, or the two command staff failed to notice exigent signs, the training exercise could have ended much worse.
Stay safe fire family, and use this training moment to help your up-and-coming members understand the importance of what we’re teaching.
– Tyler Schmidt, Interior Attack Leader
ARTICLE CREDIT: SOUTH FORK FIRE RESCUE