Video Training: Smoke Explosion?

This video has been making the rounds for a while now. We have not posted it on here yet, and we think it is worth seeing. You can see the first companies arrive on scene and everything seems to be going pretty well. First line is being stretched and is ready to advance. Ladders are being thrown and what appears to be in preperation for ventilation. A second line has been stretched. You can see one or two guys get a good look at the building on all sides. Nothing out of the ordinary, and it is all being done calmly and quickly. Thats when we get to the meat of this video, where the fire behavior changes very rapidly. Take a look.

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Any thoughts on what caused this? How would you react? Any tactics you would change or perform afterwards? If this is what you had showing upon arrival, what would your assignments have been?  Throw your thoughts out there for all of us to hear if you have some.

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11 Comments on “Video Training: Smoke Explosion?”

  1. TRUCK 4 Says:

    I can’t remember how many times I hace seen this video but it shocks me every time. If I were the first due officer I don’t believe that I would ask my crew to do anything different. My size up would sound like this: ” Truck 4 arrived to a working fire in a single story, wood frame, single family with heavy fire in the rear, charlie side, and moderate black smoke showing from the front door, Alpha side. First due engine, 1 3/4″ to the front door, Truck 4 will provide FE and vent. WORKING FIRE.”

    I think they did a great job because as you watch the fire conditions in the rear appear to diminish and only flare up prior to the “smoke explosion.” It would appear to me that the fire is being fed by some sort of extra fuel, not the typical fire loading found in a house. Of course, what is typical. The only thing I would change is to get the fan into the front door a bit earlier. Would it have changed conditions? I don’t know, but that applied with the crews interior operating their hose line might have knocked that fire down.

    Just my thoughts, great video.

  2. REM Says:

    I have scene this video many times also. I wish we could see that back side of the house and that would definitely give a huge piece that is missing. I have to believe this is an outside fire and its extending into the house. You can see that main body of fire in the back really doesnt change much until they get water on almost at the 4 min mark of the video. What about one crew goes interior as they did and have another crew take that 2nd line in the front yard and stretch it around back and knock down the main body of fire out back. Great Video! Thanks for all the Good info!

  3. 13 Truck Says:

    I agree with REM. A huge piece of the puzzle is missing by not being able to see the rear of the dwelling. As many times as I’ve seen it, I’m convinced that the fire showing from C division is extending through the rear windows, not the roof. Vertical ventilation is a critical task to preventing this type of hostile fire event.

  4. L Chapel Says:

    So I’m the truck officer that receives the orders from the first engine, as stated by Truck 4’s post, to provide force entry and ventilation. From the first arriving truck’s perspective this is how I tend to size-up these structures and fire conditions:

    On arrival I scan the ground level for what’s happening: civilian, firefighter and fire activity. Then I start at the top of the structure and work down. I try to do it the same at all events, in an effort to develop a routine and hopefully not miss anything. This top down scan is performed while looking at as many sides as practical.

    Before I saw the smoke explosion my observations were:
    • Firefighters laying out attackline – side A
    • Possible outside fire – side C
    • Fire extension in the garage attic with smoke emitting from it’s A-B corner. From under the garage door, soffits and gable vent
    • Smoke pushing from side A soffit – house
    • Fire showing from front door glass only

    Of all the events, the smoke pushing out of the soffit on the opposite side of the house, and far removed from the fire, is my number one concern. Our options are limited but effective if time permits. Vent high: house and garage.

  5. Robby O Says:

    Yea not seeing the whole picture leaves alot to be guessed about.

    The one thing I can comment on and this has been hotly debated on the fire service web is masking up. While I do come off the rig masked up, I dont care if you do or dont…but what is the big issue is if you are masking up in the yard dont do it next to possible vent openings….this is not the only video like this that has shown the dangers of masking up near possible vent openings.

    In my opinion you have to treat it like a hazmat incident. When you are within the collapse zone of a fire building you need to be ready to work….and ready to work in my opinion is full PPE with your mask on….on air is your choice (some SCBAs dont have the technology to have your regulator ready while breathing ambient air) but either way you need to be ready to go.

  6. R-Fr Says:

    Thanks Lt. Chapel for the very detailed description of what a really good truck boss is methodically looking at/for.

  7. GaryLane Says:

    I know the website is called “Irons and Ladders” but pretend for a minute it’s called “Hose and Nozzles”…hey, we all work as a team anyway, right? Everyone is right about not seeing the whole building/knowing all the circumstances with the fire. Here’s the thing though…we always have to get water on the fire….and we typically want that to happen as fast as possible. So here goes the Monday morning quarterbacking….why not(if possible) walk around the B or C-side to the main(?) body of fire? If that wasn’t possible, then the front door is great… Now I know you’re thinking “but what about pushing the fire into the house?” and I understand the concept, but sometimes we get so hung up on this “fighting from the unburned side” that we allow half the house to burn while we stretch through an unfamiliar, zero-viz, hostile environment, searching for the fire…and how much does a smooth bore (if you use one) really “push” anyways? Remember -we are crawling through a fuel that hasn’t lit up yet! If that black smoke is pumpin’ out the front door, eaves, roof cracks, soil stacks etc… it is just one step away from lighting up (usually we are in,under,or near it at this point)! Keep in mind that the “fuels have changed” and fire gets bigger and hotter, quicker than it did 40 years ago. We have to get an initial quick knock down (if possible) before we get blinded by the excitement of going in. Weighing the pros and cons of “pushing” fire into the “unburned” area where a victim might be versus putting the fire out before it extends due to a delay in the stretch/finding it, could be the topic for many, many cups of coffee at the kitchen table. …and speaking of coffee, I think I need another cup!

  8. Lynch Says:

    I understand thinking of trying to access the rear and get
    water on the fire quickly but I still think the hose team is better
    served by entering through the front door and getting that hoseline
    between the occupants and the fire. I agree that the truck
    needs to topside vent right away. That should alleviate the smoke and
    heat conditions for the hose team and allow for a quick knockdown.
    Also, by entering via the C side the hose team will have a longer
    stretch and more difficult hose management and have to advance through
    an area that has already been exposed to significant fire conditions
    and may be compromised. I think that an aggressive attack coupled
    with vertical ventilation would best suit this type of fire.

  9. daveO Says:

    The smoke explosion was caused when a large section of ceiling came down all at once. The Engine crew on the inside weren’t even aware it had happened until they saw the video. None of the guys outside were injured either.

  10. Fyrecapt Says:

    I’ll bite:

    I honestly do not believe the smoke explosion was caused by a section of ceiling coming down.

    If you look at the volume, velocity, density and color of the smoke, they were in pre-flashover conditions. I would have liked to seen the truck vent topside, during the attack. With that much black smoke pumping out, I would have also had my FF do a heat check in the atmosphere.

    The brothers in the video did a great job and thankfully nobody was injured.

    We need to really take a step back and evaluate our conditions before we enter. The fire service is having an increase in injuries and deaths attributed to rapid fire progression over the last several yrs.

    As for the fan at the door, that is another situation that screams watchout! FF’s need to know fire behavior and how the conditions will change if the fan is put in place at the door. It has its place, but not on every fire.

    Just my thoughts…anyone else?

  11. BuddyLee Says:

    Pictures are worth a thousand…
    What is a video worth.

    One of the first points I would like to make comes from “Street Smart Firefighting”, which takes a position on “Burned to unburned” vs. “Getting in quickly”. The point is made in the book that the rears of homes/fires can create more problems to stretching a hoseline, i.e. fences, doors, porches, distance, ect… I’ll take the front on this scene. Plus, the audio makes mention of a downed power line in the rear, possibly live. Enough for me to go somewhere else.

    Next, take a look at the elapsed time from when the initial line is stretched interior and when you begin to see steamy, grayish smoke. I personally did not see any reduction in fire until the end of the clip, though entry was made shortly after one minute into the video, with the major event being one and a half minutes after entry. Being a small structure, this should not have taken too long under average circumstances. I will admit that many fires have started in a cluttered space. Still, the smoke was banked down to about 2-3ft and if one got low enough, one could move through the scene with some sight. T.I.C. is a powerful tool.

    Smoke… heavy smoke and fire showing, fire doubles in size each minute or so… Swift attacks are good, but easier said than done. I disagree with the first post regarding setting up a fan soon thereafter. Heavy smoke = unburned materials in the air (FUEL) and with that much fire (SUSTAINED CHEMICAL REACTION/IGNITION SOURCE), and there IS heat. Fresh OXYGEN is all that is left to make the triangle/tetrahedron of fire. Then, to mechanically “pump” air into a hot, fuel riddled structure?… That is a big caution in my opinion.

    Ventillation… the vent-man on the roof… a wise older firefighter said once, “If the fire is already coming out of the roof, then you work is already done, it made the hole for you.” Get up, get the hole, get down. This fire had already compromised the roof enough to prohibit a ventillation crew on the roof.

    The backdraft/smoke explosion/drywall falling. Let’s just say that falling drywall had caused a rapid “flushing/pushing” of heat and smoke out of the strcture. To the fan/PPV approach, look what a little fresh air did with that dense smoke and heat! Ka-boom!

    No one injured, always a good start and end.

    What a mouthful, I’ll say my piece… Get in, get water on it. When that fails, know enough to pull back, rethink, and go to plan B. Smooth and quick firefighting, specifically hose advancement and water application, are usually the definitive solution to many problems during a fire. But, as always, easier said than done.

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