The scientific foundation for fighting fires; the author proposes a solid scientific foundation for firefighting that leads to 'safe and sane' strategy and tactics by offering new information and correcting misinformation that is currently out there. This paper will explain, clarify and summarise the scientific facts and principles that form the foundation of firefighting.(Science of Firefighting)

DAVID P FORNELL IN HIS BOOK. Fire Stream Management Handbook, (Fire Engineering, 1991), proclaims: 'Most firefighters have blindly accepted as scientific truth, fire service lore, which has been handed down as sound tactics through generations of officers, instructors, and firefighters, even though mounting fire losses and firefighters injuries may indicate otherwise'.

Thus the scientific foundation for fighting fires is either not known, or is grossly misunderstood.

Most of the information in this paper was obtained from the NFPA Handbooks, 17th and 18th Editions, and the Society of Fire Protection Engineering Handbook, 2nd Edition. It expands upon the Chapter on 'Fire Behavior' in the 'Essentials of Fire Fighting', 4th Edition, and is done so by adding new information, reorganising all this, and in some cases correcting misinformation.

The result is a solid scientific foundation for firefighting that leads to safe and sane strategy and tactics. Firefighting is, or should be, simple and easy enough to perform. Certainly the principles are easy enough. It is only in extraordinary circumstances that difficulties arise that complicate the fighting of fires.

Conserving Energy

The most fundamental scientific principle, that is the foundation for everything else, is the Law of Conservation of Matter-Energy, in simple terms, this law states that matter, like energy, cannot be created or destroyed. If you will think for a moment, you will realise that many times statements are made that do not appear to conform to this law.

After a fire, for example, frequently it may be said that a house was destroyed. You have to be careful about the exact meaning of this statement. While it is true that the house no longer exists, it is also true that all of the materials that made up the house have not been destroyed. The solid materials that made up the house have either been transformed into gases or ashes, or have been converted to energy. Of course, this fact is little comfort to the homeowner. From the owner's point-of-view, everything is gone.

Likewise you may hear the statement: "We've got to conserve energy". In fact it is impossible not to conserve energy. We can not do otherwise. Energy is always conserved. The problem is that when energy is used, it is transformed in such a way that it no longer is available to be used. The correct name for this problem is enthalpy, and unfortunately enthalpy always increases.

Chief Lloyd Layman in Attacking and Extinguishing Interior Fires (NFPA, 1955) has stated the following principle: 'The control and extinguishment of interior fires is based upon the principle of removing the excessive heat from the involved building'. …

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