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Posted by Shan Raffel
Shan Raffel
“Shan has pioneered and championed a global paradigm shift in fire fighting tech
User is currently offline
on Friday, 09 March 2012
in Industry Insights · 5 Comments
I am often asked to explain the difference between flashover and backdraft, both of which I will define using the International Standards Organisation (ISO) 

The key elements in all definitions are:

  1. Rapid transition
  2. Leads to a fully developed compartment fire

Flashover is defined as: "The rapid transition to a state of total surface involvement in a fire of combustible materials within an enclosure."

Most fires start relatively small as some form of heat energy is applied to the object which leads to the ignition temperature being reached. The flame radiates back onto the object and this increases the rate of combustion. The radiation also heats up neighbouring items and they will begin to pyrolyse (break down into fuel and passive agents). The heated fire gases accumulate in the ceiling area forming an over pressure area. As the temperature increases the unburnt fuel in the smoke layer approaches its’ Auto Ignition Temperature (AIT) . When this fuel ignites the fire gas combustion rolls across the ceiling releasing an enormous amount of radiant energy which rapidly ignites the remaining combustibles in the room.

In a nutshell, flashover occurs when there is a good supply of air that allows the accumulated unburnt fuel to heat up to its’ Auto Ignition Temperature (AIT).

Fuel & Air + AIT = Flashover

Backdraught is defined as: "An explosion, of greater or lesser degree, caused by the inrush of fresh air from any source or cause, into a burning building, where combustion has been taking place in a shortage of air."

Well insulated rooms with limited air supply can limit the development of a fire. The fire will grow until the air is consumed and smouldering may continue for some time. The room may stay quite hot and the combustible contents will continue to pyrolyse (or breakdown) allowing the accumulation of large quantities of unburnt fuel.

If an opening is created air will flow into the compartment and add the missing ingrediant. It is possible for a sudden and explosive propagation of flame through the compartment and out through the openings. There will be pockets of gas remaining that are too rich to ignite immediately these will burn progressively as air is drawn into the compartment. The combustion process could continue for some time after the initial explosion and the heat generated could lead to a fully involved fire.

In a nutshell, backdraft occurs when air is added to a room with high temperatures and large quantities of unburnt fuel.

Fuel and Heat + Air = Backdraft

So how does this knowledge affect our fire attack strategy and hose lay tactics? Before we talk about that we must understand the 3rd critical fire development event, fire gas ignition.

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Transit Tunnel Fire Emergencies

Posted by Sebastian Jacobs
Sebastian Jacobs
Keen Australian based fire fighter
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 17 August 2011
in Industry Insights · 0 Comments

For most people the daily commute through a busy transit tunnel is of no real significance, while it is unlikely that a major incient will occur- in the event it does all the implications of the emergency are amplified, these including smoke and heat from a fire as well as hundreds, potentially thousands of evacuees moving though an unbreathable environment in limited light.

Like a cruise or cargo ship emergency, the two variables that dictate the size and duration of a fire in a tunnel are Speed in both initial response and subsequent fire fighting operations and Weight of Attack (WoA) i.e how much and how effective the water streams are).

We have looked at the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and how their immediate response and local knowledge provide an invaluable advantage and we have also outlined the nuts and bolts of how the QuickLay Fire Attack Packs provide unparalleled performance in confined environments with milti-skilled and multi-lingual team members.

For a true insight into tunnels and how the who's who of keeping them safe no one would have a better, more up-to-date understanding of "Planning, Preparation and Response to Emergencies in Tunnels" than QLFA's own Director Shan Raffel.

Shan is a Churchill Fellow having completed his research project into tunnel emergencies.

His findings can be viewed here

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QLFA Benefits: Passenger Ship Fires

Posted by Sebastian Jacobs
Sebastian Jacobs
Keen Australian based fire fighter
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 05 July 2011
in Marine Fire Response · 0 Comments

QuickLay Packs and Passenger Ship Emergency Response Teams

Suitably trained ERT's armed with QLFA Packs are best positioned to combat, control and extinguish a fire on a passenger ship.

Click here for more information on passenger ships - The high-rise of the seas.

Weight of Attack

The initial response of the ERT is ideal to a fire on a passenger ship, then by using the QLFA Packs they can lay and deploy their hose almost instantly- resulting in a quick knockdown and minimal fuss.

Multilingual, multi-skilled

The QLFA Packs are designed to almost 'self-deploy' this takes out the need for frantic communication between broken language barriers. The ease-of-use of the QLFA Packs puts the power and flexibility of a charged length of fire hose in the operators hands- poised ready to advance and cut the fire off.

Water damage

The speed and flexibility that the QLFA Packs introduce to fire hose deployment results in the fire being contained and extinguished much quicker - reducing water usage and damage.

Rapid onset of smoke and heat

The ERT's rapid response and hose deployment rapidly contains the fire. By using good fire nozzle techniques the smoke can also be contained and cooled.

Close quarters hose deployment

The Lay Pack is designed to stretch hose as the distance is covered 'on-the-fly'. The Attack Pack is designed to deploy a full length of hose on the spot resulting in a coil of hose that can be effortlessly advanced towards the fire.

Evacuee movements

The resulting coil from the Attack Pack maintains its form while under pressure. It can be stood up against a wall to allow evacuee's to exit with reduced trip hazards.

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Where there's fire there's smoke (except in Hollywood)

Posted by Sebastian Jacobs
Sebastian Jacobs
Keen Australian based fire fighter
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 05 July 2011
in Industry Insights · 0 Comments

Fact v's Fiction - Hollywood would have us believe we are bullet proof in a fire...

As humans our appreciation of fire is well developed - 'bestfriend but- worst enemy' is a maxim I remember from school, so people generally 'get-it' when it comes to fire.

However, Hollywood's portrayal of fire and the effect the resulting smoke has on the human body has a lot to answer for: in their defense the last scene of 'Backdraft' would be pretty beige if all we saw was a blurred glow of fire through the thick black turbulant smoke and not Brian McCaffrey (aka William Baldwin) smash the top off a fire extinguisher and throw it in the burning factory, all without breathing protection...

The reality is:

"the onset of smoke and heat can only be fully appreciated and given the respect it deserves when observed and experienced firsthand - which unfortunately in some cases, is too late".

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Fires & Passenger Ships - The 'high-rise' of the seas

Posted by Sebastian Jacobs
Sebastian Jacobs
Keen Australian based fire fighter
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 03 July 2011
in Marine Fire Response · 0 Comments

The #1 most feared cause of death is by fire... #2 is 'death-by-shark', so it stands to reason that a fire on a ship isn't anyones idea of fun!

Cruise ships and ocean liners are laden with a mix of flammable substances, hazardous materials and multilingual staff and guests, all of which can be managed individually in an emergency. However, with the reality of smoke and heat stimulating panic, the end result of a fire on a vessel can be catastrophic.

The situation is complicated dramatically when the fire is aboard a passenger ship, this is due to many factors. We have already looked at the fact v's fiction portrayal of fire that Hollywood is guilty of skewing in each blockbuster, this brutal introduction to the reality of the rapid onset of heat and smoke is a rude awakening for the hundreds, potentially thousands of multilingual passengers and a crew with little to no real fire fighting experience.

Even a small fire can cause significant issues as the fire fighting water can cause permanent damage requiring guest re-location or electrical problems resulting in malfunctioning lights and amenities.

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