The best way to put out a fire is to first know how it behaves, according to Howard County firefighters. Using recent findings of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Underwriters Laboratory Firefighter Safety Research Institute, the county's fire and rescue team this week hosted the organizations' three-day pilot course to teach updated firefighting techniques based on recent research at the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center in Marriottsville.
On April 5, firefighters from departments across the country applied the latest firefighting tactics in live demonstrations, using model-sized wooden houses as well as larger hallway structures. In addition to Howard fire officials, participating departments included firefighters from Boston, Mass.; Detroit, Mich.; San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Tampa, Fla.
"It basically empowers and prepares instructors to go back to their departments and teach some of the research that they have done in their training programs and incorporate it into their operational policies," said John Jerome, a deputy chief with Howard County Fire and Rescue Services. "This is a great way to do that."
For example, Jerome said, firefighters learn the principles of modern fire dynamics by setting and studying a contained fire within a small model.
"Much of the research has show that isolating the fire from oxygen is a great strategy while you're preparing to suppress it with water," Jerome said. "For us, that means we have to put some operational things in place and even change some of the ways we've trained in the past."
Prior training instructed firefighters to ventilate the fire in order to cool it, he said; however, cooling the fire happens with water. Ventilation should take place afterward, he said.
Director Stephen Kerber, of the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, said they've conducted research for more than 10 years to make firefighters more efficient.
"We've studied everything from how fires grow and spread in houses to larger structures to how to better rescue occupants," Kerber added. "Research is ongoing."
Officials said the course was funded through the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency's Grant Program Directorate under the Assistance to Firefighters-Fire Prevention and Safety Grant program.