Larchmont Firefighters "Fired
Up" After Training in Explosive 600° Smoke
Larchmont volunteer firefighters
Ned Benton, Steve Lerner, Matt Mannix, Franco Arminio,
Deputy Chief Chris MacDonald, Steve Schmidt, Harald
Duell, former Deputy Chief Ettore Viazzo, Carl Cacciola,
and former Chief Jim Sweeney. Former Chief Tom Dixon
took the picture.
( January 15, 2003
) "This was great!" remarked new volunteer
firefighter Steve Lerner. "A valuable training
experience for new recruits as well as veteran firefighters
- you never stop learning!" remarked veteran and
former Chief Jim Sweeney. Both had emerged from a truck-trailer-sized
metal container, closed in with a fire that filled the
container with dense 600° smoke that eventually
exploded in fire, just above their heads, at temperatures
Lerner (a recent recruit featured in Fire
Recruits Repay Community) and Sweeney were among
two groups of Larchmont volunteer firefighters to attend
a Fire Flashover training drill at the Rockland County
Fire Training Center. The purpose of the drill, which
combines classroom training with realistic high-heat
experience in what is locally called "the can,"
is to train firefighters to be aware of potential flashover
Flashover occurs when a fire, confined to a space,
produces intense heat, smoke and fumes. As the surfaces
of the space heat up, they radiate heat back to the
fumes. If oxygen becomes available or temperatures rise
to a flashpoint, the fumes eventually erupt in a lethal
explosion. According to National
Fire Protection Association statistics, between
1985 and 1994, 47 firefighters lost their lifes in flashover
According to Deputy Chief Tom Broderick, who is responsible
for LFD volunteer firefighter training, "The primary
goal of the drill is safety. Firefighters learn what
to watch out for, but also learn about the performance
of their gear under realistic, but safe conditions."
The drill begins with several hours of training about
fire dynamics, proper use of protective equipment, and
Diagram Courtesy of Swede Survival Systems
After the classroom presentation, the trainees proceed
to the simulator, which is lined with particleboard.
A fire is set to create heat and smoke. Firefighter
trainees don their protective firefighting turnout gear,
including air-packs, and the trainers inspect and critique
each firefighter's use of protective equipment.
The trainees and trainers enter the "can,"
which is closed to allow the heat, smoke and fumes to
build. Just as in a real structure fire in a confined
space, a layer of superheated smoke forms at the ceiling
which gradually expands downward. A trainer points out
characteristic features of developing flashover that
were presented in the classroom training session.
Photo Courtesy of the Rockland County
Fire Training Center
When the smoke lowers to just above the helmets of
the trainees, a vent is opened slightly, introducing
oxygen to the environment, and the result is a flashover
explosion. In the simulator, the trainers repeat the
flashover conditions so that each trainee is exposed
at the front of the simulator, and to illustrate various
points about flashover development and firefighting
technique. At the end of the simulation, the trainers
demonstrate "firefighter soup," which occurs
if a firefighter applies water to a fire with incorrect
technique, creating a blast of super-heated steam.
The manufacturer of the simulator, Swede
Survival Systems features a Discovery
Channel Video about flashover and the training simulator.
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