Arriving at the scene of a fire, crews must make split-second decisions which could mean the difference between life and death for those they are trying to help.
The Fire Brigades Union says two fire engines with a minimum of nine firefighters are needed to deal with a typical house fire with suspected trapped occupants.
A potential five minute delay while a retained crew arrives at the scene in a second engine means the first crew must identify their priorities immediately, from putting out the blaze to searching for people caught up in the fire.
In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire.
It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.
Most deadly fires occur in the home when people are asleep. If you wake up to a fire, you won’t have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape.
The heat from a fire is more threatening than flames. A fire’s heat alone can kill.
Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level.
Inhaling this air will scorch your lungs and the heat can melt clothes to your skin.
In five minutes, a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.
Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odourless, colourless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door.
FBU secretary for Lancashire, Steve Harman, said: “It’s in the first few minutes that we can make a difference.
“Fire spreads so quickly; as soon as it has taken hold every second counts, so the quicker you get fire engines effectively fighting the fire the better it is.”
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