Bring the heat! Allen firefighters and Battalion Chiefs completed flashover training throughout October. This is the first departmentwide flashover simulation for Allen Fire Department (AFD).
“Flashover training is an opportunity for firefighters to see the edge of their operational capabilities,” says Roger Nolan, AFD administrative Captain. “They can experience how it feels while minimizing the risk to injury, which is essential to their effectiveness and safety.”
What is flashover training?
Flashover training is a controlled simulation conducted by instructors. Flashover is a stage of fire progression in which all combustible items in a compartment ignite. Flashover conditions do not allow for survival for anyone unprotected, and only seconds for firefighters in protective gear. The simulation encompasses training on all aspects of fire progression and how fire impacts the structure, the occupants, the contents, and the actions firefighters might take to protect lives and property while preventing personal injury.
“Training like this keeps our crews aware during already hazardous conditions,” said Firefighter/Paramedic Chase Condor. “It’s important to be prepared for events that could put us in a more dangerous or life-threatening situation.”
For most AFD crews, this is their first flashover training since completing the fire academy.
“It’s been almost nine years since my last flashover training,” said Firefighter/Paramedic Payton Lambert. “To have a refresher on something this important—In Allen we don’t fight a lot of fires, so it’s nice to feel it and see what’s going on.”
How the simulation works
Fully protected firefighters enter a “flashover chamber” designed specifically for the simulation. The crew is then seated in a “fire box” raised a few feet above an observation floor. The fire box is lined with a fire brick material and combustible sheeting like the material used in today’s furnishings.
A large fire is started in the center of the burn end and allowed to impact the combustible walls and ceiling. As the fire progresses, instructors point out key smoke observations such as banking down, thermal layering, speed, color and density. In an active fire, these attributes give clues about the fire’s location, fuels and ventilation.
As the fire builds, the combustible materials decompose into flammable toxic gases. The heat from different areas of the room then begin to impact each other. When these gases reach their optimal mixture ratio, they ignite, causing an overhead burn across the ceiling. This burn adds heat to the compartment and accelerates the breakdown of fuel, producing more gas. If this process is not interrupted, it proceeds into flashover. Without enough oxygen, flashover can develop into a backdraft condition—another deadly circumstance if not recognized.
The training has various safety procedures in place to control fire progression and minimize dangers. A hose line also is placed inside the chamber for firefighter safety.
“We want our firefighters to build the memory of how the various fire stages look and feel,” says Captain Nolan. “We want them to know what steps to take to be aggressive and effective in search, rescue and fire suppression.”
Flashover training takes place at the Collin College Public Safety Training Center in McKinney. Keep up with the latest AFD news at AllenFire.org.