Dangers of Wind-Driven Fires in Structural Incidents
November 10, 2014
High winds recently spread large embers from a warehouse fire in Baltimore, sparking eight other fires, some of them a mile away. Luckily, all but one building was a vacant property and no one was injured in this “multiple, multi-alarm” fire event. Departments from three other counties were called in to assist.
Wind-driven fires and blowing embers are most often associated with wildfires but can cause ample damage in residential areas and cities as well. While wildland firefighters and crews are trained to take wind strength and direction into account when working a fire, fewer municipal fire departments alter their tactics during structural firefighting to account for wind conditions.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states wind-driven fires have “led to a significant number of firefighter fatalities and injuries.” Their site diagrams how winds as low as 10 miles per hour will change the fire dynamics inside a building, and shares lessons learned from the fire tests performed jointly with the Fire Department of New York and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
An article from FireRescue1 describes the pressurizing effect wind has on structures, noting several firefighter fatalities directly linked to wind. It lists seven steps fire departments can use to help manage wind-driven structure fires.