Why Aren’t Firefighters Learning From Science and Research?

This is why science isn’t being accepted into the fire service as credible evidence for more efficient and safer firefighting tactics.

How many fires to you go to annually?

During those fires, how many do you find yourself on the nozzle hitting the seat of the fire?

How many live fire evolutions do you attend annually?

How many of those live fire evolutions are held inside an actual house with furnishings?

If you answered “a lot” to any of the questions above, then this article is not for you. You should be soaking up the rich data within the ongoing research in the fire service and putting it to practice on your numerous fires you fight weekly. Take what works and utilize it to make yourself a better more efficient firefighter.

For most of the American fire service, we find ourselves on the nozzle with actual fire in front of us on occasion. Not near enough to put into practice what we learn from online training. And not everyone can afford to travel to some of the decent training events where they have live fire training.

However, there are many more tactics being researched than just putting water on the fire (ventilation, flow paths, etc.)

So why is the science of Firefighter Safety Research Institute, NIST Fire Research Division, Kill the Flashover, and other organizations falling on deaf ears?

It’s simple…

When my department does live fire evolutions, we use a propane fueled metal building. There is a simulated oven range that gas burns behind and we put water on it, it cools, and it turns off. It really doesn’t even get hot in there…the smoke is simulated as well. While all this is great for decreasing our exposure to carcinogens, it really does nothing more than help us learn to advance hose and hit the seat of a fire… a fire that isn’t really much of a fire at all. It isn’t real enough and we do it rarely.

How can a firefighter, who ends up inside on maybe 6-12 decent fires a year, take science and put it to use? I don’t know.

Sure, we can read and watch videos, but we have to be able to put into practice what we learn.

Two in the morning, with possible people trapped and someones house on fire, isn’t the time to try out something you watched on youtube.

Please don’t take this as me discounting the research. I am NOT. I am a huge proponent of the science and research done on fires and how we can be more effective and more efficient in our work. Seconds count, and most departments don’t operate with too many firefighters…so we have to be smart.

I read on social media and hear from others about how science has no place in the fire service and all this time I have thought the delivery of this information is what is failing. I think the real failure is the fire service isn’t capable of learning from it due to lack of training, too many regulations on training, and not enough open minds.

My department stopped doing acquired structure live fires over 15 years ago. About 10 years ago, then replaced the class A burn building with a propane fueled metal building. Yet, we don’t have the resources to train on duty due to companies being out of service for other things. I imagine many other departments are similar to mine.


If we really want to put this research to use, we have to train in as real to life situations as we can. Even with NFPA 1403, EPA regulations, and other rules governing our live fire training, we must find ways of learning from this.

Frequent, local training is where this research is going to pay off in the long run. Learning and understanding what this research has to offer for making your departments strategy and tactics more efficient and effective is what it is all about. Smarter firefighting means being safer in dangerous environments while risking a lot to save lives.

As for the research, keep it coming. I can still learn. I just hope I get the chance to put into action what I am learning.

Let me know what you think! Maybe your department has found ways to train a lot in live fire evolutions and implement findings from some of this research.