As someone with a passion for science and firefirefighting... I'm interested in hearing how science and research has affected your department?  Are the findings of studying by NIST, UL, and NIOSH being integrated into your department and especially on the fireground?  Are firefighters reading or taking classes on fire behavior and how different tactics scientifically affect fire?  Are technologies such as thermal imagers being used?

Views: 422

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Had the chance years ago to help revolutionize how we fight wildland fires. The mindset at the time, and for that matter now was one of distrust for science. The program was called cellular automata which could have enable an incident commander to use imagery from satellites real time on one-half of the screen and the other half, using a light pen to denote where actual fire breaks would be constructed. The program contained historical and current weather data to predict where the fire would be headed, and the intensity. One of the key points was that it really is not necessary to do as much denuding of the landscape like we still end up doing. Instead, using the analogy of a rock in a dry stream bed, imagine a flash flood cruisin' down the stream bed. When it hits the rock, it simple goes around it. This same analogy works when dealing with fire. If you have an obstruction, the fire goes around it. With this said, building smaller buffer zones but precisely placed could have the same mitigation effects as constructing a larger buffer zone using heavy equipment. Using technology and science, we someday will have the ability to make use of lasers for igniting brush and typical ladder fuels for backfiring, coupled with this concept. This all proved to be just to radical a concept for the fire service to embrace. 

Is this a far out concept, never to be actually used. Nope... It's being used for predicting urban growth as just one example. Maybe someday, the fire department will be ready to adopt science as the key for changing how we do things and doing things a lot more efficiently in the process.


The problem with a lot of the published science for firefighting is its done in a peer review format so scientists are writing it to be read and argued about by other scientist. Case in point is a recent study by UL on the effects of venting on a fire in identical constructed homes, one constructed and furnished circa 1950 the other constructed circa 6 months ago. There was some really good info in the final report but it was like 200 pages or so and required 4 days and washing down nodoze with 5 hr energy drinks in between pots of coffee to make it through all of the report.


Any research paper worth being called research needs to be peer reviewed, it's how the process works.  It's not done to make it hard to read for the non-scientific person but just follows a specific format.

The first place to look is the Table of Contents, wherein you can find Executive Summary, Results, Discussion, Findings, Summary of Findings, etc, all of which will give you the results of the study (cuts to the chase).

Here is the Executive Summary and the Full Report is here (this is 19MB download, 405 pg. but worth the read since it's been brought up.)

What do you think the solution to that is?  Do you think it would be beneficial to have more people with firefighting and science experience that read the reports and helped translate them into applicable tactics and information for fire departments?

 Do you think it would be beneficial to have more people with firefighting and science experience that read the reports and helped translate them into applicable tactics and information for fire departments?


I would agree with such an idea. While there is no doubting the science in the job and the research and studies thus leading to better tactics, technological tools (TICs, etc) and as FF's in general leanr much more today as opposed to the past........there is still a data breakdown point.


With many studies there is a lot of info that is documented, but for much of this, it comes down to just get this shit into layman's terms. For instance we can have temperature reading, thermocouples, formulas and so forth, but really, how will this info affect Jake Firefighter? Out of many them medical or is fine to have the data, but let's show how to break down that data. Let's get that data in a format that it can be easily and readily referred to when we need to present it.


Having attended the IAFF Redmon Health and Safety conference last year, there is a lot of studies and info and so forth affecting the health and safety of FF's. While much of tha data is great to have......break it down. Seriously, you start to lose both the message and the interest of people if the data is difficult for the lay person to understand and use. Having sat through a few of these classes, it can get dry.....while the means to get from point A to point B can be important......what does it really mean? I don't mean this to undermine anyone's work, but it would definately help to help translate the info.

Well... that's essentially what I am interested in doing.  Not sure how to do it though.  I have a degree in physics and unexpectedly found a passion for firefighting and I would really love to be involved in helping translate the research to useable tactics and knowledge.  If you have any suggestions on how I could do this, let me know. :-)

You could try writing a 'Firefighting For Dummies' book; might be a big seller in here.  Just be sure to include pictures of flashing bright lights and boobies, seems to be what interests most a lot of many members here. 

Physics huh?  Never could wrap my head around it, too mathy.  Even though there is a lot of info in some of these (UL) reports, it really only requires an *adequate* education (ya know...basic high school stuff, up through (and including) 12th grade).  But failing that, if you find that your department would benefit from your synopsis I would say, go ahead and do it. Sometimes it's just a matter of re-wording/re-phrasing something that makes it more accessible.  It could work against you: some people may be insulted because you think they can't understand the reports (not only can you not fix stupid, you can't even reason with it.)  Let members in your department know of your area of expertise and your willingness to help out and see where it goes.

Not sure how much experience you have as a FF but you could approach your local/state fire school/academy. However, as a caveat; NFPA requires Fire Instructors to have Fire Instructor I so you might want to head in that direction first.  From there, you might be able to develop a lesson plan on basic fire behavior, extinguishment or some other aspect, derived from your knowledge of physics.  Failing all of the above, I've found that a rolled up newspaper and a stern "NO!" can work wonders.

Someone with a degree in physics and a passion for firefighting would be perfect for writing a textbook for the fire service!

Interesting topic: scientists write for other scientists. But there are actually scientistist who are great teachers and scientists who really understands how their stuff interacts in the "real world" (and others that shouldn't be allowed outside an office...). And there are a lot of fire fighters who understands the science and how it works in reality. The problem is usually to get the right people in the same room at the same time. If you do, magic will happen!

Keep up the good work!

 Here is a post by Capcity with an attached article. It is well worth the read. As it clearly spells out  what  us Firemen have been saying since Moses was a back stepper.

Actually, someone with a degree in physics and YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A FIREFIGHTER would be perfect for writing a textbook for the fire service!

How 'relevant' would a textbook be, written by someone who only has a few years in the fire service?  What do they know about strategy and tactics (and not the book learning kind either, but the hard won,fireground battles kind)?

Sure, having a degree in the hard sciences can help a person understand fire science and behavior but it still comes back to actually having put lessons into practice, for a number of years across the spectrum of firefighting.

Same goes for teaching: Sure, one can be relatively inexperienced as a fireman, taken a lot of classes and gotten Fire Instructor I and be *qualified to 'teach*, but that really is little more than reading from a book.  Being able to apply fireground lessons to a curriculum is what makes a teacher a good (or great) teacher.  Or put another way, would you really want a Driving Instructor teaching your child Driver's Education, who is 18 years old and only as 2 years of driving experience themselves? Or writing the book on Driver's Ed?

I understand the need to have things peer reviewed but surely somewhere in the UL and other such agencies, they have someone that can translate it into something more closely resembling the version of english most of use.

As a chief I served under used to say "You need to make it simple so that when Mongo steps off the Ladder he understands"

I agree.  I am most certainly not in a position to write a textbook now.  I don't have anywhere enough experience to tell firefighters how to do their job.  Maybe I will eventually.

But how do you think science and all the studies being done plays a role in how we should teach and design our tactics?  Should tactics be changed because of an experimental results?

I'm not sure what the right balance is.  There are certain limitations going from the lab to the field.  But, at the same time, experience has its limitations.  The fire service means unpredictability.  Experience can only help so much when facing a new type of call or rare disaster.  And experience may have gotten firefighters killed because they relied on experience and knowledge that is becoming less relevant in some cases (fire behavior is changing as building construction and content, etc changes).

I'm still relatively new to the fire service, still gaining mastery of the skills.  But it's frustrating to hear senior firefighters teaching things that well-experienced officers and scientists both are saying aren't that true. Who do I trust?  What I read in a NIST study?  What an officer reports in a Fire Engineering magazine?  I guess I like to understand WHY we're doing something.

And in response to your remark about the 18 yr old teaching driver's ed. No, I wouldn't want them teaching it.  But I think they (provided a clean record, high level of maturity, etc.) could play a very important role as an assistant.

Reply to Discussion


FireRescue Magazine

Find Members Fast

Or Name, Dept, Keyword
Invite Your Friends
Not a Member? Join Now

© 2019   Created by Firefighter Nation WebChief.   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact Firefighter Nation  |  Terms of Service