Archive | March 2013

Guest Post: “Smoke…is it a loaded gun?”

The following is a guest post which was submitted by an ELAFF Local. Hopefully it will not be the last guest post here on If you’d like to submit a post, you can find more info HERE. This post was submitted by Christopher Bullins, who wanted to share some quick thoughts on smoke. As always, feel free to comment and discuss below.


“I just watched the video “Smoke is a Loaded Gun” by Chief Halton of Fire Engineering which is of part of the Fire Smoke Coalition . It got me thinking, do we fully understand and respect smoke, or do we focus more on the fire? I feel we as firefighters focus more on the fire, because that’s where the glory is. Putting the fire out is a great thrill, but we forget what smoke is. What is smoke made of once we break it all down? We put the fire out and the first thing we do is take off our airpacks…we all do it. As we overhaul we breathe in toxic traces of smoke. We fail to pull out the gas meter and test what we may be breathing.

Many have seen Dave Dodson’s “Art of Reading Smoke”. This is an excellent program, which helps teach location, size, and the potential of dangerous fire events. And he does touch on what smoke is, and that it is fuel. So, if it is fuel why do firefighters not treat it as such? Is it poor education in the firehouse or a case of monkey see, monkey do? If you see a senior firefighter or officer overhauling without an airpack and has not tested the air he is breathing, does that make it ok? Smoke is full of different gases and particles, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, acrolein, carbon soot, and oil droplets to just name a few. This all adds up to us breathing it in and which could lead to toxic blood levels when exposed over long periods of time or due to accumulation over time, or cancer in the long run. We need to be better educating our brothers and sisters in the fire service about poor practices such as overhauling while breathing in remaining toxic air, or just not wearing an airpack at all.

We have firefighters dropping from cyanide toxicity. We teach that with light weight building construction, buildings do not last as long before collapse. We teach new firefighter survival skills, how to fight the fire better and easier with better hose handling or ventilation tactics. But we fail to teach the dangers of the smoke during the fire attack and after the fire is out. During overhaul the fire load is now in the decay phase and is still off gassing. And we are breathing in this smoke, if we know it or not.”

Got Words?

It’s been a while since I wrote a legitimate article here. I’ve been focusing more on self-improvement and handling local business and have slightly neglected this site. Those of you that follow ELAFF on Facebook know that I continue to share the good works of other minds on a regular basis, and that’s the point. There are an overwhelming number of brilliant minds writing and teaching in the fire service today. With this in mind, I raised the level of scrutiny regarding what I deemed worth posting for the world to see. I’ve never even written a “training” article, anyway. I’ve simply scribbled down the random musings and odd opinions of my mind. Rest assured, I will continue to write, however it may not always be hosted here and I can’t guarantee the frequency.

So with that in mind, I’d like to try something new here…by ADDING to the many voices out there. Sort of hypocritical, but stick with me.

I will be posting a guest post from a Local in the near future. He sent me a draft to look over and I told him that I would just post whatever he wanted to say right here on So, perhaps YOU have a few words to say, but you don’t want to create “Fire Blog #1,957,372” just for a single post. Maybe you’d like to rant about transitional ventilation, the 7-9-8 attack line, or retail packaging that’s too hard to open. Maybe you have some witty satire piece that will leave sarcasm-blind readers in a stupor. Maybe you have a piece of motivational messaging that you’d like to share, or some pseudo-hipster slam poetry on budget cuts and plastic helmets. One paragraph or 10, 200 words or 2,000, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it if you meet the requirements:

  1. You must include your real name, and preferably an email address, too. You may write whatever you want, but you’ll have to stand by it when the wolves come running…or the adoring fans, whichever.
  2. I reserve the right to omit submissions as I please, for any and all reasons. I may also refer to various colleagues for their opinion on your submission prior to posting. The standards won’t be too stringent, though.
  3. Despite the context of #2, I do not have to AGREE with what you write. I asked Matt to write whatever he wanted as Captain Chaos, regardless of my opinion. In fact, I don’t even completely agree with everything that I’ve previously written. Still, my previous posts remain accessible, as will your future posts.

This may become a forum for the fire service “everyman” to share his thoughts. Then again, it may deteriorate into an utter mess of chaotic chest-thumping, the likes of which has never been seen…not even in the comments section of (in which case I will delete everything and we will pretend that this never happened.) Maybe nobody will submit anything. We shall see…

Let the madness ensue…

Send submissions to with the subject “Post Submission”.


%d bloggers like this: