I was honored to get the call to instruct the first day of ventilation for the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority 2014 – 1 Academy. The group is a combined academy of two agencies and has a mix of both new and lateral hires. I had been looking forward to doing this class from the minute I was contacted because I believe so strongly in providing new firefighters with a solid foundation in ventilation understanding. When I found out the training division had also acquired a vacant structure slated for demolition for our hands on session I knew the quality of the training was going to increase 10 fold.
The day began in the classroom where we reviewed fire behavior, ventilation theory and research, practices and processes. Prior to the class the Academy Instructors had the recruits complete an online UL Fire Research class as pre-course home work. I know of a lot of departments that are missing out on this free resource as an educational tool so it was encouraging to see South Metro Fire Rescue embracing the information and exposing even the newest members of their department to it at the first opportunity. This also helped reduce our time in the classroom and provided us an extra hour for hands on training.
We had a total of 5 hours for hands on work on a vacant single family dwelling. Being the first day of ventilation training for this academy the program was progressive. We began with a group tool talk, “saw appreciation” (holes with hand tools) and saw familiarization. We then split the balance of the day into 3 areas; peaked roof, flat roof and horizontal ventilation to include taking windows and PPV.
The attached video highlights the peaked roof session which was progressive by design as well. We began with chainsaw handling and hand changes while working through a predetermined cut process on a non running saw. This was followed up with a rafter rolling session. Having students get the feel of rolling rafters in multiple cut directions with both hand operating positions helps create good technique and hand sensitivity. We then brought the saw work together for full size cuts.
While saw skills and technique is a huge part of vertical ventilation it isn’t the only part. Sounding firefighter work was given equal attention during both the flat roof and the peaked roof stations. Students were shown the importance of a good roof hook, differences, benefits and disadvantages of various styles. They were also taught the difference between checking decking and true sounding where we read our feet to determine location of structural members.
With the saw and sounding foundations set it is time to bring it together and see the students complete an operation as a team. We were fortunate on this structure that even with all the cutting leading up to this each team was able to get two full size holes. I am a firm believer that we set our “gauges” in training and if we aren’t cutting full size holes because we are worried about saving material or space we will inherently under cut in the real world. Cut big when you can even if it reduces your total reps.
To finish off the peaked roof session we reviewed the Milwaukee Cut method using chainsaws. Although more apt for steeper pitches the benefits of the two roof ladder Milwaukee Cut method are still very applicable in our climate during snow seasons on even the shallower pitches.
Thanks to the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority Training Division for the invitation and the great support which translated into an excellent training session. I also have to thank the members of Class 2014 – 1 for their hard work and enthusiasm. Hit the upcoming events page to find the next classroom or full day session of Ventilation Principles and Practices.