NFPA 1403 Live fire training

This video is posted on The Bravest Online youtube account. There are many things wrong with this idea of training firefighters. First I will critique the video and then provide the references and data.

The video opens with a firefighter running out of the Sea Container carrying a bucket while the observers laughing as the firefighter barely misses being burnt by the flames. We do not know what was in the bucket, but it is safe to assume it is a flammable or combustible liquid fuel. We do not know what the total fuel load in the container is, but it appears to have some solid fuels towards the back (furthest from the camera).

The instructors advise the firefighter to hold off adding the second pale of fuel until the flames die down in the container. After Randy throws the second pale of fuel in the container, the narrator is heard saying “Total Flashover, there it is” and an additional person adds “anybody in there, they’re dead”. They got the second statement correct at least.

Let’s look at the NFPA definitions of Flashover.

NFPA 101 Life Safety Code 3.3.79 Defines Flashover as “A stage in the development of a contained fire in which all exposed surfaces reach ignition temperatures more or less simultaneously and fire spreads rapidly throughout the space.”

NFPA 402 Guide for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Operations 1996 Edition “Flashover. All combustibles in a room or confined space have been heated to the point that they are giving off vapors that will support combustion, and all combustibles ignite simultaneously.”

Throwing flammable liquids in a fire does not constitute a flashover.

The trainees are encouraged to “Go in there and get it” and to “Cut that water off and crawl”. The primary purpose for the liquid flammable was to, “make it hot.”

When going through NFPA 1403 instructor training we were taught that flammable  liquids were not allowed. NFPA 1403 Section 6 Non-Gas-Fired Live Fire Training Structures (2007 Edition) very nicely writes out their recommendations as listed below.

NFPA 1403  6.3.6 Except under the conditions of 6.3.7, the use of flammable or combustible liquids, as defined in NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, shall not be used in live fire training evolutions in structures.

NFPA 1403  6.3.7 Limited quantities of combustible liquid with a flash point above 38° C (100° F) shall be permitted to be used in a live fire training structure that has been specifically engineered to accommodate this fuel.

They do allow for structures engineered for limited quantities of combustible liquids to be used in live fire training. Maybe they have a statement from the manufacturer that says this sea container was engineered to use liquid combustibles in training fires, but I seriously doubt this exists.

The United States Fire Administration reported from  1986-2009 there were 231 firefighter fatalities during training, an average of 9.625 every year.

The NFPA reports that in 2009 7,935 firefighter injuries occurred during training.

  • 230 Thermal or Chemical burns
  • 65  smoke or gas inhalation
  • 70 from burns and smoke inhalation

That’s three hundred sixty five (365) injuries from burns and/or inhalation. We can do better than this. Safety is everybody’s priority.

We should not be complacent when it comes to training, especially live fire training in acquired structures. There is no excuse for injuries or fatalities during training evolutions. Training officers and fire chiefs have been convicted of manslaughter due to negligence. Don’t become a statistic. Don’t be like the firefighters in the video.


About Joel

I am a paramedic, firefighter and I work for an organ procurement organization. All stories related to work have been altered to HIPPA standards and for the protection of those involved. The personal stories are different. Photography, flying, aviation, hiking, camping, travel, geocaching, amateur radio are a few of my hobbies.
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One Response to NFPA 1403 Live fire training

  1. Joel,
    No disagreement with what you said here. Just wanted to point out that in respect to this point:
    NFPA 1403 6.3.7 Limited quantities of combustible liquid with a flash point above 38° C (100° F) shall be permitted to be used in a live fire training structure that has been specifically engineered to accommodate this fuel.
    The Flash Point of Gasoline is -45F, 38C is about 90F and that limits the materials to kerosene, paraffin, and liquids of that nature. This video indicates something with a little more pizazz than that, plus there is no black smoke as you would have with kero.
    The only thing I take exception to in your post is the use of the word “instructors” although I note you did not capitalize it. These were not instructors in any sense except that the folks going into this thing thought they were. These were bozos who don’t know their ass form a hole in the ground. They were not instructors, they were people charged to execute proper training, and they failed miserably. The sad thing is that somebody trusted them.
    These guys should be drawn and quartered. At best they make us all look like morons, and at worst they will kill somebody eventually. I note the video was pulled pretty quickly. It is my hope they are all now looking for other things to fill their time, outside of the fire service.

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