Five Six years ago today
Last year Dave Statter shared his experience about the 2007 line-of-duty death of Technician I Kyle Wilson in Prince Wiliam County. (Dave's article HERE). Dave is concerned that the Virginia Tech massacre overshadowed the tragedy at 15492 Marsh Overlook Drive.
I am re-posting my response because we will never forget. I am in the midst of getting the third edition of the Fire Officer textbook out. The lessons learned from Kyle's sacrifice remain vital.
The after-action analysis and discussions were painful, emotional and worthwhile. I closely followed the process and spoke to with many of the participants. They are my friends and colleagues.
My "bully pulpit" is a textbook that is used by many for their Fire Officer I and II training.
In Chapter 16, "Fire Attack" this is how the section on Smoke, Wind, Size and Fire Flow looks in the second edition (2010).
- Burning Type V residential structure behavior in high wind conditions
- Determining initial attack fire flow in high wind conditions
- Austere crew (thin staffed) fire attack procedures
- Why the NFPA 1710 single family dwelling does not match your first due (you can find an analysis starting on page 188 of the Prince William report.)
Fire departments should develop SOP’s for incidents with high-wind conditions including defensive attack if necessary. Weather can be considered as critically important when at the extreme, and relatively unimportant during normal conditions.
Wind has a strong effect on fire behavior which includes supplying oxygen, reducing fuel moisture, and exerting physical pressure to move the fire and heat. Wildland fire fighters are very familiar with these effects of wind on the rate at which fire spreads.
According to Dunn, “When the exterior wind velocity is in excess of 30 miles per hour, the chances of conflagration are great; however, against such forceful winds, the chances of successful advance of an initial hose line attack on a structure fire are diminished. The firefighters won’t be able to make forward hoseline progress because the flame and heat, under the wind’s additional force, will blow into the path of advancement.
Fire fighters should change their strategy when encountering high wind conditions. An SOP should be developed to include obtaining the wind speed and direction, and guidelines established for possible scenarios associated with the wind speed and the possible fuel available, similar to that in wildland fire fighting. When the interior attack line has little or no effect on the fire, the line should be withdrawn and a second hoseline should be advanced on the upwind side of the fire. This method may require the use of an aerial ladder or portable ladder, if safety permits.
Prince William County report (385 pages)
The major factors in the line of duty death of Technician I Wilson were determined to be:
• The initial arriving fire suppression force size.
• The size up of fire development and spread.
• The impact of high winds on fire development and spread.
• The large structure size and lightweight construction and materials.
• The rapid intervention and firefighter rescue efforts.
• The incident control and management.
Thanks to Dave Statter for making an important observation.
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward