Smoke Is Fuel. Brief Moment in Fire Science at New York House Fire

Video of a New York house fire reminds us how quickly black turns to orange.

The video below should remind you that today’s fire compartment and behavior are changing. In the past, simply venting for venting sake was scientifically unchallenged by many. Today we have to stop and consider if our actions will cause an adverse reaction in the fire’s behavior.

The fire scene shown is reported to be from Newark, New York. In it we see what appears to be a minute’s worth of initial operations. Pay attention to the indications of rapidly changing pyrolysis as well as the firefighter ascending the ladder. Given the placement of the ladder, I’m not certain if the actions intended are to effect VES or ventilation only; however, no fireground is perfect so take what can apply to your department and go from there.

Ask your members:

1. Given the location of the entrance how much maneuverability will the line need? (It looks like a 180-degree turn to get to the seat of the fire, maybe.)

2. Unless an obvious rescue is present where would you place your ladder for VES?

3. If the first floor windows were already vented, as shown, would you keep the backup line on the outside to prevent fire from burning members on the ladder or would you have it follow the initial line?

“Focusing On The “V” In VES” Dugan, FireRescue Magazine, July 2009
“A Truckie’s Guide To Knowing House Layouts”, Kertzie, FireRescue Magazine, June 2009

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  • Nate Q. says:

    Definietly a nice little reminder. I found the UL Ventilation material really interesting…it should definitely make everyone start to think about the need for coordinating attack and venting. Nice to see the side-by-side comparisons, too.

    I also liked the referenced articles, especially the Mike Dugan one. It’s a nice primer (along with the above video) to get a crew discussion started.

    As for the questions posed, my take is as follows (I’ll have to post the crews thoughts next shift).

    1.) Agreed, looks like at least a 90 degree bend needed. The control and back-up need to make it happen for the nozzleman.

    2.) Without someone present in the “A” window, that little porch roof on “D” looks like clearer access to the 2nd floor room, and more room for victim removal if that’s the way we have to get them out. That being said, that’s just based on what I can tell from the camera angle.

    3.) If I had a member on the ladder in the shown position/conditions, I’d likely keep the back-up line portecting them until the task (vent or VES) was completed. After, they could go in and back-up the initial line.

  • CHRIS says:


  • Nate Q. says:

    I must respectfully disagree. Given that we’re seeing roughly a minute of video, kind of hard to say that the house “was gone upon arrival”. From what I can tell, looks like a front room lighting off…no smoke from any other windows, nothing from any other side. Looks like something a couple of lines can stop. Chance for a successful rescue? Sure there is, it all depends on where they’re at. Front room? No. Rest of the house? Yes.

    We had one almost identical to this a while back, and removed two occupants from the rear window via portable ladder (interior stairs weren’t an option), and the engine extinguished with two handlines.

    Other than the ladder placement (the reasons behind which I do not know as I wasn’t there), it appeared that the FF’s on the line were going to risk a “little” to save “a lot” of the house.

  • Bill Carey says:

    Comment on the same video, on Firefighter Nation, from an individual reportedly who was there as part of a EMS assignment states that the ladder was placed as it was for vent work and not VES.

    Bill Carey

  • J. Sholey says:

    How about taking a second and stopping the compartment fire through the window? If you can change the conditions of the box that the fire is in, before entry, you can have a more successful interior attack. Is this a great candidate for a Positive Pressure Attack? I think so.

  • Brendan says:


    Anyway. This house is not “gone on arrival.” If there was fire blowing out of every door and window, maybe (but I bet we could still save the shell). Smoke? Go in and get it, or go home.

    No wonder we see so many pools and parking made on fire video sites nowadays- there really ARE people who think like “Chris.”

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