Flashover, by definition, is “the sudden involvement of a room or an area in flames from floor to ceiling caused by thermal radiation feedback.” Thermal radiation feedback is the energy of the fire being radiated back to the contents of the room from the walls, floor, and ceiling. (Fire Engineering article 2005)
As technical as that sounds, it is easy to imagine the heat, intensity, flames, and danger involved. Firefighters don’t learn how to handle a situation like this through experience alone. They prepare and train for flashover situations through simulations and training exercises.
On Saturday, June, 1, Eastern Idaho Technical College was at the Montpelier Fairgrounds with a flashover training trailer to allow our firefighters to train. Fire Chief Mark Parker and his wife Melony spoke with me in regards to the training exercise and what to expect. It was exciting and frightening to learn just what our firefighters have to go through to train. Although this seemed frightening, the firefighters were excited and eager to get the opportunity to experience the simulator training.
Last year, Bear Lake County responded to 114 fire calls. This type of training is vital. There are 50 volunteer firemen throughout the county, and their safety, along with the safety of the citizens, is a top priority.
The training trailer looks similar to a boxcar on a train. It was then that I learned that the firemen would enter the container, sit on benches, the doors would close, and a fire would be set inside.
In Fire rescue magazine, Charles L. French, Jr. describes the simulator as a split-level room with an upper level for the flashover to occur and a lower level in which firefighters can observe the conditions of the upper level. On the top level plywood panels used for the fire loads are attached to the walls and the ceiling. Then a 55-gallon drum stuffed with wood scraps is set up as a burn barrel to help get the fire started. He goes on to describe the conditions inside the simulator. The firemen watch as the smoke builds and banks down to the lower level. They observe the conditions as a flashover begins to develop. Firefighters get to see how smoke builds and banks down. They also get to feel a bit of the heat associated with a flashover. They learn how just a small amount of water from a hose line can change the conditions and cool down the atmosphere without disrupting the thermal balance of the room.
A true flashover reaches temperatures between 900-1200 degrees. Firefighters are faced with a flashover every time they enter a fire. Without an understanding and ability to recognize flashover conditions, firefighters are at significant risk. This training saves lives. This training helps our firefighters make it home.
Bear Lake County and Montpelier City firefighters have different types of training every month on the first and third Wednesday. They have more extensive preparation, such as flashover training, once a year.
It is with great respect that we acknowledge and thank our firefighters for all that they do to train and prepare for fires and for the fires they fight.
Firefighters risk their lives every day. When a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.