Tucson firefighters have been training to use new firefighting techniques that only a handful of departments across the country have had the chance to learn.
More than 600 firefighters in the department completed training in the new techniques over the past two months.
“Firefighters can do things wrong, and there’s a science behind it,” said Capt. Barrett Baker, a department spokesman. “All of the crews have come out to do it, because the training on these new techniques has to be hands-on.”
Last May, more than 550 firefighters from 177 departments nationwide attended training called Spartanburg Burns, in South Carolina. Four members of Tucson Fire had the opportunity to explore the science and data behind new techniques for using water and controlling air flow as a way to improve firefighting and firefighter safety.
The training included burning several vacant homes.
The techniques, first applied by New York firefighters, are based on scientific studies that confirmed the new methods are more effective in reducing danger to firefighters and victims inside burning buildings, officials said.
The new techniques involve applying a direct stream of water onto the ceiling of the room with the fire from outside through a door or window, while other fire crews prepare to enter the burning structure from another location.
This differs from a more conventional offensive fire attack in which fire personnel enter a building first to battle the blaze from the inside.
The new techniques “also decrease the flashover potential and buy us time,” said Deputy Chief Mike Carsten, who attended the South Carolina training.
“If a fire is near to the flash point, then we can control it by just closing the door. That decreases the danger to firefighters and victims before we even enter the building or apply water.”
A flashover is when all the components in a structure simultaneously light on fire. It rapidly increases a firefighter’s chance of injury or death and makes the fire much more difficult to control.
Because of today’s increased use of synthetic materials in furniture, clothing and bedding, fires reach the flashover point much faster, Carsten said.
“By shutting the front door before water is even applied, we can reduce the internal temperature by 600 to 650 degrees,” said Carsten, who attended the South Carolina training.
The department’s standard operating procedures have been rewritten to include the new firefighting techniques.
“We gave the department the green light to use it and we’ve had great results,” Carsten said. “Since only about 10 big departments in the country are using these techniques, we want people to look at TFD as a national leader.”