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SF Fireman On National Panel For Study

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In the last 60 years, the time it takes for a room to be fully engulfed in flames has been cut in half. A lot of it has to do with what our household items are made of. But one fireman with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue is studying to make fighting fires safer.
Adam Frick is a firefighter with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue. When he's not fighting fires, he is serving on a national panel that studies them. This year, Frick is studying something called positive pressure attack.

"Which is a tactic of placing a high powered, gas powered fan at the front of the structure while firefighters are inside fighting the fire," Frick explained.

Firefighters already cut holes into buildings to release the smoke once a fire is out. But Frick said the effects of air while a fire is still smoldering hasn't been studied.
"Some of the research has started to show the more air you give the fire, with what's burning, the worse off you are," Frick said. "So we are going to study to see if that's true or false."

Not to mention what's inside our homes, is making them burn faster than ever.

"The heat release rate of stuff that burns now, i.e. plastics or pvc, they release so much heat so fast, that fires reach flash over at a much quicker time than they used to," Frick explained.

Frick said in the 1950's it took about 20 minutes for a room to flash over. Now he said it can only take five.  

"And that's typically the time it takes for us firefighters to arrive on scene," Frick said.

Underwriters Laboratories, the company that runs the research for the panel Frick is on did a study showing how fast old verses new living rooms burn.

In the beginning, the fire in the older room is larger, but that quickly changes. Three minutes and forty seconds after the fire began in the modern day room; it’s completely engulfed in flames.  It takes twenty-nine minutes and twenty-five seconds for the older room to flash over.

And there's something in just about everyone's living room that causes it burn faster.

 "A lazy boy recliner has enough energy to flash over a single room," Frick said.

While plastic has become a way to make cheaper products, it's a great way to kindle a fire.

"If we don't understand that dynamics it creates, we put ourselves in greater danger," Frick said.

Frick leaves Monday for Chicago to meet with the rest of the board. Frick, who is the only firefighter from South Dakota, will meet with other firefighters from around the world to create a fire like the one we just saw, calculate the results, and come up with a training regimen.

The results won't be released for about a year. When they are, the training exercises will be released world-wide.

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