This week at my CERT training, I was able to learn more about fire safety. Specifically, I learned that fire can also be described as “an exothermic reaction process where rapid oxidation of a material produces light, heat, and other products of combustion”. I learned the answer to a $64,000 question: Is oxygen itself flammable? The answer: No. It was interesting to learn about the fire triangle as well. [Fire Triangle image] Oxygen contributes as an oxidizing agent to the flammable fuel material.
Until this week’s training, I had never used a fire extinguisher to extinguish a significant size flame. The fuel source of this particular fire was gasoline and it was performed under the supervision of professional fire personnel and with enough resources to secure a “controlled burn”. In contrast to a controlled burn, the term conflagration denotes an uncontrolled burn, such as in a structure fire or a wildfire or blaze. This fire extinguishing experience increased my respect for firefighters and provided first-hand exposure to the amount of heat generated in a small, controlled burn.
We watched videos that described historically significant events and tragedies involving structure fires and losses of life, such as the Station Fire on Rhode Island, February 2003:
Having lived in Southern California in my younger years, I have experienced earthquakes of varying magnitudes including the Whittier Narrows quake of 1987 and the Northridge quake of 1994. I have witnessed firsthand how scenes and groups of individuals can become chaotic in an instant when the earth moves. This chaos is what has led to so many losses of life in structure fires such as the Station Fire. When enclosed locations are populated beyond capacity and poorly lit, these are the basic ingredients for a tragedy, although a tragic event may not occur.
An interesting comment was made by one of our instructors (paraphrasing mine):
There are some people that mistakenly subscribe to what they call “the rule of thumb”. They suggest that as long as you are able to stand far enough away from a disastrous event so as to be able to place your thumb in front of your dominant eye and obstruct the view (contain the event by visibly blocking it from your view), then you are at a safe distance…that’s wrong and those people are mistaken! You can bet I'll be a few thumbs' distance behind those people with all their thumbs.
That instructor was right, especially with an event like this one:
In this week’s class, we also covered:
• Various methods of carrying victims out of an area
• ABCDE fires
• Appropriate situations & how to turn residential gas off
• Obtain & properly maintain/check smoke & carbon monoxide detectors regularly
• Hazmat in home
o Separate ammonia from bleach
Below is a fire classification chart that I found at SafetyPosterShop.com: