From the Editor: January 2015
By Laura King
I’ve been editing this magazine for almost eight years. When I started in April 2007, I read mountains of material about fire and fire fighting and technology. Back then, there was talk of new, lightweight construction materials – floor joists and roof trusses that burn faster and collapse more quickly than legacy-style construction.
It’s 2015, and we’re still talking about new, lightweight construction; it’s not new now, and it wasn’t new eight years ago – it has been around for two decades. We’ve all seen the side-by-side new-versus-legacy sprinkler demonstrations and we all know that homes burn faster now than ever, because of construction materials and techniques and more combustible contents.
So why, then, are we stuck in a teaching time warp?
Change begets change, or it should, although it’s tricky when that blessed we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mentality creeps in. Yes, I know – in the end the wet stuff goes on the red stuff. But how firefighters do that to be safe and effective has to change as materials and building trends change.
Did any of you grow up in 3,600-square-foot homes with vaulted ceilings, massive windows and open-concept main floors? Didn’t think so. That style of home is normal in subdivisions across Canada now (and has been for years), yet some fire departments have failed to alter their techniques to suit the flow paths and other challenges created during fires in these types of structures.
As Ian Bolton writes in his story on page 8, adjusting ventilation techniques to comply with the fire science that shows door control to be a key factor in managing structure fires is crucial to maintain firefighter safety.
There is tons of available material on the web (and archived on our www.firefightingincanada.com website) about fire behaviour, ventilation-limited fires, flow paths and positive pressure ventilation. The trick is getting this information to those who need it – those who teach and train.
New firefighters need to understand why certain techniques are used so that they can safely and effectively do their jobs. Which means it’s up to training officers and instructors to keep up to speed and teach the science of fire behaviour along with the how-to techniques so that when something goes awry, those on scene can understand why and what to do next.
Bolton is the lead fire-behaviour instructor with the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services in British Columbia; like his colleague Peter McBride – the division chief of safety and innovation with Ottawa Fire Service – he is a trail blazer who is committed to ensuring that firefighters understand how fire reacts to its surroundings, and to whatever humans introduce to it.
We’re committed too, to making sure that the research on fire behaviour being done by the likes of the National Research Council in Ottawa, and the developing techniques to safely and effectively combat structure fires, are at your fingertips. It’s up to you to use it.