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The ART of Reading Smoke

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1 The ART of Reading Smoke
This program was developed by Battalion Chief Dave Dodson, a 24-year Fire Service Veteran. It is offered as firefighter safety course. It may not be used for any resale or money-changing venture. The PowerPoint graphics were developed by Battalion Chief Mike Scott – most pictures are the property of individual photographers – respect their rights and don’t reproduce them in any manner. Developed by: Dave Dodson FE Story Board Dave Dodson

2 Why “Read” Smoke? To determine “HOW MUCH” fire
FE Story Board Dave Dodson

3 Why “Read” Smoke? To help find the LOCATION of the fire
FE Story Board Dave Dodson

4 Why “Read” Smoke? To help predict COLLAPSE potential
FE Story Board Dave Dodson

5 Why “Read” Smoke? To help PRIORITIZE Strategies & Tactics

6 Why “Read” Smoke? To PROTECT Firefighters from a “HOSTILE FIRE EVENT”

7 The “ADVANCED” Basics Concept #1: Smoke is Fuel Gases Aerosols
Particulates are suspended solids like carbon, dust, and fibers. Aerosols are suspended liquids like water, oil, tar, and creosote. Gases in smoke include Carbon Monoxide (under-ventilated fires), Benzene, Hydrogen Cyanide, and Acrolein (all flammable). There is more “stuff” in smoke than ever – these are just the biggies. Particulates FE Story Board Dave Dodson

8 The “ADVANCED” Basics Concept #2: Fuels have changed: Mass and Make-up! Mass is fire resistance and time – lower mass means things heat up and off-gas quicker. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

9 The “ADVANCED” Basics Concept #3: Smoke has trigger points:
Flash Point Fire Point Ignition Temperature Flashpoint and Fire Point require a spark or flame to ignite the smoke. Ignition Temperature means that the gases will self-ignite. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

10 The “ADVANCED” Basics How does “flammable range” factor in?

11 Flammable Range & the Three Fires
Too Rich . . . Too Lean . . . Just Right . . .

12 The “ADVANCED” Basics Need to be able to determine...
What stage is the fire in… Is the “box” absorbing heat? Laminar vs. Turbulent smoke flow

13 “ HOSTILE ” Fire Events Flashover Backdraft Smoke Explosion
Rapid Fire Spread

14 FLASHOVER WARNING SIGNS: Turbulent Smoke “Rollover”
Auto Ignition outside Smoke –Cloud Ignition is likely after flashover Often, a flashover cant take place because the mixture in a room is too rich to burn – opening a door or window can cause the flash…this is a delayed flashover, not necessarily a backdraft. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

15 BACKDRAFT Remember – Backdraft is triggered by O2 being introduced to a pressurized “box” Yellowish-grey smoke Whistling Bowing windows “Sealed” containers Backdraft and smoke explosion are still argued in the fire service. For understanding in this context, Backdraft happens when air (oxygen) is introduced into a pressurized, closed container that is above smoke ignition temperature. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

16 SMOKE EXPLOSION Remember – A Smoke Explosion is a spark or flame applied to a mixture below its ignition temperature Trapped gases in upper areas Growing fire Increasing smoke density Air intake overtaking smoke exiting Again, not to argue terms: Smoke explosion can be used to explain the event where trapped gases are not hot enough to burn – but a sudden introduction of a spark or flame causes the smoke to “pop.” FE Story Board Dave Dodson

17 RAPID FIRE SPREAD Usually “Container” Influenced
Fuel for fire spread is smoke driven vs. contents surface flaming Look for fast-moving smoke in high pressure zones (stairs and hallways) If smoke is moving faster than a firefighter can – and ignites, the firefighter will be burned. Look for fast moving smoke in hallways and stairways, once it moves faster than firefighters, look out. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

18 “ Reading Smoke” Observations are typically made from outside - inside observations hide the “real” picture.

19 “ Reading Smoke” Nothing is absolute
Visible FIRE is easy to read - look past it for the real story Compare vent openings Flames are at their “end-potential.” Smoke is the future of the incident – and gives you a better understanding of what the fire will do next. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

20 The ART of Reading Smoke
A 4-STEP PROCESS to help predict fire behavior and hostile events

21 Step 1: Evaluate Key Factors
Volume Velocity (Pressure) Density Color The hardest thing about reading smoke is dropping “light and heavy” mentalities – and comparing the volume, velocity, density, and color of smoke coming from openings. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

22 VOLUME Always relative to the “Box”
Tells “how much” fuel has off-gassed Sets the Stage

23 VELOCITY (Pressure) How fast is the smoke leaving?
Can indicate volume or heat Helps find the location of the actual fire Volume pushed smoke will leave the opening and slow down almost instantly. Heat-pushed smoke will keep its speed. The find the seat of a fire, look for the fastest smoke from like-sized openings or cracks. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

24 DENSITY Most Important Factor Quality of Burning Continuity of Fuel
Likelihood of an event “Degree” of the Event In essence, density tells you how bad things are going to be. VENT HIGH! FE Story Board Dave Dodson

25 COLOR Rarely tells “material burning” Stage of Heating
Location of Fire Amount of Flaming “Brown” Smoke “Black Fire” White and slow = early heating. White with speed = hot fire but the smoke you see has traveled distance. Black is late heating (hot). Black and thin means the fire is nearby. Black and thick means “Look Out!” Brown smoke is from the mid-late heating of unfinished wood (structural components?). FE Story Board Dave Dodson

26 “BLACK FIRE” “Black Fire” is the term we give to High Volume, High Velocity, Extremely Dense, Black Smoke. It is the sure sign of impending flashover – VENT & COOL are your only choices.

27 Step 2: Weigh Factors Container (most important factor)
Thermal Balance Weather Firefighting efforts

28 Step 3: Judge the Rate of Change
How fast are SMOKE conditions getting better or worse?

29 Step 4: Predict the EVENT
Consider that: One hostile event can - and usually will - lead to another event. Communicate your observations. Warning Signs are not always visual – use your KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENCE. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS…

30 Some other “Tricks” When you open a door or window - watch what the smoke does – and what the fresh air does!

31 Some other “Tricks” A 5-second change in any key factor means an event has taken place – the key is to define what event has taken place and to forecast what will likely happen next.

Add real video examples here. Find videos for purchase at , , , and Some Examples FE Story Board Dave Dodson

33 You Can Make a Difference!

34 Special THANKS to: Mike Scott, Battalion Chief, Kent (WA) Fire
David Ross, Chief of Safety, Toronto Fire Services Peter McBride, Shift Safety Chief, Ottawa Fire Mike Scott = made this PowerPoint (edited by Dodson). Dave Ross = encouraged development of this program and added technical background. Peter McBride = Serious Technical support and review. FE Story Board Dave Dodson

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36 Be Safe – Make it Safe THANK YOU!

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