Structural fires are characterized by different aspects, especially as their size grows. By knowing how a fire can spread, firefighters can ensure the proper way for a fire attack strategy and protect firefighters from being injured. All buildings are not created the same and some buildings will burn at a faster rate than others. In order for firefighters to properly put out the fire, they must know what method of fire attack they will use. Although, buildings have sprinkler systems and portable extinguishers, not having them in the proper place can still result the fire to worsen.
In order for fire companies to limit the spread of structure fires, they expand the importance of fire sprinkler systems in the workplace and home environment, when to ventilate during a fire, and situational awareness when using different fire attack strategies.
According to OSHA, around 200 people die in the workplace every year due to fires and over 5,000 are injured. 2,570 people are estimated to die in home fires every year and approximately 13,210 are injured (OSHA, 2018).
Sprinkler systems activate quickly when a fire is detected. “The sprinkler sprays water forcefully over the flames, extinguishing them completely in most cases, or at least controlling the heat and limiting the development of toxic smoke until the fire department arrives” (NFPA, n.d.-a). Now, most home owners think that sprinkler systems are expensive. According to the Fire Protection Research Foundation, they issued an updated Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report in 2013. The report revealed that the cost of installing home fire sprinklers averages .
35 per sprinklered square foot for new construction. That’s down from $1.61 per sprinklered square foot that was in the Foundation’s 2008 report (NFPA, n.d.-b). However, homeowners are willing to pay similar amounts for carpets, driveways, or other home appliances. Home sprinklers are not only lifesaving, but they will reduce the amount of property loss in the event of a fire and cut homeowner insurance down. Although, sprinkler systems can be rewarding for homeowners, not having proper knowledge of installation can ruin your home. For example, having too many sprinklers in one room may cause a space to easily flood out which would lead to a warped floor. A sprinkler system should be designed so that water flow is at least 15 gallons per minute and up to a maximum of 40 gallons per minute (Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, 2012). You can lower the risk of fire-related fatalities just by having an automatic fire sprinkler system in your home or business. The risk of dying in a fire is decreased by about 80 percent after a sprinkler system is installed.
Ventilation is another strategic way when combatting a fire, but it can also end up making a fire worse. “Ventilation should be considered prior to fire crews operating inside a structure. Because not all fires are created equally, we should not necessarily hold back fire attack operations until a hole is cut; however, fire growth should be on everyone’s mind” (Frassetto, & Arizona Ladder Operations Cadre, 2012). How is ventilation coordinated with the fire crew? When firefighters arrive on the scene, they observe if the fire is self-vented. For example, if the smoke is seeping through the second-floor window, firefighters know it is self-vented and they would be able to enter the building to extinguish the fire. Now, what if the fire was not self-vented? Firefighters would have to create ventilation before entering the building or they could possibly cause back draft. Ventilation not only helps reduce back draft and flashover, but it increases the visibility for the crew that is in the structural space. If the building happened to have people inside, the ventilation would be used to benefit those who are trapped. Ventilation would draw the fire away from the people to allow them to escape the building. However, performing ventilation for life may intensify the fire conditions if it is not coordinated with other crew members (McCormack, 2011).
Every fire is different and there is not one specific way to put out a fire. Firefighters need to be able to make the correct decision when combatting a structural fire. This is where situational awareness is essential. If firefighters do not understand fire behavior, the chances of performing proper ventilation or fire attack strategy will be minimal. Depending on the goal to extinguish the fire, the person in charge must decide if an offensive or defensive attack will be used. An offensive attack is focused on saving those who are stuck in the building if the resources are present to deal with both fire attack and rescue tactics. If a defensive attack is being used, firefighters are unable to enter the structure because it is deemed unsafe and would not be able to save those stuck in the building (Lee, 2009).
With this research, I have learned that fire companies could limit the spread of fires by enforcing fire sprinkler systems, knowing how to ventilate, and having situational awareness. If fire companies promoted the use of fire sprinklers, it would reduce the amount of fire fatalities throughout the year. If fire sprinklers were installed in most homes or businesses, a small fire would be put out easily without damaging the entire property. If a structural fire were to occur, firefighters should be trained to be able to ventilate the building properly and knowing when they should ventilate because it could also waste time if the team is waiting for someone to make ventilation. Lastly, having situational awareness of the fire is important because firefighters should not risk their lives if they know that the building will collapse. More lives should not be taken when trying to perform a rescue. Knowing the proper fire attack strategy will ensure the safety of those who are fighting the fire and possibly those who are stuck inside.