Though I write this article based upon hearsay, I do believe it to be a subject worth exploring. The report goes that the occupants of a recent house fire returned home to find smoke coming from the windows. The report goes on to state that the occupants entered the house, with the result being that one had to be transported to VCU Medical Center, and one was treated on the scene. Whether this is a factual account of what happened, or a story that someone told, it is a scenario that has played out in residential fires across this country. Firefighters are taught how to read smoke, determine the location of a fire inside the building and how to safely enter a burning building; homeowners are not.
Most people enter a building standing up. The heat at the higher levels of a room is capable of reaching temperatures of at or above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a scenario that will not be survived by many. Another issue is that the opening that a person enters becomes a ventilation opening. In other words, the fire is coming to that opening. Though firefighters are up for any challenge that they are handed, occupants that enter or re-enter burning buildings change the characteristic of the fire, as well as present a possible rescue or recovery scenario.
Firefighters in Petersburg did everything possible to get to the child that recently died in the mobile home fire. These firefighters were in full protective clothing with breathing apparatus.
For those that find themselves trapped in a burning building, the best air is at floor level. Heat and smoke rise to the ceiling first. The quicker that you stay low and go, the better the chances are that you may get out. This is why I constantly preach about a practiced home escape plan. You will perform the way that you practice. No practice yields chaos. If the fire has gotten close enough to the room that you are in to cause your door to be hot, do not open that door. You will then need to leave via a window, or if your room is on an upper floor, then you will have to hang and drop, or signal neighbors and arriving firefighters of your location. The first arriving fire officer (every unit has one) should make a lap of the building looking for occupants, as well as determining the location of the fire. Even with your door closed, an open window is a ventilation opening, and the fire is coming to it.
Back to the scenario that we started with, though you may disagree, there is no reason to enter or re-enter a burning building. The quicker that you call 9-1-1, the sooner that trained firefighters will arrive, with their number one priority being life safety. If you delay the firefighters’ arrival, you have conceivably made conditions inside the burning house untenable for occupants. The longer that the fire burns, the worse conditions inside will become. Hollywood has given us a false sense of reality about our ability to walk around in and survive in a burning building. The chances of you accomplishing anything worthwhile in a burning building are slim and none at best. “Get out and stay out!” and here’s a new one- If you’re out, don’t go in!