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Fire Fighting Future
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What follows is an essay written by a student in my ENG 102 class, Fall 2000. It is reproduced here with his permission. There are some formatting issues that are endemic to this site (there is no underline function, for example),
but the essay is complete.

Bryan Bauer
Fall 2000

Technological advances in fire fighting

     It's three o'clock in the morning. The entire Fall family, including their pets, is nestled comfortably in their beds. Suddenly, the silence is shattered by the defeaning beeping sound emanating from the hallway smoke detector. Frantically, John, the father of the family, jumps out of bed and quickly awakens his wife Sara. While hectically running towards his children's bedrooms, John sees the smoke pouring out from underneath his daughter's door. As he desperately kicks the door open, the fire that had been growing in his daughter's room had become an inferno. Temperatures in the room had made it impossible for him to even attempt to save his little girl. As John runs outside, he hears the screams of sirens pulling up to the house. Firemen dressed in fire resistant suits begin scurrying into the house to extinguish the flames. The frantic husband begins telling to the commanding officer that his daughter is trapped in her room. By using his helmet-to-helmet communication device, the commander orders the firefireters on the inside of the blaze to rescue the girl. With the help of termal imaging cameras mounted on their helmets, the firefighters are able to locate the child. Seconds later, dashing out of the inferno, a heroic firefighter is carrying the young girl. Protected by his burn proof suit, this hero is completely unharmed by the fire. Because of the time they saved by locating her with the camera, the girl's burns were minor.
     As the rest of the firefighters attack the fire, they spray a white foam substance that within seconds has the flames completely out. The quick action time from the firefighters has not only saved lives, but they were also able to save many of the Fall's possesions in the house.
     This is a situation that might happen in the near future. If it wasn't for the new equipment that the firefighters were using, this story may have had a very different ending to it. Fire Fighting is a very dangerous profession, but new technological advances will make it easier and safer on firefighters.
     One of the newest and biggest advances for firefighters would be the thermal imaging camera. As used in the story, the thermal imaging camera is designed to see through smoke and fire (Tu). These special cameras turn heat energy into a visual image, making it easier for firefighters to locate victims and pinpoint soures of fires inside walls (Drake). Using this camera to locate a trapped person in a fire can save so much time that not using one would almost be a waste. By discovering fires on the inside of walls, firefighters can save valuable time and avoid putting excess holes in the the structure's walls. Thermal imaging cameras, although very useful, are very expensive. Prices can range anywhere between ten thousand and twenty five thousand dollars (Ivey). This costly invention can be purchased in two different styles, the hand held and the hands free helmet mounted version (Drake). The hope for the future is that every firehouse in the nation will be equipped with at least one of these life-saving tools.
     Another advancement in fire fighting would have to be the enhanced communication. Traditional communications between firefighters depended on mouth-to-ear commands, which usually had to be shouted to be heard. In loud environments, such as a roaring inferno, this type of communication would just not do the job. Recently developed technology has made it possible for a team of firefighters to communicate with each other through the use of their helmets. These new communication tools are called the Mask-to-mask VOX communication helmets. The range on the VOX helmets is ten to fifteen feet and is designed for three to five man teams (Mask). With the use of these masks, firefighters won't have to worry about misundertsanding commnads or not even hearing them at all. This technloigical advancement will increase communication capabilities between firefighters at least three-fold and possibly save some lives. In the new future, every fire fighting team entering a flaming building should be equipped with these high tech helmets.
     Another device that has been recently upgraded to increase a fireman's safety is the Personal Assisted Safety Device or otherwise know as PASS. PASS is a small electronic unit that is placed on the firefighter's suit. If the firefighter becomes trapped or hurt, the PASS unit will emit a one hundred and ten decibel alarm that will alert the other firefighters of their endangered team member. The upgraded PASS device will automatically sound if the firefighter has remined motionless for longer than twenty-five seconds (Ivey). This new added safety feature comes in very handy when a fireman is knocked unconscious and can not yell for help. Older models were not equipped with such a feature. A single PASS device sells for around one hundred and twenty five dollars and with over one million eighty thousand firefighters in the U.S., don't expect to see every firefighter getting a PASS device anytime soon. Hopefully, in the future it will be mandatory for every firefighter to carry one. Our fire fighters' safety depends on it.
     A somewhat similar system to the PASS device has been produced through technology in New Jersey. This system used a bar code tag that is scanned when a firefighter enters a buildling. If the firefighter hasn't returned or checked in by a certain time limit, the system alerts the  firefighter that he/she is overdue (Tu). With this system, the squad knows whether anyone is missing. Using a laptop computer in the command vehicle, coordinators can keep track of the number of firefighters in the building, what kind of air they are breathing, their heart rates, and how many air tanks they have used. With the tab running up to almost seventy thousand dollars on a tracking system such as this, departments might have a hard time finding funds to install one in every station.
     A fireman's job may become a little easier because of new mapping technologies. Hi-tech computers are now being used to produce maps of the environment of a wildfire (Nash). These maps are made to look exactly like the environment. Different colors and shapes are used to show the multiple types of plants and also to show changes in elevation (Nash). By using these maps, the coordinator can tell what kinds of vegetation is surrounding the fire. This is very valuable information to the firefighters because with an insight like this, they can make a very good educated guess to where the fire is going to spread. Thus, making it simpler to deploy firefighters to the correct spots where they will be most effective. With comptuers becoming more powerful, these maps can only become more graphic and easier to use.
     A man named Randy Lyle, a captain with the California Department of Forestry, is making his own map system that will be useful to local firefighters (Jones). Captain Lyle's maps show an area that has already burned at one time and what damage it caused. His maps also show the houses and other objects that have been built over the burned area. By looking at these maps, firefighters can estimate the path of a fire and possibly what damages it might cause. By being able to predict where a fire might break out and spread, houses can be strategically built to avoid a wild fire. This would save millions, possible billions of dollars in damages if maps like there were made of every city. Although it would take years to complete, it would be well worth it.
     New programs are being established to help firefighters battle blazes in commercial buildings. Pre-fire 1 is the name of one of these mapping programs. Pre-fire 1 includes the blueprints of over sixteen hundred commercial buildings in Seattle, Washington, complete with information about hazardous materials inside the buildings or areas that might be dangerous for firefighters (Tu). It works like this, when a fire alarm is sounded, a firefighter goes to a laptop comptuer in the battalion chief's vehicle, types in the address and punches the print button. With this program, from the time that they know where they are going to when they have a complete printed diagram is about forty seconds. The cost for the software development, laptop comptuer and printer is about eighteen thousand dollars (Tu). A great investment considering it's almost ten thousand dollars cheaper than a thermal imaging camera. Firefighters would be able to move through buildings easier if they know exactly what they are going to run into.
     Another extraordinary advance for fire fighting would be a new fire suppressant system called CAFS. CAFS, Compressed Air Foam System, uses air under pressure mixed with a foam solution to produce fixed foam. This fixed foam can extinguish a fire in half the time it takes plain water (CAFS). There are two different types of foam. Class A foam is used to fight fires from ordinary combustible solids such as wood and paper. Class B foam is used to fight fire from flammable gasses and liquids. This new foam system would be beneficial to fire fighting in many ways. One, the areas of the stream is improved meaning it is easier to fight fires from father away. Two, the hose line would be lighter because the hose is mostly filled with air; this also makes the hose float in water. This is very beneficial to firefighters because with a lighter hose they can maneuverr around more easily. Three, there is not pressure loss when there is an increase in elevation keeping the flow strong no matter how high the fire happens to be. Finally, as said before, the time it take to extinguish a fire is dramatically reduced by half, saving thousands in damages. Since this new CAFS foam system works so well, we might be seeing firemen put out a blaze with foam instead of water in the close future.
     One of the most important pieces of equipment that a firefighter uses is his fire resistant suit. These suits are specially made so that they won't catch on fire, and they can protect the firefighter from hellish temperatures. These fire resistant suits are made of synthetic fibers that are scientifically developed to withstand extreme temperatures. One type of fabric that is used in almost over fifty percent of the fire service market would be the PBI fiber (PBI). PBI fiber is made by mixing Celanese fiber and high strength armada fiber together and then spinning to into yarn to be later used in fire suits. This fiber is one of the strongest yet developed, but hopefully scientists will keep improving on firefighters' clothing.
     Many tests are always going to try to improve on the existing fire suits. One example of these tests would be Dr. James Lawson's experiment. In his experiment, Dr. Lawson wanted to see what the limits were of the fire suits and wanted to make them so they were even more protective. In his experiment, he devised many firesuits out of different materials, exposed the suits to extreme temperatures, and with his findings he began development of a new line of fire resistant gear (Firefighter). Many experiments like this go on all of the time, all in hopes of increasing the safety of our firefighters. One experiment showed that new buildings, when on fire, cause a toxic laden smoke that attaches itself to the firefighter's suit. If not washed off, this toxic reside can cause health problems for the firefighter that has to wear that suilt. This is where Versitol comes itn. Versitol is a newly devleoped solvent that takes the entire remnents of the toixic residue off of the uniform, so it is not longer a health risk (Fireline). Many new products are being made to help not only the fire fighter's physical condition, but his or her health as well.
     Technology has made such an impact on fire fighting in the last few years. So many new advancements have been developed and many more are still in the proces of being developed that the possiblities of the future of fire fighting are almost endless.
     There is only one big problem with technology. That problem would be the money. Technology is so expensive that just to equip one fire station with all of the new high tech devices would cost a small fortune. Not to mention all of the other firehouses that have yet to benefit from any new technoloy. Where is all of the money that is needed to support our firefighters going to come from? Special programs should be set up to raise money for our fire departments. It only make sense that firefighters will do a better job of saving lives and dousing flames if they are properly equipped with new technology. Over the new few decades, big changes will begin to occur in firehouses all over the country; who knows what the futrure will hold for firefighters. If technology keeps advancing at the rate it is, out of control blazes might just be a thing of the past.  Although technoloy is making it much simpler to fight fires, it is still a very dangerous profession. My overall hope for the future is that these new advances not only help the firefighters but will also bring their causalty rate down.

This was a second rough draft for the author.  He went on to a revised final draft from here.  Notice (aside from the spelling, typos, etc.) that the thesis lacks an opinion.  Throughout the essay, the author--in passing--mentions how he feels about a particular advance, or how he hopes money will be there for the newest technology, but he does not have a thesis showing his overall opinion. 
The thesis for the BO needs to do more than ask for a LIST of potential "advances," and should include an opinion about those same advances.