FRM: Common-Sense Ventilation on the Fireground

Article from Jim McCormack stresses the need for "coordinated attack."

Ventilation is often misunderstood especially in today's new environment of lightweight construction, 21st century interiors and debated firefighting strategies. In the September issue of FireRescue Magazine Indianapolis lieutenant Jim McCormack writes about the need for our vent work to be coordinated with the fire attack. That comes across as a 'no-brainer' but real life actions have shown otherwise.

"With increases in technology, both in bunker gear and lightweight hose and nozzle combinations, firefighters can penetrate deeper into the structure without coordinating the vent—simply because the gear and equipment masks the environment. Nothing has changed as it relates to coordinated attack or the success it had, we’ve just fallen victim to technology. The end result is that we oftentimes cause more damage to the property or ourselves because we haven’t stuck to the basics of coordinating attack and ventilation, which create the easiest environment to extinguish the fire. Instead, we’ve allowed technology to determine the tactics we use—unfortunately, at the expense of sound fireground operations."

Jim makes a good point that many have argued more along the line of firefighter burn injuries. What has changed is our mental ability to translate the learned advantages and disadvantages from technology to the known, successful methods of firefighting. In many cases we see the effects on video.

On one hand ventilation can be too aggressive, accelerating fire spread before the nozzle team is ready.

On the other hand ventilation is done late or without communication with the nozzle team or interior truck team and the venting firefighter(s) now caused those inside to be chased out – or worse. "It’s not random ventilation; it’s coordinated by the inside team to allow them to possibly reach the victim. Failure to perform the ventilation may stall or completely stop the search due to conditions on the inside."

Read more of Jim McCormack's "Common-Sense Fireground Ventilation" online or in FireRescue Magazine's September 2011 issue. Be sure to also read through his blog below for more information.


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1 Comment

  • You can get really hurt when you have no clue like the firepeople in video one. Starting to wonder if this type of response to a structure fire isn’t the norm and why it is tolerated. Walking into the building upright, clueless venting, sloppy hose stretching.

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Backstep Firefighter

“To provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.”

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