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May 18, 2022

051 - Fire Science in eyes of a firefighter with Szymon Kokot

051 - Fire Science in eyes of a firefighter with Szymon Kokot

In this show, we often discuss how fire science can help firefighters. Today we drop the UNO reverse card and figure out what firefighters actually need from fire science. And for that, I've got a perfect person to talk to - a firefighter, commander, instructor and a fire scientist. Szymon Kokot of the Nidzica Fire Brigade and CFBT Poland 

With this talk, I wanted to achieve two answers. How firefighters view fire science (and how to make it more useful to them). And how engineers should view firefighting operations. You will learn a lot about the commanders' role and multiple not-so-obvious factors that go into consideration when battling a fire. From this talk, you will understand why risks related to high-rise (and large space) buildings are so different from simple structures.

I hope you appreciate this point of view. For me, it was very eye-opening. We need to be more sensitive to the needs of the firefighters, and more often include them in our discussion. At the same time, we need to find a way to communicate fire science and engineering to them, so they can fully benefit from the technologies we introduce with them in mind.

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Cheers to Dr Matt Bonner of Trigon Fire for the surprise song. Make sure to check out his episode on facades, as music is just one of his skills.

Transcript
Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Hello, and welcome to Fire Science Show session 51. Last week it was the celebrations. It was such a great pleasure to celebrate the piece of 50. We had a great song. It was really a lot of fun for me too. Thank you very much to everyone who've participated and, uh, thanks to Matt and Guillermo, especially for their significant contributions. And now we're getting back to the normal routine, which is hardcore fire science. Without dumbing it down. For today's episode, I've actually brought a firefighter to the show. fire instructor and someone who's actually quite passionate about fire science as well. Uh, his name is Szymon Kokot chief officer of, , Nidzica Polish State Fire Service department. And he's also, um, Chief off a foundation, CFBT which is dedicated to training firefighters in Poland. So without a doubt, he's passionate about fire service and helping communities. Szymon also happens to be a doctoral student at the Main School of Fire Service where he's pursuing his PhD on thermal exposures to firefighters. And I think it's a very, very interesting subject. Then I'm going to have an episode about that soon. Ish. . But because of he's I think he quite well grasp the necessity of fire science to firefighters. And that is the first thing we're going to discuss about in today's episode. The second thing is The exposure. Of fire engineers to firefighters. That is something I don't think we, we have enough. I don't think we as fire engineers. Appreciate the job of a firefighter enough. I don't think we understand completely what they are doing, what they want to achieve, what are their tools and how they use them. So I think it's a huge gap to be field. bye projects like, like this podcast to connect our groups together because together we can achieve much, much more. And if you ever wondered how a firefighting operations look, what are the first thoughts in the head of experienced fire officer? When you ask them? What's happening when they arrive to the spot, you will be surprised. I was surprised and it's eye opening. A, what. Really they care about and what they seem to not care that much about, And the pressure points are quite different from what I've been told as a fire safety engineer. So definitely a, an episode where listening to the end. I hope you'll enjoy it. And yeah, let's not prolong this anymore. Let's spin the intro and jump into the episode. Hello everybody. I'm today with a good friend. Szymon Kokot of the Polish Fire Brigade and CFBT Poland foundation. Great to have you in the podcast, Szymon

Szymon Kokot:

hi, and it's a real pleasure to be on your podcast. I'm a big fan and straight, I will say one thing, just, you have to, you have to leave a five star review for this podcast because it's absolutely fantastic.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah, it's not possible to leave like lower stars, the software, we don't take it. So it's a smart software. Thank you. Thank you, Shimano. And, and we can say welcome to the podcast again, because you had small appearance in, the, , watermist conference, Which was, which was interesting, even then, I really enjoyed how you talked about the, the firefighter in the room. That's already there, meaning that the sprinkler system and today. You know, I do this podcast for fire engineers, for fire scientists. I hope there's a lot of, firefighters and other professionals that deal with, with fire in some way, listening to us. And often we, as, as fire engineers, we, we do a lot of stuff thinking about. Firefighters and, to, to help firefighters, to assist firefighters, to change the environment in which firefighters work. But I think we don't have great appreciation of how that work looks like, what the challenges are and, It really means to battle fires. I'm quite lucky. I did the Main School Fire Service in Warsaw as a civilian. However, I will still expose to lots of training, meant for, for officers. You know, you did the same curse, but for offices in that schools. So we know what I mean. But I feel that in many places of the world, the fire engineers would come outside of the fire engineering. They would come from mechanical or architectural or, or structural engineering become a fire engineers. So they have absolutely no idea how the job looks from the, from the firefighters perspective. And first I wanted to ask you about. where do you see the biggest gaps in communication or knowledge? Or is there a quick way we could improve that because I feel it's a critical component.

Szymon Kokot:

well, I'm not sure if there's a quick way and if there is, I'm not sure I've I fully understand and appreciate how it can be done. But like you said, I, I graduated from the main school of fire service first engineered and masters engineer. I'm also doing my PhD still under the Main School of fire Service. It's on. thermal radiation. So I am a, I am a fire safety engineer myself, although I understand. And I understood from the very beginning. Within this, this specialization, you can also identify a number of, let's say sub specialization. So there's command, obviously there's a prevention. There's a lot to, to know about design and, and prevention and so on. So I'm more on the side of, of command. Let's say of intervention still. my understanding is that there is no. Theory without practice. And there isn't a practice without theory. So even if we consider ourselves to be more practical guys in the, in the scope of the fire engineering, by saying this, we automatically, devoid ourselves of a very important component, which is a solid, understanding of the theoretical foundations. So many years after. graduating, I'm still reading books. I'm still trying to, you know, catch up with all the things that are going on in the, in the world. A great example is what UL, , or currently fire Safety Research Institute is doing, by providing research that is dedicated for firefighters. So I think that, firefighters basically need to understand that if they want to be really good. Or a best version of themselves as firefighters, fire commanders. They need to really have a very strong theoretical basis, which I suppose is lacking these days.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I love how you said that there are many fields in command is one, obviously, because for me, I, it's not an obvious thing, you know, and I think many, fire safety engineers would not, um, it would not be an immediate choice You know, the firefighter is that this guy with water who comes in and sprays water, we don't really appreciate the diversity, the logistics behind it, the knowledge and skills around it. And yet we try to. Push for solutions that are meant to help in that work, that this is exactly what I meant with this lack of appreciation between our, groups. Maybe it's just, we don't talk to each other enough. Maybe it's something. Other reasons I don't necessarily understand why, why would we not share, uh, engineers to firefighters firefighters then? You know, I actually think that's, that is critical to, to talk with, uh, with firefighters. Yeah.

Szymon Kokot:

is, I will share with you, there's a saying which maybe you have heard, or the audience have heard, put the wet stuff on the red stuff. it's the display of the philosophy that is often connected to the firefighting, but it's way more complicated than that because the wet state of being water is, is something with cooling capacity. That's what we need to understand. And the red stuff is something. produces heat. Now the heat is dependent on the access of air or the gas exchange. the effectiveness of water is basically connected to your proximity, to the fire. So if you're closer, you can obviously apply water in a more efficient way, but still, if you want to get closer, you're endangering your people. You are committing them into smoke. You have to calculate the time. Then you have something that you flow and you have to supply. so these are measurements or sometimes assessments of your water supply and so on and so on. So it's a complicated world, which in addition has to be, played all this, this whole theater theater happens within seconds very often. And then whatever you decide can dictate the outcome of your entire 2, 3, 4 hour intervention. So.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

It's interesting because, when we consider like five dynamics in compartment or in, in general fire development in the building, usually the moment that firefighters arrive is something like an end of calculations for us, because it becomes extremely complicated to include this, what she just meant, what the sprays and, and EV everything. In the eyes of the fire fighter and fire instructor, I think in the first place, how do you view the fire science or from your perspective, does fire science even exist as it, is it useful? what is young firefighter reading to learn about this?

Szymon Kokot:

It's funny. You're asking this currently, he's reading my book.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Fantastic.

Szymon Kokot:

Thanks. I wrote the textbook on, structural firefighting for the fire service. It is approved by the national fire chief as a, as a textbook for firefighting years before I worked on together with international colleagues and best Polish instructors, I worked on the development of the. Of the curriculum. So curriculum, then we designed, um, training infrastructure. Then we produced, uh, instructors and then we produce training materials still. There's a, there's some, some milestones to, to be reached, but, does the science exists, honestly, after many years, I will say that there isn't firefighting without science. I mean, because often, often it's translated into simple terms and the lower you go in the ranks, obviously you need to make more simple. procedures or algorithms for people. If this, then that, if you want to be safe, close the door or whatever for this kind of, or limit the inflow, then you can complicate the idea further. only a certain level of complication is necessary for understanding, but it's a very good exercise. Eyeopening as the size and horizon broadening exercise for the commanders to actually know their science, because, because it governs everything. yeah, I, , I have a very strong opinion that there isn't firefighting without science, it has to, it has to simply has to be the foundation, of even the, simplest or, most basic firefighting actions.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

but at the same time it must be accessible. Like you said, there are certain levels which would probably come with. Experience and formal training,

Szymon Kokot:

Yes.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that you can go deeper and deeper into it with, but doesn't matter. Even the, the, rookie, , voluntary firefighter should know. Fire science is just, it's the difficult job to, to present that fire science to them in a way they can comprehend given their current experience knowledge. And let's say a formal training status, right? That's the challenge.

Szymon Kokot:

That is true. So therefore not everybody can be a good instructor or a good teacher. That's the first thing, but there's another branch of science or knowledge maybe is a better word, or maybe it's science, which is called pedagogics there is a science of teaching and there's a science of learning as well. so for example, I'm a graduate of, pedagogical studies, uh, occupational health and safety studies. Plus I like people. So probably also that I'm, that I have. The gift of the gab or I talk a lot or I pour water, as we say in Polish, uh, but, instructional design Is a critical, because I can, I can give complex books to firefighters and say, you know, in two weeks, I'm going to give you a test and you have to pass it to become firefighter. But instead I rather, I prefer to create their interest in firefighting because fire is, It's a phenomenon that was, with, with the humankind Evans, since we started being a little bit more organized. So we started living in the caves and, and used fire to quit eating raw meat or so, that was always something hypnotizing connected with safety, connected paradoxically, uh, with safety of, ho household and with. Where I'm and, being close to, let's say your tribe sort of, so that's why people are still fascinated in fire. And for example, this is one thing that we use in the pedagogy of teaching fire science to, uh, recruits.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I had this issue last year when, uh, there was this sad moment where professor Konecki has passed away in Poland, he was , my PhD supervisor and one of my mentors. And he was compartment, fire dynamics guy, guy in Poland. Fantastic, fantastic person that really, really misses. but this opened a hole in the curriculum of the university because he was giving compartment fire dynamics and he passed suddenly. So the, the. I had to continue. And I was very honored that I was asked to finish it, with the students and, what, it was just a a short chapter in my career. not an academic, but I I've met this 100 or 200 young people trying to learn being fire safety engineers. And I have a choice either. I, I drop a, you know, a hundred of pages of. equations on them, which I, which I possibly could do to show them the theoretical foundations or I can just try to explain them how small changes in the compartment, change the outcomes of the fire and that you can actually, we have tools and models to calculate that, like, you open the door, the pressure plane changes. You put a wind boundary condition on your window. The flow path changes. You change the size of the compartments, your, temperature will, will change in the compartment. You have compartment begin of the fire will travel, things like that. And they were fascinated and they were, I assume it seemed that they really enjoyed , this view of science and it was not the dumbed down science, not, it's not the case. It was just put in a simpler, terms that, that are, they just stubble and easy to. Comprehend. And in this form, I thought that they really benefit from my curse. Obviously, professor Konecki had the and he was able to do the equations together with, inspiring and that's something I would eventually one day maybe achieve. I would aspire despite that, but, but I thought that it is important to do like that because there was no point to, you know, push equations into their heads.

Szymon Kokot:

it's interesting that you're saying that because just just a minute ago, I thought about this very sentence dumbing down, and this is a sentence that I heard from, , John McDonough, who is one of the most recognized. worldwide instructors of CFBT by the way, I will elaborate on the, uh, on the aggravation of the, or the acronym in a few moments as well. And, and he uses. Stop dumbing firefighters down. I understand that this is science, but come on. We are people. We are, we have mastered civilization. it's amazing, you know, just, just from private life. If I took a loan today and I, my me and my wife, we went with our dogs, you know, and I always laugh to the dog. Can you open the. No, the dog cannot open the door. Can you bring out the trash? Now the dock cannot bring out the trash, not to mention about recycling. You know, we are a civilized kind. We need to, aspire not, not aspire down. We need to aspire up. I mean, people are smart. Everybody is able to understand the, the triangle.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

need to dumb down things, Sam.

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah. The triangle of fire or the tetrahedron as the Americans say or. Yeah. If you mix, these elements, there will be fire. Now this is, complex enough. This is actually simple, but you don't need to make it more complex for the firefighter who is starting their, let's say adventure with firefighting and is working on the nozzle. He or she, they need to understand. Okay. Do not, not too much air. Try to be in the safe zone. If you feel the heat is probably a little bit too late. So watch the signs because your, gear works as a capacitor. It, gathers heat. And when you feel. It's a bit too late. I mean, it's, we, now we have two good, PPE. So everything is science. I mean, the PPE is so scientific, there's this layer that doesn't burn. There's this layer that does not allow water in while letting your sweat. You know, as, as vapor and there's this layer that just makes you comfortable, that can get wet. And there's some resistance for this HTI, uh, or whatever, thing from, from the standard that is saying how much resistance there is against what the vapor it translates into comfort of working with. Everything is basically advanced material, science of fire, science of combustion, science of water. And so on hydraulics, the water delivery to fire it's science Bernoulli's equation. I mean, it's absolutely basic stuff to understand.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay. Szymon let let's spin the table a little bit. So let's, let's now try to expose some fire engineers to the firefighters one-on-one without dumping it down. And, uh, you've once said that, whatever people made it will burn down and they don't design it for burning, but, uh, from your perspective, you have to be ready that it will. And

Szymon Kokot:

Exactly.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah. In the green room, we've chatted a little bit about it that, sometimes we as engineers, we would stop our calculation and say, okay, this is a very improbable fire, but, for you who have to go and, then, quenching down, it's not a great, uh, news that you you've have encountered a very, very rare fire in your life,

Szymon Kokot:

No, I signed the contract. It's bad news. I don't have experience.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

you have to, fight it. But I really like, if you could explain, to engineers, like w what happens. When firefighters arrive, because I think people don't really comprehend that, well, let's pick a big, an object, maybe a car park, you like car parks, you love car parks,

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah. Yeah. I love the

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

everyone, everyone loves scalp

Szymon Kokot:

underground

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Especially Mo yeah. Okay. Let's make it actually, let's make it on a multi-level underground car park. So, so from my, from my perspective, when I'm engineering this, I would, , assume some design fire, which grows in the car park. I would design some smoke control systems to create a state of equilibrium inside the car park that he, this produced hit is removed. Sometimes to various levels of, success in, in making the car park. Smoke-free actually, it's never, smoke-free, it's always filled with smoke to some extent, but, 15 minutes into my analysis, I assume some firefighters show up and for me, the job is done. It's their problem now. And, from you when you arrive what's happening,

Szymon Kokot:

okay. So, going back shortly to the motto, I used to say that nobody designs anything with the intention that it will certainly without a doubt, be on. While we know that anything that humankind has produced will sooner or later be on fire. And we will have to intervene by saying this. I don't mean that everything always catches fire, but there isn't basically okay for the prevention officers surely, but for the intervention firefighters, there isn't a world of interest outside reality. So whatever is designed manufactured. We'll be only professionally of interest for us when there's problems with it. So let's say we are the testing, community of all the problems, you know, that can be created.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I must stop you because he brought, before, uh, he didn't answer my carpet question, but you gave

Szymon Kokot:

I'm getting there. I'm getting there.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah. We'll get to the car park. But I think if touch in the meantime, you have touched something really, really good that, for you guys it's always burning. It's like you don't get any intervention in the non burning building for us. For us, uh, a building that burns is a rare thing and low probability, even for you it's Wednesday

Szymon Kokot:

that's exactly the thing.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And then I think this is also a reason why in the end fire engineers, and firefighters end up having completely different views fire, wwhat fire is how much money you should save while designing fire safety in the building. I mean, it's so rare and, but, but it also works Like on your side, it also skews up the view because for you, the fires are common. They are, they're always there in a way. Whereas in fact, the six show they arrive.

Szymon Kokot:

Exactly, but in a way, because I, totally appreciate the work that is being done by fire engineers, because otherwise we would be really screwed. And I really appreciate that because if there was no quality control, safety features built in fail, safe mechanisms and so on. Yeah. The world will be a disaster. We will need probably half of the population to be firefighters or some kind of, first responders. so, absolutely great respect for all the work that is being done. I think that, there is a great need for the communities to work more closely together to understand both. Both sides because was absolutely, enlightening to hear about the risk probability in your previous, , episodes from different, great people whom I admire vastly like, professor Ezokoye or, the guys who spoke about, battery fires, wooden buildings, and so on. I have to admit, I haven't listened to all the. They're on my list. You're just producing , these episodes too fast. And that's why you really not only deserved, but I demand that you get a five-star review on the podcast app from every slate right now. That is an order. I was reminded. I'm a, deputy fire

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

th there's a commander way. Okay. Let's go to the car. let's go to the chiropractor. Let's let's tell the fire engine. The firefighter does when they, when they get the colder, the carpet is in fire and it's underground. We already agree that

Szymon Kokot:

Okay.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

underground car

Szymon Kokot:

So, so based on experience, there's a, PDA, pre determined attendance. That's probably a very British term, like a minimum of vehicles and personnel that absolutely has to be dispatched to this kind of event as a minimum first let's say serving, and then when the commander is on scene he or she. We'll decide if it's enough or it will, they need more. Now this decision is based on a multiple factors. if, this is a building that was, in the area for some time, there is an increased chance that they know the layout of the building. If it's a new one, maybe there was just one visit or maybe there was no exercise yet. we have, operational planning that envisages going to all major or complex buildings, uh, you know, frequently or at least try to put them on, on the list and check them one after another, because it's a maze the problem. Like whatever, when I sometimes teach the firefighters in the factory, I tell them The difference, you know, what is your advantage? You know, You know exactly the building. So next time you just are walking around, you know, eating your donut, chatting with your friend. Just have a look at. This is your great advantage. When we are attending a fire, we basically don't know where we are going. That's one thing, the second thing, uh, we take into consideration. What is the time of the day? If it's a evening till morning, the car park is mostly full. If it's the other part of the day, it's mostly empty. So fire load, fire load, but also the ability or the easy. To travel around it without being disoriented, because obviously you have to throw in a limited visibility. If it's limited visibility, it's smoke. If it's smoke, it means breathing protection, breeding protection has limited time. so depending on also, depending on another, let's say science, which is ergonomics. You have to be able to assess. It's not entirely the case of the fire commander because every firefighter has to know this for them. How much air they are using. Is it 50, 60, 70, 80 liters per minute, based on different types of work, moderate work, heavy work or so on or more practically, they have to just read the gauge of, their, BA pressure frequently enough and be able to communicate if we want to communicate, there's a problem with concrete. Which blocks the signal. So, so there's, there's a number of, difficulties. What is the average, ability of firefighter to, combat fire, be it coal smoke, be it attack the seat of the fire. And if I'm having today an average firefighter, a very good firefighter or a poor fire. It's a, it's a great set of variables

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

so-so, there's many like levels of constraints you have to take into account the, uh, time. Like you, you can send people for a certain amount of time until their breathing practice, uh, stops working. And probably you need to secure the logistics, how

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah, pull them out early enough so that they don't work. Yeah. They don't work on the reserve because it's basically being in the danger zone, working on reserve, but also being able to send in, someone in exchange so that we have a continuous firefighting operation, then.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

mentioned communication, which also can be blocked by the belly.

Szymon Kokot:

It can, it can then visibility. Do I have a thermal imaging cameras? Now that's a piece of scientific equipment, you know, like reading, thermal, radiation, from editing objects, which by the way is also, they need to understand this is not a Terminator. This is an assessment. If it's heavy smoke, there's a lot of soot you will not be able to see through it. So your camera is not broken is just, is just basically,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

It's reading once was real it's reading. It's reading. The physics is just the physics that that's not really in your favor. And what about a water? You need water? How, how complicated is water logistics? I know from school it's not easy.

Szymon Kokot:

no, it's not easy. And here I have a great mentor who is Paul Grimwood, whom Is a fantastic, gentleman, a gentleman. And I mean it, by saying this, but he dedicated his life to developing science of what. So in his PhD, which he defended probably in 2015, he identified the relation between early applied, high flow rates of firefighting water to a limited area destroyed by fire to limited time of work. There is also two limited exposure to heat, to limited, uh, engine work, time and so on. And so on. Basically, If you apply. Good enough water in the beginning. There's everything. it is, that's also a simplification simplification. Everything gets more simple, but you need to be able to organize it. So, first of all, the predetermined attendance, what is the dispatch that you are receiving, but, soon enough, you have to understand that whatever you are applying, uh, you need to balance by organizing some form of water supply in urban areas. That's usually hydrants. In most cases, maybe, unless there's a really huge, problematic fire, and they should be able to provide you enough of water supply, or you can, call additional, resources if you can, because you compare Warsaw when, where there's 17. Fire stations. Plus the school to Nidzica where I serve was one fire station, plus not so many volunteer fire brigades, which are usually not available entirely during daytime because people are at work. so there's, there's huge differences. but, also if, if you don't. Put enough effort into training of firefighters. Their effectiveness of firefighting can be as, different as between 10% and a hundred percent, which is tenfold. Now, if you are interested in any kind of assessment of risk or efficiency, a tenfold difference is like worlds. So training is crucial. We have to train people and again, we really need to feed them with signs because otherwise they don't understand why they are doing things. And it's been in, in, uh, 1866. I think that James Braidwood the first commander of a metropolitan fire brigade in. He wrote a book where he explicitly mentioned that he's not only teaching guys what to do and how to do, but first of all, why they are doing this because if they understand why they will find what and how.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I have another one to go deeper on this conversation, on the firefighting, work during the fire to, what extent the work would be different. when the building is, is different. I mean, let's imagine you have a taller building. You have a. Kira park. Uh, we have this conversations, especially related to timber in fire, where we eventually concluded that, the building must be the fire must be put out at some point. And then we all in do the lifting a field that if you have a two story building, that's a completely different, fire to attend than a fire on the top of a 30 story building.

Szymon Kokot:

Oh, absolutely.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

and like, to what extent this difficulties for you rise with the increase of complexity of the building is diagonal twice harder or 10 times harder. If we can.

Szymon Kokot:

it's not easy to, let's say put it in simple terms like this, but I can elaborate a little bit. there's a great friend that I had. Whose name is John Chubb, and he's a fire officer, operationally training fire officer in Dublin fire brigade, Ireland, probably 36 or seven years of service. Very, very knowledgeable, very experienced, very humble person, a great mentor for me. and he's established a fantastic, program on, uh, let's say, fighting fires in the beginning, let's say the, intention was in tall buildings or high rise buildings, but he sort of broadened it to complex buildings, , because the buildings does not have to necessarily be tall. It can be huge, have a huge floor plan. And it's already a difference for us that time or the F. that we need to dedicate to travel from the arrival spot to the spot where we can start operating. It doesn't have to be up, but op is more difficult because also water doesn't travel up well. if it's far, then we get kinks and bends in the hose lines. This is the pressure loss. Then we ended up with less flow, transportation on. of the equipment, which is usually heavy, I mean, modern fire-fighting gears is 20 plus kilograms and it, the wild protecting from heat. It also protects you from cooling down by sweating. So there are studies including a. UL FSRI, but also with the other. organizations or institutions from us, that identified that if you are doing simple things, in your turnout gear, you tend to overheat, you don't necessarily have to be in Haute gasses. It is by, minimizing your ability to sweat the. Because you're covered with a number of layers of, of your gear. So if you make this longer before, you're actually able to start your firefighting effectively firefighting operation. That means you get more fatigued. There's an average saying that if you're a firefighter travels, 18 stories, they, they need a major rest because they, before they can undertake any other operation. so by proper, perhaps you can translate that to another kind of distance, not necessarily vertical, but horizontal or instead of that, you, you get a, a similar and their genetic effort by having to carry more weight over a shorter distance of time. So by, but, but basically a couple minutes of, strain let's say, or really, intensive, physical activity really devoids you have majority of your strength and imagine this is how you feel when you finish like a, one kilometer. And exactly this is when your task is to enter a burning compartment and rescue people, and

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah, this is when your job starts is you

Szymon Kokot:

actually starts, Yeah. you just arrived, but then you traveled, you get your ass kicked by, the gear that you are carrying. And then only then you have to do this. So another branch of science, which is ergonomics or human physiology, we have to understand as commanders that if we work our people to. Uh, they will be no, no effect. And also if we can create the problem for ourselves where one, the firefighter is suffering from, let's say some, cards of, health problems. Uh, recently I had a twisted. The guy was not only not able to help in the intervention, but he needed the assistance of another firefighter. Because at that time there were no ambulances available. and from the pain he was losing his consciousness. His oxygen saturation was going down. So not only I didn't have one firefighter, but I didn't have another. In my very limited staffing, I did not have another who attended to the first one. And also in the heads of the remaining ones, there was a, a ringing bell. Something happened to our colleague. we are human beings, you know, stress, uh, taxes, uh, whether we are trained or not.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

makes sense. What we all intuitively feel that the larger, the ability of the building, the taller, the building, the more capable it should be, um, uh, sustaining itself from the fire, like a. Uh, I, I understand if you, if you have a super tall building, like , really tall, like 200 meter tall, there is very limited stuff you can do in that building. Like, okay, if you have a firefighters elevator, you probably can enter the, top floor, but still you're limited with the amount of gear you can transport. You're limited to the building, supporting you with water. You're limited to the, um, Building safeguarding your entrance point to a compartment, to the ventilated lobby or something. So truly, a lot, a lot is on the building, you know, to, to survive the fire and, not. only survive, but also to limit the damage and the loss and casualties.

Szymon Kokot:

So. here I go, here I go again to my motto. Nobody builds nothing with a certainty. It will catch fire. I mean, nobody wants it. That's for me, Understood. But nobody really thinks about firefighters. We're not a major group of people. So I have this very sad and the pessimistic saying we have no allies. Well, actually we do have a little bit of allies in the, in the construction world, um, you, mentioned a very interesting case of a tall building in toll building. you, have to always consider the. Always because it's always a factor in tall building. You have probably, , greater probability of, , encountering open plan. So a traveling fire instead of compartment fire starting from one to another, when you use the elevator, because sometimes you can, you have to account for the piston effect. I mean, it's a vertical, sharp going throughout the entire building. If you start moving. your whatever it's called, like a piston, I'd say, I think, you will either suck in the smoke or push out the smoke. So you can only travel a number of floors at the time, like two or three and see what's going on. so yes, totally I would prefer if I could blindly, trust that the building is going to behave. Well, is it going to behave? I'm not sure. So we always leave a, a margin , for, let's say unexpected, or maybe we should not call unexpected, not, according to the scenario, we should be expecting anything, even the less probable things. but also the building should, not be too complex so that we. Let's say operate the features of the building. So like heating ventilation and the AC systems should not get in our way or should be easily overdriven by the fire commander in the lobby so that we don't have to get unexpected opening of the, of the, window behind the firefighters while wind is blowing into the window on the opposite side, because then we create the blowtorch effect and so on. So yeah, I mean, complex buildings are really challenging.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And do you think that commander not notice, you mentioned a very complex building. You think the commander is fit to combat. the building. I think there are a lot, of work has to be done before the fire. like if you're a commander, you should know your region, you should know your buildings I know I am involved in commissioning buildings. I am there when we are delivering the end of the fire safety projects. We're starting up the smoke control. We starting up fire detection, I know how complicated these things are, And even though I were there at the design phase, it takes me. Time to, you know, get familiar with the particular system design, in this building delivered in this building is not, it's not like on off button. It's a complicated control panel with a very confusing names on it. And, sometimes the commander might have quite a difficult time. Maybe it's a, it's a thing that we're where we, as engineers could improve instead of designing more fancy systems design systems that are more approachable, more. Easy to operate easier to understand that that would be a thing

Szymon Kokot:

you could, that would be wonderful. I was not aware that we can have such a fancy wish, but look, you're asking me if the commander is ready. Well, I can certainly say that the that the institution. Has all the features necessary to make it happen, but there's a fluctuation or what's it called? Like, like change of personnel it happening. So there may be probability that a given commander by chance by simple fate is currently on duty when something major happens and he, or she may not be entirely. understanding of what's going on and what needs to be done. There is certainly such a possibility. So if we could either connect the word. and as you say, you commissioned the building. Normally you have a prevention officer on site randomly on this stage. Probably you have operational commanders. If they are there there's one person or two people or three, while there's a whole battalion of firefighters that actually will engage in firefighting in that building. but then it's on our side. How we, how we create our, training and also. what we say, maintenance of competencies or, or lifelong education

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And for us, the fire engineers, like from your perspective, Which parts of what we design are the most important, like compartmentation and the suppression detection, ventilation, probably all are important. But how do you view this, these tools? Because we often are, you know, burdened with the design, the system. So they have firefighters. I don't know how they want help. So how can I design that?

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah. I mean, for us, it would be most beneficial if the building, uh, behaved like it should. So compartmentation by saying this, I do not only mean walls, but also let's say windows on the upper floors. That's one thing. secondly, because we know that it's not a switch anymore. It's done. We only have synthetic fuels in inside buildings, so there's great heat release. But as we know, from the Thornton's law, which is over a hundred years old, the amount of heat is, relative to the oxygen that is provided to the, uh, to the combustion process. So we would like to be able to, trust entirely entirely, I mean like blind trust, blindly trust that the building will behave. And also that some of the features that are designed will not. Cause any surprise. So for example, the HVAC systems will not start opening, you know, the building up. So because what I understand, I mean, my look at the evacuation is currently as such. We will do anything with the building. That will aid evacuation, even if it means that the building will be lost. If we rescue all the people, but lose the building, it is still a good outcome. Therefore, we will open up a lot in the, in the early phase because in the early phases where the people get out. So we don't want to obscure their evacuation routes, but for firefighters appearing soon on the scene, it creates another problem. It's a well ventilated. When we start closing it down, the amount of heat that was produced will start creating pyrolysis gases, which which will obscure, which will travel, which can, which can cause violent, or very dynamic, fire phenomenon as. Well, that's okay at the cost of saving people. That's okay. If we lose the building, or by the benefit of saving people, we can lose the building, but we would like to have the ability of then have full, entire control over the building. The problem is that we're also human beings. If the building is, as You mentioned, 200 meters tall, it has like sections, floors, whatever other kind of stuff. Uh, maybe sometimes to to just grasp it with your mind. And then while keeping in mind, the, the air, the water, , the, wherever your people are committed. what's your communication? You know, the, the press officer is calling. That's not bad. If your fire chief is calling, that's another stressor, , and so on. And so on, you know, the public is, is going. Maybe you need to, remove the public, goes the glass starting falling. I mean, all sorts of things can happen. I had a fire recently where there was a flat tire, there was a twisted ankle. There was lack of, ambulances. Uh, I couldn't find police to block the road. there was a collision. because of that. And I said, oh, oh my goodness. I mean, I feel like in Egypt where there were the plagues, you know, first the frogs then the, whatever. I don't even remember what they were, but it was like, epic, epic, you know, series of Ms. Happenings. And it was a great test for me. And it was a great test for me. We rescued the people's property. What, what burned down was a the abandoned building. So I immediately said, I'm surrendering this. We need to switch and go and protect because there was the, the wind was blowing really, really like sideways. If there was rain, it would be falling, not vertically, but horizontally, there was such a wind and the grass was a dry and the. was a very poorly maintained, area with lots of, wild, um, wild, dry, vegetation, some, some heaps of, thrash and so on. And then immediately after there was residential buildings, which were, which were threatened by the fire. So, yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay. Uh, it's, it's sad, but we have to wrap it up. So maybe you have some sort of a message to the fire engineers and from a firefighter, like how can we best help you? Or maybe you have a message to firefighters to, to learn more fire science. What did you?

Szymon Kokot:

Oh, yeah. I just made the two points. I will, I would love to be able to read a briefly touch on them. One is that we are called CFBT which was historically because of the English style that was used for firefighters, teaching other firefighters, how to fight fights. It was called Compartment Fire Behavior Training. We recently started calling ourselves CFBT Critical Fire Behavior Training. There's a lot more to learn about fire than just the compartment. So to my firefighters, every firefighter, my message is, do not limit your point of view to a compartment. Uh, fire, is a way more, complex phenomenon or, undertaking that you would be encountered with. And second thing is I was, I am. I was part of the events. I feel like a part of this group, which is called IFI w the international fire instructors workshop. It was started by Stefan Svensson professors. Svensson whom I admire greatly. And I have the great privilege to call him my friend And he decided in 2008 that he will bring together, scientists and practice. And out of that, there was created a great, a great, let's say movement of firefighters, wanting to know more about science and scientists wanting to know more about practice. We had Steve Kerber attending ed Hart in Paul Greenwood, Shaundra fell John MacDonald, Michael Raig the creator of the smoker, and he is a great guy. uh, to invite to your podcast. He's a, he's a PhD on. Fire science and he's the creator of the portable device used by firefighters. and I would love to see more discussion between the two sides, because actually the reality is in the middle It's on neither sides. And, if, mm, yeah, basically there's, there was another thought, but I really talked too much, so.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah, you do. I think, we need to understand how to Help firefighters. And we are also in this. difficult place where many of our decisions must be communicated to stakeholders. Like eventually someone has to pay for them for all the solutions. So understanding how we help firefighters and or how our business affects your business, which is our business too. It helps us, you know, a. Advocate for some things that can really, um, help build safety. And, and I think this, this mutual understanding is beneficial to both parties And it's essential to eventually have, something we could call a fire safe world. And, uh, I hope we can achieve that one day.

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah. And Wojciech there's a great example of you and me working together because you're opening a possibility for me to join your, your research and conduct some of my own experiments for my own PhD. My concern is firefighter safety. The effect of. , thermal radiation on firefighters, which I'm sincerely hoping to achieve this year with your tremendous help, critical help. Um, because you're providing me with the possibility of doing this in your facilities. So I think this is, this is the way to go and, forever firefighter, if they want to really develop as a profession, Yeah, sooner or later, they have to engage in the vast ocean of scientific knowledge. There's there. Isn't another way

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And we're very happy to learn from you about the compartment fires and corridor firefighting tactics, which will greatly enhance our experiments. That's a great synergy. And to actually, uh, once, once it's done, you'll be back here in the seat and we'll talk it. over in the, in the public as well. Szymon thank you very much for your time. Keep doing what you're doing. It's great and much appreciated

Szymon Kokot:

Thanks. Thanks Wojciech this is a great honor for me. I really enjoy being here after all these great minds and probably also before these grains minds. And I will just say one more thing, a five star review.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Thanks man. You're amazing guy. I need to get you more in here. You're already good

Szymon Kokot:

Yeah. Well provide it. If it works, I'm happy to be there often, you know?

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay. Thanks John.

Szymon Kokot:

Thanks man. Cheers.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And that's it. Thank you. Szymon I hope you also left a five-star review. Man. It's so funny. And the guests do the job for you. And it's kind of awkward sometimes. to do this call for action. So yeah, I appreciate that. Szymon lead it thrice. I expect at tsunami of five-star reviews. For the podcast after this episode airs. Regardless. I hope this was interesting to you. I hope it was eyeopening to you. Have you figured out what are his first thoughts? Commands. Air supply. Ergonomics. How far can one, the walk. this is something I've never really thought when designing, building, It was not just things that would occupy my mind. I mean, We're not thought that, and I think it's important to know. It's not that we can design the building. So they have lesser distances for walking or, that we provide them breathing a pirate just on the side. It's not the point. The point is it truly is the challenge is. Exponentially higher when the building is large. That's the second thing, did you notice? He didn't say tall. He said large. It doesn't matter if the building is not very tall when, when horizontal distances are so vast. And that's another thing, you know, we regulate usually based on the number of floors of the height of the building and for some. certain heights. We don't care that much for some heights. We do care a lot. And then we have this land scraper type of buildings. Which are generally huge complex mazes. In which operations will be difficult. I think this ramp up of difficulty is something we really need to consider. When designing safety off the building, there's no way around that. And thank you Szymon that was very refreshing to me. And I hope we can go further with that because I think we're on a great path to. Create a sustainable world of communication between firefighters and fire engineers. And I would really like this podcast to become a venue where such a communication can safely cure. And, I think that it for today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it. And like Szymon said, The review, he's a commander, you know, don't, don't mess with him. but on. No worry. I appreciate you all for just listening and being here with me every week. And I hope to see you here next week. Another Wednesday. Another great episode. See you there she is.