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Author Topic: Things to do in a fire  (Read 2694 times)

ZoeB

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Things to do in a fire
« on: 05 Jun 2014, 02:09 »

Presence of mind is good. Absence of body is better.

Even if you know what you are doing, even if the fire is relatively small, even if lives may be at stake - accept the consequences of running, or accept the consequences of fighting.

Too late, time's up. If you have to pause to think, run, as it's already out of control.

If you haven't had any training, then for all but the smallest fire imaginable, leave.

Turn off mains power. If oil or electricity MAY be involved, if there's any doubt, DO NOT USE WATER on the base of the fire.

OK, I'm assuming you've had some training; the fire is small but growing rapidly. Remember, not just seconds count, tenths of seconds count.

Keep low, underneath the smoke and superheated air. If ceiling on fire, really, really consider abandoning no matter how small the base is. Remember, temperature may be 30C and liveable at 1 metre - waist height - but 500C and immediately chemically toxic at 1.5M - head height.

If items in the room at head height are flashing into flame from radiant heat, that pain in your face is not the usual kind you get from being a bit close to a campfire for a few seconds. You are burning.

I'm assuming you've already left the room, grabbed any clothing, blankets etc, soaked them.  Breathe deeply, hold breath, duck, throw wet towels on area nearest entrance to room. Exit, repeat, this time throwing on base of fire. Exit, repeat, this time next to base as fire will have spread there by now. Exit, repeat on spot fires. Exit, repeat, back to base again which will now be at original strength. Exit, repeat, putting out floor then  ceiling fires. Exit, repeat till it's either obvious you're not winning, or fire is out, or fire brigade is there - in any of the three cases, leave.

If you're lucky, you save the structure and anyone in it. If very lucky, you're completely unhurt. If unlucky - you're also unhurt, as you realised you couldn't handle it, and left before you could get hurt.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/woman-burnt-in-downer-house-fire-20140602-zruw2.html

Quote
A 56-year-old woman has suffered serious burns following a kitchen fire on Burn Street in Downer.
...
Intensive care paramedics and ACT Fire and Rescue officers were called to the property around 11.30am and extinguished the fire on arrival.

The woman was treated by intensive care paramedics at the scene of the fire and then transported to the Canberra Hospital.

The ESA spokeswoman said she was in a stable condition.
...
Two pumpers, a breathing apparatus van, a hazardous materials unit and a commander were called to the property.

Ventilation operations are now being conducted at the property.

Damage to the kitchen is estimated at $40,000.

Burns hurt. A lot. Avoid if possible.



8 hrs after fire. Areas of skin hanging down revealing pink dermis underneath so soon indicate deep partial thickness burns.


18 hrs after - oedema and swelling, areas not so deeply burnt now blistering, crusts of plasma forming.



This is an example of a very, very rapid fire, one moving at about double the rate of the kitchen fire above. The woman arrived in the kitchen at the equivalent of the 7 second mark, and had wet blanket on base at about 13 second mark, the peak of the fire. After holding it at bay for 20 secs, managed to slowly quell it. If it gets to the 16 second mark, flee. Flashover will happen in 20-40 seconds. She saved the resident cats, and the house, and had no life-threatening injuries - but was by no means unscathed.

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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #1 on: 05 Jun 2014, 02:33 »

oh no :(

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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #2 on: 05 Jun 2014, 14:45 »

Little known tactic: close doors on your way out. You may save some property. Sleeping with the bedroom door closed may buy you some time.

There's a video from decades ago, I found it on Youtube and then lost it again, where an insurance company lab filmed the result of a cigarette in an armchair. It's a lesson in exponential growth. Then it goes beyond exponential when the ceiling temperature hits the ignition temperature of building materials. If you remember only one thing, it's Keep Low. One breath of the toxic shit in the air and you may never make it out.

My neighbors grabbed the baby and ran when the smoke detector went off. They got outside a few seconds before the house flashed. There's a table somewhere of escape time margins in various scenarios. They are measured in seconds or small numbers of minutes. If you have ionization smoke detectors some of the margins are negative. Buy photoelectric.

Could you hear the smoke detector in the basement from your upstairs bedroom? Current US code requires them to be interconnected so that all of them repeat an alarm if one goes off. There are lots of older buildings where they're not. There are a couple of wireless solutions if you can't afford to re-wire the house. Smoke detectors giving you nuisance alarms? Next time don't buy the cheapest model at the discount store.

Agree ahead of time where all your fellow occupants will meet after evacuating. Otherwise someone will die going back into the fire to rescue someone who's already safe outside.

Prevention is good. Electricians are delighted to drive out and charge you for inspecting things. They have tools and know-how that few nerd homeowners have. I hired one for the purpose and discovered what it means to have a Zinsco breaker panel.

Vehicle fires: the rule of thumb among firefighters is that if there are visible flames coming out of the car then it is already a total loss economically and the only reason to fight the fire is to protect life or nearby cars.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #3 on: 05 Jun 2014, 15:06 »

Zoe, I'm sorry if this a really stupid question but is that you?! Even if not, fuck. Fires are terrifying. I have had fire training multiple times - how to put fires out, when not to try, training in theatres, training for work, training at the fire station - and I am still certain that if there was a fire, I would be out of the door instantly and not even trying to tackle the fire. It is simply too dangerous.

My old flat didn't have a smoke detector in it. There was one out in the hall wired into the commercial fire alarm system, but not one in my flat. I am very glad the new place does.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #4 on: 05 Jun 2014, 16:02 »

Concur with May's question...
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Mlle Germain

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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #5 on: 05 Jun 2014, 16:18 »

Yes, I was wondering that, too...
In any case, this post has shaken me pretty badly. I am terrified of house fires (used to have nightmares regularly when I was younger) and I think people who rescue others from fires or fight fires (whether professionally or amateurs in an emergency) are heroes.

This is something I love about the UK (or maybe it's specific about where I live? I don't know): Fire safety is taken very seriously. In my building, there are interconnected smoke alarms everywhere, they are tested regularly and there are fire alarm practices pretty regularly.
Where I lived in Germany while studying, the apartment buildings didn't even have fire alarms (not even the official student accomodation, although my boyfriend tells me they've installed them now). In the last building I lived in in Germany (~100 years old) right under the roof, there was no alternative escape route apart from the one regular stairway. I bought a climbing rope specifically so I could get out of the window, should the need arise (I own climbing equipment and know how to use it; I can abseil myself safely under normal circumstances). Sure, would have been quite dangerous and not failsafe, but better than no escape at all.
Now I live on the ground floor, so I could just jump out of the window. Feels safer.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #6 on: 05 Jun 2014, 16:25 »

Fuck, it didn't even occur to me that it could be you, but if that's the case, feel better! I was just in a fire last week, nowhere near being close to danger myself since it started in a different part of the building, but seeing and reading this makes me realise how incredible it is no one were hurt at all since there were hundreds of people inside at the time. If that's you, I'm really, really sorry and I hope you manage to recover soon. If that's not you, I hope the woman in question recovers anyway. Hugs  :-(
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #7 on: 05 Jun 2014, 17:05 »

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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #8 on: 05 Jun 2014, 17:40 »

Damn. Fire really is one of the worst things that can happen, I'm really sorry, Zoe. I hope the physical, mental and logistical recoveries go as smoothly as possible, sending positive thoughts your way!
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #9 on: 05 Jun 2014, 19:20 »

Former volunteer fireman here,  in the future, please don't try to be a hero let us save the day!    :wink:

My rule of thumb is get the biggest ABC fire-extinguisher you can afford, and keep it in the kitchen.  Discharge that into/onto the fire according to the procedure and then leave, regardless if it is out or not.    If the fire is in the oven/dishwasher... even if you think you got it out CALL for help.  It may have traveled up a wall... or the appliance itself can be hazardous.    I am talking "electrical hazard" or "leaking gas."

Here is what I teach from alarm to evacuation:

1)  If you spot the fire or the alarm sounds,  make as much noise as possible to attract attention. 

2)  Assess the situation, making sure your back is to an exit.

3)  Discharge a fire extinguisher at the fire if safe to do so.

4)  Evacuate and wait for the fire department.


As said before if that is in fact you,  hope your healing proceeds without complication.     :-)   
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #10 on: 05 Jun 2014, 19:34 »

Frak, hope it wasn't.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #11 on: 05 Jun 2014, 23:56 »

Zoe, I'm sorry if this a really stupid question but is that you?
Not a stupid question. The answer is Yes.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #12 on: 06 Jun 2014, 00:10 »

Oh god. Don't skimp on the painkillers.

In the US they teach "RACE":
Rescue
Alarm
Contain
Extinguish

Rescue: get everyone to safety
Alarm: one of the people who got to safety remembered their phone and calls emergency services
Contain: prevent it from spreading. Shut off the room it's in if possible.
Extinguish: literally the last thing you should do and subject to all sorts of caveats you may not remember when processing an adrenaline overdose.

Once you're out of the building you should never return, so steps C and E are not actually possible.

Found the video. Watch the time stamps. Notice how little time between when a smoke detector would go off and when the room turns into a gas chamber, then into a firestorm.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GMhfLamERc
« Last Edit: 06 Jun 2014, 00:25 by Is it cold in here? »
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #13 on: 06 Jun 2014, 00:34 »

daym. good job at staying alive.

hope you feel better as soon as possible zoe.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #14 on: 06 Jun 2014, 03:25 »

All I can say is it's a hell of a way of getting a full face peel and skin rejuvenation.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #15 on: 06 Jun 2014, 03:56 »

Kitchen fire, so I guess a genuine accident?  Fat involved? - common in kitchens, and never a good thing in these circumstances...

I wish you a good recovery.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #16 on: 06 Jun 2014, 11:10 »

:-( I'm so sorry, Zoe. I'm glad you're well enough to update us (with a sense of humor, even!) and wish you a speedy recovery. *hug*
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #17 on: 06 Jun 2014, 11:39 »

I also hope you get well quickly!
That must have been a terrifying experience. I am impressed by your strength to post about it here so quickly in such a level-headed way (at least that's how it looks to me).
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #18 on: 06 Jun 2014, 12:36 »

Gah, sorry this happened to you, Zoe. Very glad you are basically OK, and I hope the recovery is a quick as possible.

A couple of years ago, my adult nephew, who's staying with me and my mother, woke me up saying he smelt smoke downstairs. When I got down there, a small amount of smoke was coming from the home entertainment shelves. I pulled out the drawers that hid the access to the electrical outlet and found sparks and a small open flame pouring out of it. I grabbed the extinguisher, put it out, but since power was still hot, it flared up again. Got outside to the breaker box, but the painters who painted the townhouse complex a few months earlier had essentially sealed it, so I wasn't able to open it by hand. Ran inside, put out the flame again, outside again, found something to pry open the breaker box, shut everything down, went inside, and finally got it out for good. Called the fire department anyway so they could check it all out.

I was very aware of the scale of the problem, and the exit was 10 feet away unobstructed, so this was something I could handle. BUT, if my nephew hadn't been home, by the time the smoke alarm sounded, it definitely would have been too late for anything but escape considering all the books, CDs, DVDs and electronics in the shelves acting as fuel.

The cause was an old "surge protector" adapter on the outlet that extended it to 6 plugs. What most people don't realize is that most passive surge protectors have an expiration date. If they are too old, then a surge is more likely to cause it to combust. The electric utility, working outside, had accidentally cut the neutral lead, which caused the power to fluctuate between 50V and 180V instead of the steady 120V.

Let me repeat, OLD PASSIVE SURGE PROTECTORS ARE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS.

Afterward, when I noticed the computer upstairs didn't turn on, when I looked at the power strip under the desk, I saw that it too had blown out the bottom and scorched a 1 inch-wide burn in the carpet. The firefighters who checked things out didn't like the surge protectors that plugged directly into the wall outlet, but instead recommended using the power strip kind that have a clear indicator (usually a light) of when it's no longer good, and to make sure you pay attention to that.

This episode from NOVA on PBS has always left a very strong impression on me with regards to fire and what it takes to escape safely.
There's a different episode that I can't find right now that talks about the evolution of fire fighting, and specifically how it was only fairly recently that the concept of how vitally important the hot gasses that collect on the ceiling are to the quick spread and danger of even "small" fires.

I had a chance to talk about some of the experiences of my uncle who was a firefighter in the 60s and early 70s before many of the new safety standards in building and household products came on line, and where fires were a nearly weekly event in the small town he worked in. It's a testament to how much things have improved that when an empty house down the street from us caught fire 3 years ago, 12 engines and 4 news vans pulled up to cover it; it's that newsworthy even in a city of 1.2 million.

Be safe, everybody.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #19 on: 06 Jun 2014, 15:03 »

Hugs and love for you, Zoe.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #20 on: 06 Jun 2014, 15:36 »

All I can say is it's a hell of a way of getting a full face peel and skin rejuvenation.
The quintessential Aussie response to disaster. Best wishes for your recovery, Zoe.

Some years ago, when I worked for a large company, the firm arranged for the fire-brigade to conduct training in how to use the fire-extinguishers that were liberally distributed round the building. After covering the mechanics of lifting the extinguisher off its mounting, and pulling out the safety-pin, we had to put out burning liquid (my memory says petrol, but I am not certain of that) in a round metal dish (obviously cut from the bottom of a 200l oil-drum) in the car-park. I remember finding even so small a fire, in the open air, quite intimidating, and being struck by how much stuff I had to squirt onto it to put it out. I immediately replaced the roughly thermos-flask sized extinguisher I had at home with a larger one, but I think I might be more inclined to make a rapid exit.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #21 on: 06 Jun 2014, 16:19 »

At my previous job, while there were plenty of fire extinguishers around, regularly inspected per code, we were forbidden to attempt to put out any fire, but instead were to immediately concentrate on evacuation of employees and customers. There were sprinklers to take care of the fire, and insurance to cover everything that could get destroyed by fire or water. Despite succeeding in my own brush with a very small fire, I'm hardly emboldened to attempt to play hero other than whatever I can do to help others escape first, and even then I have no idea what I'd really do.

As the experts say in the video I posted, simply taking a moment to think through the steps of how you'd go about getting the heck out of wherever you're at is huge.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #22 on: 06 Jun 2014, 16:37 »

i don't have a fire story, but i do have a friend who was in a moderately horrific deep-fryer accident a few years ago.

be careful out there people.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #23 on: 06 Jun 2014, 17:00 »

The habit of thought runs deep in well trained people. I know someone who hasn't worked as a firefighter for decades who still automatically makes a mental list of the exits every time he walks into a room.

Oh, yes, power strips. Don't go cheap. Google cutaway pictures of consumer-grade versus commercial power strips.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #24 on: 08 Jun 2014, 12:35 »

Ouch Zoe.

Best wishes for a quick recovery and no major issues.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #25 on: 10 Jun 2014, 15:28 »

 :-o

Echoing the sentiments above, re: best wishes for your recovery.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #26 on: 11 Jun 2014, 02:45 »

Much love Zoe, hope you're doing okay - or as well as can be expected.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #27 on: 12 Jun 2014, 00:30 »

Much love Zoe, hope you're doing okay - or as well as can be expected.
According to the docs, rather better than that. Burns were worse than first thought, but rate of healing unusually fast.
Thanks for all the good wishes.
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Re: Things to do in a fire
« Reply #28 on: 12 Jun 2014, 04:15 »

ITT: We discover Zoe is secretly Wolverine.

Glad you're on the mend!
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