In our seminar  Residential Ventilation in a rural setting the other night these where some of the comments.


When do you Ventilate?


Where do you Ventilate?


Why do you Ventilate?


Remembering for every action we make on the fire ground there will be a reaction. Do you do a vertical or horizontal vent hole. And where?


One of the things that stuck out in my mind was this and makes perfect sense when you think about it is.


The most important question up here is why are you venting. For Fire or Life.

We vent for fire because we want the fire to do what we want it to do and go where we want it to go.

We vent for life by taking a window and doing a vent-enter search for a suspected or known victim.

This was the commit: If you do not know why your going to vent then you most-likely shouldn't vent at all.

If we vent in the wrong spot by taking a window for the sake of taking a window we will bring the fire right to us. So if we just had a room and content fire; well now we have a whole structure fire. If we have fire blowing out the roof already is there really any reason to put a guy on the roof?

This was just some of the comments made. If any organization is going to put on a 3 hour seminar I would recommend this one.


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What I don't believe is that we can reliably ascertain which times are which. We often can't determine location of victims along with location and extent of fire from an outside survey and/or interviews.


Sure, to a point. Yet, realistically if you have family pointing to the kid's room, or a bystander saying they just saw a person in "that" you go directly to that window looking to do a VES, or do what you would if there wasn't such a report? My point here is if stock is put in on on scene interviews in such a case, then why shouldn't they be considered reliable if everyone is reported out?


Articles and websites have stated that the exhaust openings should be 1 1/2 -3 times the size of entry point.


True, that is what the info says, but who is really going out measuring the differences? The issue is to have enough exhaust, and this is accomplished by taking out all the windows of the fire room, or adjacent rooms.


Numbers like these are very common in my NYC suburb (and NYC) and I suspect they are very common nationwide.


I've been to NYC several times and seen the challenges in structures as well as driving around the east coast etc and seeing the housing etc. It definately varies when you see structures in my area etc. So it really breaks down knowing your district and what you respond to.....the tactic may work, it may not given what you come to the table with.


The point about enlarging the openings also comes from "experts" in this field. I agree that it is a stretch but it's not my stretch


Who is saying this? I've been through Garcia and Kaufman's seminar a couple time.....the guys who started PPA....and never heard them talk about enlarging the opening. It was mentioned to ensure that window treatments are cleared and all glass removed, etc.....but nothing in terms of saw taking a saw to open the window more. At least that is how I'm reading your reference to "enlarging the opening".


Point four may be the most vital of all. Because if we use the entry point as a "test" of conditions, we are really saying that we don't know when we start the fan whether it will help or hurt (spread fire/smoke to other uninvolved areas).


I think you may be hung up on the "test" type of aspect. It really isn't some type of experimental point, but a coordinated effort. You break out the windows before turning the fan in....of course it hinges on having a good idea of where the fire actually is. The issue can be as simple as clearing out window treatments etc, but it really isn't some type of test aspect at all....instead it is indicators to look for.


If it does spread smoke/fire to uninvolved areas it is not a "generality" ; it is a major tactical error.


True, but when you go back on the experiments done and data documented and the number of times that they tried spreading fire or intensifying it and it didn't happen back their theory. I am also leary when it comes to spreading the fire, but we have also tried a few times to spread in training burns, and it didn't happen. I won't say it can't and I won't say it wouldn't, but my confidence was shored up more after conducting such training.


Point six is also not from me but from an "expert" in the field. I will say that once a fire has "darkened down" all ventilation, PPA or not, can have severe negative consequences.


The issue is to recognize the potential hazards, but ventilation would be paramount over sending crews into such an environment if able to. Again if you see darkened windows, it is a good chance that is where the fire is....ventilation should take place before the attack team opens that interior door.


I am not on a crusade against PPA. I just don't see it being appropriate at many fires. I see it as a specialized tool and tactic. I would hope that every department that uses it understands the relatively limited opportunities to use it appropriately.


Fine and good but to say that your questions haven't been answered to your satisfaction doesn't seem to reflect. Sure PPA is another tool and it is imperative that people know how to use it before implementing. There are applications for PPA, there are those that aren't.....yes it does entail knowing the difference.


However, the reality is that if the dept sees this as a tactic with applications, then shouldn't it be the perogative of FFs to know and understand it?


I suspect many departments and or members do not fully understand


That is generalizing. Sure you see remarks like Jim here where they use a fan because that's what they do.....absolutely that type of mindset gets people injured or killed. That is the problem when such a tactic is picked up by someone and passed on to their dept or other depts, but don't train on. Absolutely those are freaking dangerous depts to be associated with and no doubt, this is a tactic that should be trained on before considering implementing.


When you consider all the limitations, I'm a little surprised anyone bothers with fan purchase and training.


C'mon....there are plenty of applications for a fan. Yet, if you have a fan, why shouldn't you train with it? It is like saying there is no need to purchase a chainsaw if a rotary saw is available. There are applications, it just needs to be trained on before implemented.


I'd much rather see the limited money and training time available to the fire service used for basic firefighting skills that are appropriate at all fires. Things like fast entry and search. Locating and confining fire. Fast stretching and operation of hoselines. Vertical ventilation directly over fire. Controlled horizontal ventilation ahead of hoseline. I do understand that there are often staffing issues involved.


Sure doing the basics is applicable, but training should also entail applications for the diversity seen. One doesn't need to spend money to pull lines, throw ladders, etc.....those are easy company drills....but do you want robots or people to use their heads? Do you always use the same tool, or do ou have options? That is the point here, this is just another option.


Now in the NYC area and burbs, I don't know what the parameters are. I bet it is fairly safe to say in FDNY, the truck and engine have seperate roles. Such as you wouldn't see an engine guy cutting a hole and wouldn't see a truck guy manning a line. Around here that isn't the case at all, it wouldn't be uncommon to have an engine company sent to force entry, cut a hole, is just the nature of the resources we have and use.


When it comes to PPA, it is entirely possible that this may be the best tactical decision for a company rolling up to a fire, because it could be some time to get te rig and tools for roof ops.


I also suspect that PPA is used as a crutch by some because they are not proficient at the above firefighting skills.


C'mon, that is again generalizing and is disingenuous. If a dept is seriously utilizing this tactic and has trained on it to be confident in its use, then that typically shows proficency in FF skills. Those depts that have read a bit and watched some videos and then implemented this tactic, yes, they can be dangerous. Those depts with peoplethat "don't know why" they are doing this are dangerous. But you are painting with a broad brush with such a statement.



Overall I think we are on the same type of page. We happen to use PPA if applicable, it doesn't happen often, but it is something we have trained on and aware of uses etc. Since training and conducting our own experiments, it has broaden the confidence of the members. Roof ops are still done, but not as often, not because of some lack of skill proficency, but in the nature of the amount of lightweight and truss construction......coupled with the limitations on the amount of truck companies and available tools.


Where I'm at, it is a good chance to have multiple fires/ incidents where that second incident will be operating with very limited resources for a time period. Knowing and understanding PPA, gives us another tool to implement to mitgate a scene.


I am by no means some type of strong proponent of PPA, I'm all for training on the basics and so forth, but also a strong proponen of FFs knowing their options and how to use them. There are many different ways to accomplish tasks on the fireground, it helps to know and understand the options in case Plan A fails or just isn't appropriate.

Maybe I am misreading the comment from John Crabbe but I would like to clarify that I do not advocate setting up the fan because "that's what we do."  The reason I am asking questions is because I am very concerned about the lack of training when it comes to ventilation in MY department.  I have less than two years in the fire service and little real world experience but have found this thread very informational to say the least.  Mostly it has highlighted the fact that I don't know squat and need to get more training. 


Regardless of what you meant with the comments, there is room for concern with them. This is not an attack on your dept etc, but brings a better awareness to the realities and risks involved. When you make a comment of what some officer in another dept said about PPV fans, that is a concern. I think the overall point here is that even though using afan can be easier and doesn't entail putting people on the roof, it is by no means the only answer and there are most definate risks involved in its use.


The back and forth with John and I is moreless discussion on a tactic you may or may not use.

Jim, After 12 years some days I fell like I don't know squat either. I don't think any one is saying that about you at all. The fan did bring up a good point for discussion though. I have learned quite a bit on PPV and PPA so far. And when you say you need more training you are correct and so do I and everyone doing this job. Doesn't matter if we have been on the job for 1year or 40 years we need to train. I admire your honesty on here and you not being afraid to ask questions. This to me tells me that you are a eager FF. Who want's to learn and take his department to  a new level. I would like to see other's put their comments and concern's up here on the subject. We have over 200 views and I don't believe they can all be from the 5 of us.

Quite a few of my concerns have been well-addressed. Before I ever commented here on PPA, I looked at several articles, websites and videos on the subject (some by men named in this thread). When I saw there were parameters for size of exhaust opening I became concerned that if opening wasn't big enough then "back pressure" could develope and spread heat/smoke/fire gases to less involved areas of dwelling. John apparently believes that size is not a big issue; just take and clear whatever window you have. He may very well be 100% correct, but there is a clear discrepancy here. I don't remember the source but one instructor stated that if opening needs to be enlarged it is easy to cut frame construction with a chainsaw. John states he has never heard of this particular tactic.

It's really semantics here when we get to this "barometer of conditions area". I called it a "test" and John prefers to call it an "indicator". Call it what you will, but if the indication is that heat/smoke/fire gases are now venting from entry point, have we not spread it to other areas also? I would assume that the entry point would be the last place it would show. Wouldn't it fill all other areas of the dwelling before overcoming the pressure at entry? I am not talking about a fireball here, just higher heat and products of combustion. This must be a real risk or why would the instructors even bring it up?

Considering the above, I don't think it makes me closed-minded to still have concerns about PPA. Proponents and instructors alike put out conflicting information.

I don't believe I've painted with too broad of a brush when I questioned if SOME departments are using PPA inappropriately. Considering some of the finer intricacies of PPA (put out by it's proponents) along with conflicting information put out there, I don't think there is any doubt that some are not using it correctly. I don't mean to belittle anybody but I believe that is the reality.

I too would like to see more input on this. Shared experiences are invaluable.

Stay safe.

John and Derek, thanks for the reply.  I agree with John that the comments I made were concerning, mainly because I am concerned about the attitude towards training in my area.  Complacency, I fear, is going to be a killer in my area because we have been operating under the idea that nothing bad has happened so we must be really good.  We only respond to 7-10 structure fires a year so it is hard to stay proficient when some members of the dept. only get their 30 hours of training a year.  My reason for mentioning the other officer who said PPV is the only tool we use is that I am terrified that quite a few in my dept. may have been taught the how, but were never taught the WHY, and WHEN.  I have found the discussion between Mr. Murphy, Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Sinesi, and FETC great and have been following closely because it is the most information I have been exposed to on the subject, myself partly to blame for that lack of knowledge.  I will be attending the FF1 academy on June 15 to remedy some of the ignorance.  Being FF1 certified is not a requirement in my area, but I have not been satisfied with the level of instruction I have received in the area of structure fire.  We train like hell for wildland, but not structure.  I will be the first person  to attend the academy in the history of our dept.  The chief said I will then assist the training officer in bringing back the skills to the members.  So you guys might get tired of me asking a bunch more questions!  Thanks for the comments guys, I really appreciate it!

John, I have stated I'm not a fan of PPA. We have trained on it some and some on our department would like to see us use it more. We have two PPV fans but I have never seen a good reason to use one with fire inside the building. Some day that might change but for now I am more then content with proper venting and applying water. I would love to hear from others on this subject. I can not believe that nobody else on here has never used PPA or at least looked at it.

Jim, I am glad to hear you are going to take FF1. I find it strange that your chief would not encourage others to take it. Not trying to criticize your neck of the world but I thought New York's training and requirement's were at the bottom of the barrel. 

When I joined we had to take FF essentials. So I did then FF2 and so on. A few years ago they did away with essentials and went to a new FF1. So when we had some new members that had to take the FF1 I went and took it also. To this day when we have new members needing their FF1 or FF2 I always volunteer to take trucks to class when needed and help out. I find I always pick-up on something I didn't know or forgot. I can not stress how important training is. We have in department practice 3 Mondays a month. Now the County coordinator has split the 24 departments in the county into 3 Battalions. So every 3rd Sunday we do a SCBA training with all the departments in our Battalion. Some of the departments we are drilling with we would never get called out to unless they were burning the whole town down. But we are having a good time and learning how each of us operate and really has been some of the best training we have done in along time.  Never feel bad about asking me question's; I will help out any way I can. Remember the only dumb question is the one that isn't asked! Good luck and stay safe.

The issue really does boil down to training and understanding before using. If you (and I mean you in a general term) don't actually train on and understand a tactic, then how can it really be critiqued one way or the other?


Anyone can read, research, watch videos, look at data and so forth, but if they never get involved in a hands on way, then they really don't have the same experience. It is much like reading about, researching, etc of say the Sistine Chapel. One can get a good view through internet, through books, through other's first hand accounts and so forth, but can't say what the inside of the place is really like unless they experience it themselves.


In a sense, PPA is just another tool and tactic that can be an option. It is about knowing your district, your operations and so forth. For some it can be something to use, for others not so much. I'm betting a big difference between the viewpoints is we have actually done extensive training on this to have a good understanding of the applications as well as limitations. I would recommend that any other dept that uses this also has such an understanding and has conducted such training before implementing. We have done several training burns to try and move fire from one room to another and didn't happen. We have had a fire in a smaller room with a smaller window (exhaust) and the technique worked. I can say this with certainty because I have seen it done. Yet I am not naive to believe that this would always be the case.


I feel confident in my understanding of the tactic and limitations. It is an option, and not an option that is usually a first choice, but has been used with success when it was. As I said before, if the dept management and chief officers believe in the tactic, the prudent thing to do is to know and understand it well as a FF. I won't sit here and promote this as a tactic depts should train on and learn, it is their perogative to do so. My dept just so happens to be one to have incorporated this as an option and as such went through lengths to ensure the entire membership was trained in the tactic. I will not sit here and condemn the tactic either because questions weren't answered to a personal satisfaction, because the real only true way to get such answers is to get the first hand experience.

It has been explained to us how to do this and we have been shown, but you are right we have not practiced it and we probably should. We have 1 or 2 structure fire's in our district a year.  I will admit we have not trained on this I'm not sure our call volume really warrant's it. Plus the fact I have not found anyone close by that is proficient on the proper use off PPA. If I was to find someone with good experience with this I would be more then glad to train more on this. I will say I have learned a bunch just reading the comments between yourself and John Murphy. Has always thanks for your input.

50,000 members out there and the same couple of guys are going round and round on PPA! Anybody out there that wants to share some fireground experiences with it? What did or did not work and when it did or did not work? I have no hands-on-training in PPA. (Quite a surprise isn't it?) Training is great but has it's limitations. Controlled burns can be too "controlled". Exhaust opening size can be pre-determined, as can layout, flowpath, etc.. Fuel load is probably not realistic when compared to real fireground conditions. I don't see too many homes filled with pallets and or hay. Modern home contents are heavily plastic, synthetic, hydrocarbon-based, etc. There is an incredible amount of heat/smoke/fire gases generated. More than we'll ever probably see at a training session.

Has anybody had an experience where fan could not do the job expected of it? What ensued?

If you haven't had an experience like this, do you acknowledge the possibility? What would the tactics be to overcome fan failure. Could an interior search team be jeopardized by heat/smoke/fire gases that move away from seat of fire and back to them. Could a nozzle team be overcome?  Could a large interior area light up and intensify to the point of unsustainability even for PPE encapsulated firefighters?

These are my concerns; I'm sure there are others who share them. I believe that there are situations where the training won't be enough and the exterior size-up won't be accurate enough to make the fans effective. I believe the potential downside could be huge from a firefighter safety standpoint.

I believe knowledgable, experienced firefighters CAN have this discussion without hands-on training in the subject or real life experience in the subject. But it would be nice to hear from (more of) those who do.



If there was a point I truly hoped to touch on is to know and understand one's distict, dept, and operations. I disagree with some of John's comments here because they don't account for that, such as asking why to even purchase a fan, or depts are using this because they aren't proficient in roof ops or deploying handlines. There are other aspects I do agree with him on, but everthing boils down to individual specifics.


The other issue is that it is easy for a dept to look for some new technique,tactic, a little training, and think they will implement it without a full understading. Even worse is a dept to operate a certain way because some other dept or some other officer/FF made a recommendation without fully understanding the specifics. In a way like the officer in Jim's neighboring dept....or even what someone picked up off the internet. When it comes to implementing anything new or different, it is imperative that members know how and why before the dept even instills the tactic.



What TRULY matters is a dept to know their limitations, resources, and to be able to adjust tactics to what they have and what the situation they come across is. While you say PPA may not be the best, or even a good option for your dept, that's fine, because at least you evaluated. Even so, roof ops may not be a good option because considering the time it takes to get enough resources on scene, that option may have long passed. As a result should a dept be concentrating time and effort on roof ops if they aren't as applicable? I wouldn't think so.


Reality for many volunteer depts especially those in a rural area, with a low call volume, what they tend to encounter once getting on scene, typically differs from what a fully staffed career dept is going to see. As such it is imperative for a FF to understand the fire progression and to make a tactical decision based on what they encounter and what resources are available. In my opinion, this makes training in scene sizeup and decision making more important to know and understand as opposed to any new technique, or even basing on older techniques. The emphasis should be on understanding one's limitations.



While working on the basics and ensuring proficency is highly beneficial, so is knowing the appropriate step based on what you bring to the game and what you are presented with. For some depts, the emphasis may be on defensive tactics, for some they can operate in a more traditional role, and for some, the tactic of PPA may be a good option. For my dept, things can vary. A fire gets basically 17 to 18 personnel on a scene and can be more aggressive to a point based on conditions. In my area doing a size up from the outside is fairly easy and accurate and for the most part can trust information given by bytanders or those who evacuated.....especially a single family home. However, it is entirely possible that a second fire will mean other resources will be further out and one may be operating solo or with a minimal crew for some time. This may mean that PPA can be a very good option.


In our neighboring dept, where they are FT with a daily minimal staffing of 6, they can get on scene fairly quickly, but don't have enough to do roof ops, search, fire attack and so forth as other depts can. For them PPA is an option they can use and use it effectively. For some of the neighboring, more rural type of depts, neither roof ops, nor PPA are good options considering the incident they arrive to tending to be more involved.


So to close, while it is easy to read banter back and forth or do whatever personal research out there, the issue comes down to knowing your own depts resources and limitations. To me, probably the best and most cost effective training is simply doing sizeup scenarios with what a dept may respond with. Know and understand limitations that you will be working with before even worrying about the latest FF technique, tool, or tactic.

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