It was announced recently that the Underwriter Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute (UL FSRI) will partner with the Sidney Fire Department to conduct a series of experiments involving live-fire. The experiments, scheduled to begin on May 31, will be conducted over a period of two weeks in homes previously scheduled for demolition.
Three of the homes are currently owned by the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank). The Land Bank has previously allowed a number of the properties they have acquired to be used by local first responders for training purposes. The Land Bank is to be commended for their allowing structures deemed no longer suitable for rehabilitation to have a significant final use prior to being demolished. The fourth home is owned by the city of Sidney, and is located at the site where Sidney Fire Station No. 3 will eventually be constructed.
Training in actual structures is invaluable. Just as in “real life” situations, every home first responders enter is different. Sometimes as a result of remodeling, doors have been closed off, ceilings lowered, and a number of other unintentional hazards inadvertently created by homeowners over the course of a home’s life.
Having that training experience is of tremendous educational value. In addition, utilizing actual buildings that are scheduled for demolition allows both law enforcement and firefighters to employ explosive devices and set live fires all the while not having to worry about the amount of damage that may inadvertently occur.
The experiments are part of a ULFSRI three year Technology and Product Development Project. The research will collect and analyze important fire data that includes temperatures, heat flux, flow velocities, differential pressure, gas concentrations, and moisture content throughout the structure.
The results from the experiments will also provide knowledge on how flow paths and conditions in the structure are impacted. Different crews performing different tactics during fire suppression operations will prove researchers with real-life data. The emphasis will be on the coordination of ventilation and suppression. Researchers at the University of Illinois analyze the data and the potential impact of fire conditions on firefighters and civilians.
Previous ULFSRI research has examined ventilation (horizontal, vertical and positive pressure) and suppression (interior and transitional). Each of the aforementioned tactics were purposefully studied with the primary intent being to focus on understanding each tactic independently to gain understanding of the impact of each on fire dynamics, occupant survivability and firefighter safety. The knowledge gained from each of these studies has provided the foundation to begin to understand what defines a successful coordinated fire attack.
Various rooms of each home will be set up and furnished as kitchens, bedrooms, sitting rooms, etc. Cameras will capture the fires from the point of ignition and follow their progression as they burn, including the tactics employed by the firefighters in combating the fires. The resulting films will be used for training purposes across the country, and the data gleaned for additional research.
The science of firefighting has come a long way in recent years. An increased understanding of fire behavior has emerged as a result of live fire research. Such research is best conducted in the field. Because of the expense involved, structures that are slated for demolition are ideal for conducting such research.
The leadership of our local fire department is to be commended for their commitment to continuous improvement, a commitment that includes a daily training regimen. Last year, the Sidney Fire Department logged more than 7,639 hours of training, or approximately 201 hours for each firefighter.
In addition, the department is to be commended for inviting surrounding departments to join not only these training exercises, but exercises undertaken on a regular basis. Unlike some neighboring counties, Shelby County has but one professional department. As a result, our backup fire departments are comprised of volunteers. The better trained those volunteer departments are, the stronger the force available for fighting fires, performing complicated rescue operations and the host of other functions that today’s fire departments are called upon to undertake, the better the end result.
In essence, this study aims to provide the data necessary to understand the parameters of a successful coordinated fire attack so that firefighters become more effective and efficient across the country. I would echo the words of Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones and note that this is an incredible opportunity for not only for Sidney Fire & Rescue and departments within our region, but the departments across the country that will benefit from the research and certainly the citizens those departments serve.
The schedule has been published, with the first property (201/203 West Water Street) being used as a laboratory on Friday, June 1. The second property (230 North Walnut Avenue) will be utilized on Monday, June 4, and Tuesday, June 5. The third property (732 Broadway Avenue) will be utilized on Thursday, June 7. The final property (2401 Wapakoneta Avenue) will be used on Monday, June 11, and Tuesday, June 12.
Although this is an exciting opportunity for the community, the public is reminded that for safety purposes and just as in any other emergency situation, they are asked to keep their distance and stay clear of the work area. There may be street closures necessitated as these exercises are undertaken. Neighbors in the vicinity are being notified, and the closures will be publicized in advance.
The writer is the mayor of Sidney.