Aim: This article describes events, which occur during the development of a fire inside buildings. Special attention is devoted to the development of backdraft and flashover. Additionally, the article identifies possibilities for earlier prediction of potential developments based on symptoms and data from sensors. Furthermore, the article highlights a need to build a system, which supports commanders at the scene of an incident.

Introduction: Extreme fire behaviour such as ventilation induced flashover, backdraft, and gas ignition or smoke explosion, pose significant threats to human life and property. A factor contributing to the significant risk for firefighters is associated with the rapid increase in the rate of heat release and temperature within structures. Based on data gathered from a reconnaissance, it is difficult to predict the probability of above mentioned events happening. Therefore, there is a need to devise a system with the potential for prediction of extreme fire behaviour, based on sensor data derived from premises engulfed by a fire. Such a system will undoubtedly be a useful tool, which will enhance the effectiveness and safety of firefighters. Furthermore, such a tool will support incident commanders in decision making and allow for the elimination of decisions, which could lead to development of flashover or backdraft.

Methodology: The study utilised two scientific approaches: review and critical analysis of literature, which provided an exit point and source of verifiable scientific hypotheses. This was enhanced by survey methods based on a contrast of current knowledge identified in literature with practical know how of experienced commanders from the Polish State Fire Service.

Conclusions: Non-linear progression and unpredictable fire behaviour, when it occurs, creates significant dangers to firefighters. Development of a system, which can analyse current sensor data gathered at the scene of a fire incident, will allow for the anticipation of extremes in fire progression with a consequential impact on safety. Such a system could function on the basis of data obtained from sensors as well as from information gathered during a reconnaissance - a firefighter could enter data manually, thus maximising the use of the system potential.

Keywords: extreme fire behaviour, flashover, backdraft, ignition of gases

Type of article: review article