By Tyler J. Moffitt
The Safety Advocate
I’ve been a volunteer firefighter since the 1980s. Since my time as a firefighter, I have fought and experienced many challenging blazes.
The general public’s perception of what fire is like can be a bit of a misconception, as well as what firefighters and their equipment can do.
I can recall when the movie “Backdraft” was released in 1991, starring Kurt Russell. I had people telling me they never knew what it would be like to be in a fire until they saw the movie.
Well, the movie was pretty far-fetched.
•Fact #1: If firefighters went into a fire like Kurt Russell did, and without wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (S.C.B.A.), they would have collapsed and died due to the low oxygen content in the air, as well as other atmospheric hazards such as super heated air and the presence of toxic gases, which fire and smoke emits.
•Fact #2: The air tanks which firefighters wear on their backs is just that … air (not oxygen), which are filled from a special air compressor.
•Fact #3: You cannot see in a real fire. Firefighters usually fight inside fires in total darkness, and in some cases with a bit of the flame visible in the beginning.
Many times in the fires I have been in, I could not see my hand in front of my face.
Some fire departments have thermal imaging cameras, which aids in rescue, fire suppression, as well as seeing safety hazards such as a hole in the floor and other debris.
•Fact #4: Smoke is the cause of the majority of fire-related deaths, not fire.
•Fact #5: Fire and smoke spreads quickly, often with tragic consequences. A fire can totally engulf a home in less than six minutes.
•Fact #6: Smoke, which is quiet and deadly, can cover a home like a blanket, as well as any victims inside a fire in less than two-and-a-half minutes.
•Fact #7: In Canada, fire occurs every two seconds, and every 21 seconds someone is burned.
•Fact #8: Roughly eight out of 10 fire deaths in Canada occur in the home, where we all feel safe and secure.
•Fact #9: Statistics show that, on average, fire kills eight people each week in Canada while 68 are injured by fire.
•Fact #10: In many fires that have been extinguished by firefighters in their early stages, people have been found dead of smoke inhalation without having suffered burns.
It’s been estimated that many of these lives could have been saved by the installation of properly-functioning smoke alarms.
Tyler J. Moffitt is a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder, as well as a continuous improvement advocate.