For a while now most fire chiefs around the country have known that changes in building materials and home furnishings have altered modern fire behavior—residential fires today are burning hotter and faster than they did just a few decades ago. Now, the fire service must change accordingly, say researchers Dan Madrzykowski, a fire protection engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Stephen Kerber, the director of the Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) at Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
The cover story of the new January/February issue of NFPA Journal takes an in-depth look at the UL and NIST research on modern fire dynamics and how it has led some of the biggest fire departments in the country to change how they fight residential fires. The tactical shifts, chiefs in those departments say, have led to fewer firefighter injuries and a reduction in property loss.
The new research has also led to the rewriting of firefighting manuals as well as NFPA’s consideration of the creation of a new standard. Many in the fire service have praised the research, while others are deeply skeptical.
The cover story, “New Fires, New Tactics,” explores the tactical changes sparked by the research, the science driving these changes, and some of the impacts of and controversies surrounding the new research.