By: Michael R. Rehfeld – FireFighterToolbox.com
Over the years, fire suppression operations and fire ground tactics have focused primarily on putting the wet stuff on the red stuff. Appropriately so, one would guess.
In reality the fire only goes out in one of two ways, it either consumes all the available fuel or it is suppressed into submission by overwhelming force with water or other suppressing agents.
So, how and where, does this relatively new theory of “Tactical Ventilation” fit into that equation? This tool, when properly executed, is essential to accomplishing the goal of suppression and most importantly, in the end, survival.
How many of you have had the situation occur when a vent point was created behind you as you are advancing and you were overrun by fire conditions? That was poor tactical ventilation!
On the other hand, how many of you have had the fortune of a vent point opposite of your advance? You were able to move with less heat and smoke and easily advance on the fire. That is proper tactical ventilation.
As most of you know, we as firefighting warriors function under the premise that whatever needs to be done to accomplish goals or objectives on the fireground we can accomplish with force (or in my world a truck company).
Just look at a simplistic view of a very complicated process called structural firefighting. As some of us have learned the hard way we must have a well-coordinated plan of attack and in order for that plan to be rapidly successful a host of tactics must be implemented.
Let’s focus on one aspect of that coordinated plan of attack, in particular something called tactical ventilation must occur with a purpose and plan. The three tactical ventilation motives are:
• Vent for Life
• Vent for Fire
• Vent for Safety
Plain and simple, the function of ventilation is the movement of air from a high pressure to a low pressure. This occurs when pressure (heat) is created within the structure and a vent point is created that is of less pressure (heat) normally the outside air.
The tactical part of that equation is us. How we create that vent point, when we create that vent point and how we create that vent point greatly impacts the fire dynamics occurring within the structure. As fire suppression guys (engine company) you must depend on a proper tactical vent plan to survive and accomplish your goal of overwhelming the fire with water.
The importance of understanding what we are trying to accomplish with “venting” a building cannot be overstated. In my next segment we will focus on the dos and the don’ts of venting. Until then be safe and remember PTB (Protect the Brothers)!