Wild fires in the USA mobilise the fire brigade’s elite troops


Every year, wild fires cause havoc in the USA. They cause people to flee, cost billions and can continue for weeks. When such a fire needs to be brought under control, the authorities enlist the help of the elite firemen – also known as ‘hotshot crews’.

In the USA they have a season we don’t have in Europe: Fire season. This is the time of year when  cause havoc, particularly in the western part of the USA. In 2015, they had the worst season ever, when more than 40,400 km2 went up in smoke. And in 2018 it was even more disastrous, with the fires in California resulting in many fatalities.

More frequent droughts and increasing temperatures as a result of climate change only make the problem much worse. Therefore, combating wild fires in the USA requires a massive effort. And that massive effort in particular is what the so-called ‘hotshots’ provide. They are the fire brigade’s elite troops who specialise in wild fires and are called on to fight the worst and biggest wild fires all over the USA. In the wilderness they create ‘fire lines’ – i.e. Fire belts in the terrain, the purpose of which is to limit the spread of the fires. This is done by hand – using power saws and axes – or by means of controlled burning, when the direction of the wind is favourable.

The most dangerous tasks
There are around 100 hotshot crews in the USA, each of which comprises 20 firemen. They undergo intensive training in all forms of fire fighting tactics, and the physical requirements are rigorous.  Normally, they are sent out into the wilderness without logistical support in order to create fire lines in shifts lasting up to 48-64 hours for several weeks in a row.

The firemen in every hotshot crew each have their own roles to play. Some of them are trained in first aid, while others are highly specialised lumberjacks who are able to cut down dead or burning trees. Others create fire lines by cutting down vegetation bordering the fire and moving the cut down trees into the fire.

They risk their lives
It is dangerous work, so even if you are one of the best, every now and again it costs human lives. Therefore, all hotshots carry a ‘fire shelter’ which they can use if the fire encircles them. It is designed to withstand flames and radiant heat and contains sufficient breathable air so that the fireman, in an emergency situation, can roll out the fire cover, crawl into it and survive.

However, there are no guarantees. In 1994, nine hotshot member perished in the flames in Oregon when a rapidly moving fire engulfed them. And in 2013, a particularly rapidly moving and violent fire cut a hotshot crew off from their escape route in the wilderness in Arizona. The fire spread more quickly than the crew were able to run and the violent wind created 70 metre high flames and temperatures of approximately 1,100 degrees. The crew were encircled and all of them perished.

If hotshots are the elite troops, smokejumpers are the parachute troops. They jump out of an aeroplane instead of driving or trekking to the fires. The rapid mobilisation means that they can often contain the fire before it grows too big and gets out of control.


The EU Fire Safety Guide

Over the past decades, Europe has achieved substantial improvements in fire safety thanks to the continuous adjustment and implementation of fire safety strategies. As a result of comprehensive approaches, fire fatalities have fallen by 65% in Europe over the last 30 years.

However, more needs to be done as fire safety in buildings remains a major societal issue. According to statistics, it is estimated that, in Europe, around 5000 people a year are killed due to building fires.

All actors involved should intensify their efforts in finding and implementing effective solutions.

According to the subsidiarity principle, fire safety is a national competence, but the European Union also has a role to play.Most of the fatalities from fire happen in residential fires that are preventable .

To achieve this, fire safety in buildings requires a holistic approach from preventing the start of any fire to containing and extinguishing it.

In this guide, we present the seven layers of fire safety that must be considered to protect citizens and buildings, and how each of these can be improved.


To read the full article click on the following link:




Extinguishers Are Effective in Stopping Fires from Developing

Automatic water extinguishers protect life and property reliably. They play an especially important role in improving the safety of living. The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group emphasises that water mist extinguishers and sprinkler systems are the most effective way to prevent fire fatalities for disabled people, especially.

Automatic extinguishers are designed to put out or limit a fire until the rescue personnel arrive. The equipment activates in response to a higher heat level within the space. According to an American study, in buildings that had a sprinkler system installed sprinkler heads activated in 92 per cent of the fires.

The equipment is very reliable and false activations are extremely rare. Moreover, all of the sprinkler heads do not activate simultaneously. Rather, only the ones that are affected by elevated temperatures do.

Automatic extinguishers are designed to spray water in a real situation until they are turned off. It is likely that the subsequent water damage will be smaller than fire losses and smoke damage resulting from a freely advancing fire. In Finland, on average, it takes approximately 17 minutes from an alarm for firefighters to begin their action. An uncontrolled fire will developradically in that time frame and may also endanger human life.

– The activation of sprinklers does not increase the total sum of the fire losses, sums up Esko Rantanen, Chief Fire Inspector, Helsinki City Rescue Department.

It is possible to significantly improve fire safety, especially for older and disabled people, by installing automatic extinguishing equipment.

The rapidly increasing number of elderly people is yet another challenge from the viewpoint of safety of living. Portable extinguishers are one solution to improve the situation.

Different extinguishing systems are mutually complementary.

Fire safety is best achieved when risk situations are identified early on so that the situation does not develop into a full-blown fire.
Fire prevention must always be considered in its entirety and, therefore, in addition to the protection that extinguishers provide, smoke alarms (Automatic Detection Systems), likewise, improve safety.
With a smoke alarm information of an emerging fire is the most reliably and most likely the soonest alarm the Emergency Response Centre receives. Automatic Detection Systems provides the time to react to a situation as soon as possible, and the extinguishing equipment enables safe evacuation and rescue during a fire.

Automatic extinguishing system does not render the other firefighting action unnecessary.

– When a sprinkler has activated and slowed down a fire the rescue personnel can more rapidly gain control of the situation. At the same time, the extinguishing equipment improves the occupational safety of firefighters, says Esko Rantanen.

According to an American study non-functioning extinguishers are often the result of human action. In 59 per cent of the cases where the equipment failed, it had been switched off. Other key mistakes included turning off the system too soon during a fire as well as poor maintenance. In only seven per cent of the cases where the system failed could the reason be attributed to a technical fault.

The role of the human is especially highlighted in system maintenance. It is essential to properly maintain the extinguishing equipment so that they properly function when needed. Failing to maintain them may endanger the people in the building, and result in major financial loss.

– A sprinkler is the first line of defence at the scene of a fire, but it only works if it has been maintained professionally and responsibly, points out Arja Rantala, Finnish Sprinkler Engineers Association.

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group emphasises the importance of planning fire safety in its entirety. Proper maintenance and wellserviced equipment ensure business continuity at the site.

– No technical implementation at the site eliminates the need for human action, underscores Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Expert, Finnish National Rescue Association.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.
Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK

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Measuring the impact of fire on the environment

Do we have the training and expertise required to understand the environmental consequences of field operations?

Read about the project “Measuring the impact of fire on environment” and the “Fire Impact tool” that have been developed for training responders to understand the environmental impacts resulting from their actions when responding to vehicle and enclosure fires. Research report from the Swedish FPA’s research organisation Brandforsk.

To read the full article click on the following link:



FIREX in London

This year the FIREX was between 18-20 June and there were a lot of exhibitors and visitors. Our British member Fire Protection Association (FPA) had one big stand where they also all three days had short seminar presentations. Speakers from FPA were Jonathan O’Neill, John Briggs, Dr Jim Glockling, George Edwardes, Tom Stallard, Howard Passey and David Poxon. Beside that and in the Safety & Health Expo, FPA had a second stand. CFPA Europe were present in the FPA’s big stand all days and many new contacts were established.

Next year 2020, FIREX will be between 19-21 May, and we from CFPA Europe will be there also and have our General Assembly on one of the days.

PHOTO-2019-06-21-11-59-50 (1) PHOTO-2019-06-21-11-59-50


CFPA E’s General Assembly

The annual meeting for CFPA Europe was this year in Stockholm and in the same week our Swedish member, the Swedish Fire Protection Association, had their 100 years anniversary. On Wednesday 22 May there were more than 500 people in the Stockholm City Hall.
At the General Assembly on 23 May all members could meet our three new members, coming from Albania, Greece and Turkey. We are growing and it’s nice to see the engagement from the new members. This year we also had a guest from Insurance Europe. Policy Advisor Sara MacArthur gave an interesting presentation and she underlined the important and growing collaboration between Insurance Europe and CFPA Europe.


Fire in timber frame buildings

This document has been developed through the RISCAuthority and published by the Fire Protection Association (FPA). RISCAuthority membership comprises a group of UK insurers that actively support a number of expert working groups developing and promulgating best practice for the protection of people, property, business and the environment from loss due to fire and other risks. The technical expertise for this document has been provided by the Technical Directorate of the FPA, external consultants, and experts from the insurance industry who together form the various RISCAuthority Working Groups. Although produced with insurer input it does not (and is not intended to) represent a pan-insurer perspective. Individual insurance companies will have their own requirements and views which may be different from or not reflected in the content of this document.

To read the full article click on the following link:



Occupant toxic exposure to fires in rain-screen cladding systems

An experimental investigation of fire gas exposure from un-fire-stopped penetrations through the external envelop of a building in association with the use of materials in the make-up of rain-screen cladding systems that may contribute to fire.

To read the full article click on the following link:



Well-maintained Fire Detection System Reduce Fire Losses

The purpose of fire safety technology is to help people prevent fires and to minimise fire losses. Automatic Fire Detection Systems are designed to detect fires as early as possible and to send an alarm to the Emergency Response Centre or to other actors that can rapidly respond to the alarm. The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group points out that human skills play a significant role in properly operating equipment.

In 2016 automatic Fire Detection Systems reported 800 real fires in buildings; in other words more often than twice a day. According to Emergency Services College statistics prompt alarms were estimated, at the very least, to have annually prevented fire losses worth EUR 16 million.

Properly working Fire Detection System make a big difference in detecting fires, providing more time for action and, for example, securing business continuity for companies. On average, it takes approximately 15–18 minutes from smoke detection to commencing the rescue and firefighting operation at the site. If the fire develops further before it is detected by other means, and before people can start first extinguishing at the site, the damage will increase dramatically.

– Automatic Fire Detection Systems are reliable. They detect fires the most reliably and are the first to sound the alarm, says Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Expert, Finnish National Rescue Association.

The Fire Detection System plays a particularly important role when a fire starts in a space where it is difficult for humans to detect. Such spaces include different kinds of voids, utility tunnels, machine spaces and electricity boxes or main switch boards. Properly maintained and correctly functioning automatic Fire Detection System provide more time to act and to start first extinguishing safely and as soon as possible.

Human–automation interaction makes life safer.

It is always good to remember that, regardless of any installed fire prevention technology, no equipment replaces human action. Fire safety is an entirety in which the equipment supports people and their activities. The same applies to Fire Detection System. Equipment maintenance personnel must constantly hone their professional skills so as to be able to meet the requirements of the changing conditions.

– Equipment managers must receive training for and, especially, be familiarised with each site. The goal is to make them experts on the equipment at the site. Servicing and maintenance as well as planning, orientation and guidance given to others are the core competency of the equipment manager, emphasises Lauri Lehto.

The equipment manager cannot cope alone. People working and living in spaces fitted with fire alarms must be able to detect changes in their surroundings. The ‘fire safety team’ supports the equipment manager in observing the surroundings and in acting in various situations. In addition to the equipment manager the staff should include a sufficient number of other people that have been oriented, as required, to the functioning of the equipment and action during fires. Fire safety should not be the responsibility of one person alone.

– While the equipment creates safety and works at all hours, the system operator is not always accessible, says Lauri Lehto.

Systems that sends false, i.e. unwanted, alarms is often the topic of discussion. At present, it is estimated that there are approximately 22 000 – 24 000 pieces of equipment in use that are connected to Emergency Response Centres. Approximately one third of them has sent fire alarms – either real or false. The amount of equipment generating alarms has, however, decreased.

Systems are tailored to their environment. Most often the reason for false alarms is that the necessary arrangements during building renovations were not implemented or that the environment changes and human action changes the conditions. Yet, even in these cases the systems have worked correctly, in other words, the way they were installed to work.

Following a false alarm it is important to study the situation: what happened and why did it happen. The causes that led to the situation must be reported so as to avoid similar unwanted alarms in the future.

In addition to the site report the Fire Department’s report must be sufficiently detailed, particularly in such cases where the Fire Department sends a bill to the site because of a false alarm.

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group points out that Fire Detection System generate correct alarms approximately 800 times each year, and that they are installed, precisely, for such situations. Fires detected as early as possible cause minimal losses.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto

Safety and Security Expert

The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK

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Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very rare

Over the weekend, there was some discussion about damages caused by automatic extinguishing systems when the suspected reason of the water damages in the Kuopio theatre is a falsely triggered sprinkler nozzle. Automatic fire extinguishing systems have proven very reliable in events of fire. A sprinkler extinguishes a fire for a fraction of the amount of water that a fire brigade has to use at non-sprinkler sites. In addition, the risk of a water damage is very small. The risk of leakage caused by an equipment failure is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

Automatic fire extinguishing systems are designed to extinguish or restrict a fire until emergency personnel make it to the scene. The equipment reacts to an elevated temperature of a space, and the nozzle is triggered by the heat. A building with a sprinkler system requires considerably less firewater in case of a fire than a site without a sprinkler system. A sprinkler system also reduces fire and smoke damages.

Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very uncommon. According to the statistics by FM Global, an insurance company in the United States specialising in sprinkler systems, the risk of a leakage caused by an equipment fault is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

– The fact, however, remains that sprinklers are not triggered without a reason. In addition, not all of the nozzles in the system are triggered at the same time, but only those affected by elevated temperature, says Safety and Security specialist Lauri Lehto of the Finnish National Rescue Association.

According to American studies, in 98 percent of cases where an automatic system works, it works as it should. The reasons of inoperability are for the most part caused by human actions. The reasons include switching the equipment off or neglecting its maintenance.

The sector estimates that there are approximately 12 to 13 000 automatic fire extinguishing systems in use in Finland. These include almost 20 million nozzles installed in them. According to the statistics by the Emergency Services College, erroneous cases of operation in Finland amount to approximately 300 per year.
Very rarely are these cases caused by a faulty product. The underlying reasons may include installation-technical reasons or factors that have taken place after the introduction.
These include such conditions as the risk of freezing in winter time, or other environmental factors and changes that the placement of the nozzles has failed to take into account. One of the main reasons is inadequate equipment maintenance and servicing.

To work properly, extinguishing systems need regular maintenance for which SPEK, among others, arranges courses. https://koulutus.spek.fi/Default.aspx?tabid=70&group=Sprinklerit ja vesisumut&culture=
The essential matter is that the extinguishing equipment is properly maintained to ensure trouble-free operation when needed.

– Maintenance and servicing prevent situations such as the one in Kuopio. Neglecting maintenance may put people in a building in a danger to life situation and cause major economic losses, says Lauri Lehto.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK
Link to original