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Reading the Fire

Firefighters arriving at a structure fire are faced with an overwhelming scene. Limited, incomplete, or conflicting information, a rapidly changing environment, and seconds to make life or death decisions. We are faced with an impossible task as there are so many variables that must be known to make accurate decisions! However, we must take action based on the recognisable fire behaviour indicators are visible from each perspective at each point in time. The process of information gathering can be improved if we are able to identify the clues that are externally visible and then complement it with the emerging internal indicators and changes that are occurring.

Course Objectives

  • Recognize the stages of fire development and identify conditions that will lead to flashover, backdraft or fire gas ignition.
  • Identify key fire behavior indicators (FBI) that are commonly present at structural fires.
  • Analyze the FBI in the context of the building and environmental factors.
  • Attempt to locate the fire and determine the most likely progression.
  • Identify the people and/or assets at the greatest risk.
  • Determine the likely effect of various ventilation/extinguishing tactics, tools and techniques.
  • Use most applicable tactics, tools and techniques.
  • Recognise expected or unexpected changes and alter or adjust the strategic and tactical approach if required
  • Develop synthetic “experience” with “hot seat” training methods and respectful analysis of case studies.

Target Audience

The target audience is any level of fire officer that responds to working fires. The key focus is on the first arriving officer and crew who must make rapid decisions in very limited time frames. The knowledge is required by all personal on the fireground and critically important to decision makers such as Incident Commanders, Sector Commanders, Divisional Officers and Safety Officers. The BE SAHF assessment assists task level crews to conduct a risk assessment in their area of operation. Sharing this information assists in gaining more complete information on current and changing conditions.

Training Method

The presenter will provide underpinning knowledge in a visual and practical manner. Because the task of fire ground decision making is extremely challenging, it is necessary to implant key visual prompts into the mind of the decision maker. Even commanders with vast knowledge and experience only have seconds to tap into stored memory.

Simple and logical mnemonics that can assist in identifying the fire behaviour indicators are presented and discussed. Simple graphics and video are used to validate the model and to provide the participants with a visual hook that can be referred to rapidly in high stress. Sufficient time is allowed for participants to add value by sharing experience and perspective.

Still images and video will challenge participants to identify key fire Behaviour indicators at actual incidents. Participants will use a case study template to analyze actual incident to build greater understanding and synthetic tactical experience. Group discussion on the case study will be used as a method of connecting the theory content to application in the real world.

The presentation is based on PowerPoint and is enhanced by the use of iSpring which enriches the presentation and allows for the material to be shared on a wide range of platforms and operating systems. Each participant will receive a DVD with the presentation and support material.


The trainees should have a sound knowledge of:

  • The fundamentals of firefighting strategy, tactics and techniques.
  • English language skills. (It may be possible to provide translators for the theory and practical)
  • Basic computer skills
  • Instructional techniques.



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