Safety Safety Safety
3.0 Causes for Entrapment
There are many causes of fire entrapment incidents. AND it is very common to be a combination of one or more of these causes that in the end, lead to a fire entrapment incident.
All firefighters know there are three main factors that influence how a fire burns (behaves)
These are; Fuel, Weather & Topography
3.1 Hazardous Fuels
3.2 Hazardous Weather
(I have personally seen fine, cured grass burn at a 3% RH and it behaved as though gasoline was poured on the grass! - and that was on flat terrain and with no wind!)
- the Drought Code (DC) of the weather indices, continues to indicate drying fuel deeper in the soil and into the “heavier” woody debris, as the summer season progresses. This occurs almost all of the time, but is accelerated if there is a long term lack of moisture. (low winter snow pack and or drought-like conditions
during spring and summer)
3.3 Hazardous Topography
Fires usually burn upslope much faster than a firefighter can run.
Fires WILL travel quickly upslope in draws, gullies, or ravines.
Never position yourself or crews directly above a fire.
Safe Zones must be downslope and “out to the sides” of the fire.
Several years ago a logger on the west coast of B.C. was attempting to escape a fire (caused by a spark from a haul-back block) by running upslope in a gully in an attempt to reach to a road where his truck was parked. He was not successful.
This fatal incident is the primary reason all forest workers in British Columbia must be trained in the basic fire fighting safety skills (2 day S-100 Course) AND renew this annually with the S-100A Course.
S-100A, Annual Safety Renewal Course, is available online at, www.firesafetraining.com, a friendly competitor site.
Not understanding any one of the above factors may lead to a fire entrapment incident.
There are still more factors that may lead to fire entrapment.
3.4 Human Factor (during times of great stress we can only focus on about 7 factors)
Attitude - you must have a SAFETY FIRST ATTITUDE!
The attitudes below may kill!
These attitudes are often a result of inexperience and overinflated egos. Being over aggressive is sometimes an attempt to cover for the lack of experience or knowledge required to safely carry out a job.
All the above may lead to very poor supervision
- this can be a tough one to deal with
- may be trying to “score points” for a promotion
- lack of respect toward his / her crew
- may have a “oh don’t be a wimp” mind set
These type of supervisors usually don’t last long in the system - but ...
I can recall many many times (too many) when there were poor supervisors on the fireline. In my earlier years as a firefighter it WAS often difficult to deal with. In later years as an Incident Commander and staff person, it was much easier, and I found it rewarding to be able to take an individual aside and work with them (time and circumstances permitting) to help change a poor supervisor into a good one
lack of knowledge
lack of experience
- short term - you must get a good sleep after each shift
- long term - (days and weeks especially with rigorous and long work hours) can have devastating and fatal impacts on yourself and or your crews. Sleep deprivation is accumulative and can lead to poor decisions, physical accidents and illness
Equipment - Not vehicle or heavy equipment
- hard hat (date and style compliant)
- cotton, wool, or Nomex clothing (it is normal for fire crews to be required to wear Nomex)
- sturdy, high topped leather boots with “Vibram” type soles
- no steel toes (check with your jurisdiction working in)
- no contact lenses
- safety goggles
Interface Fire Zones
There are some "special" precautions and considerations when working in or near communities.
- stay upwind, do not breath the smoke, move away but don’t go into low areas
- warn other crew and civilians
- prevent entry by other persons
- communicate this situation to your supervisor
- inadequate training
- improper safety equipment
"If In Doubt