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Kent firefighters use the latest firefighting techniques to save a period property
Published:  07 April, 2015

CASE STUDY: Firefighters have been praised for their professional handling of a serious fire at a large Georgian house in Thurnham, near Bearsted (UK), on Friday March 20.

Firefighters were confronted with a well-developed fire at the extensive detached property in Thurnham Lane just before 3pm. 

At it’s height, four fire appliances, a water unit and a support pump attended the blaze and crews managed to limit the fire spread, containing the damage to one wing of the property, thanks to their use of innovative firefighting equipment and tactics.

Station Manager David Nolan, who was officer- in-change at this incident, described how crews tackled the fire. He said: ‘Thermal imaging technology was used outside to analyse the fire spread and monitor its temperature, which helped determine firefighting priorities. Initial tactics were purposely aggressive towards limiting the fire which had spread up from the ground-floor drawing room to the first floor behind wood panelling and two stairwells of the property.’

A Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) was applied to the building to limit external fire spread. SM Nolan, explaining how it works, said: ‘This specialist material has phenomenal fire suppression and acts like a sticky fire blanket clinging to the surfaces it is applied to. It stops vapours being given off, dramatically reducing the fire to the outside of the building. This literally stopped it reaching the roof voids and travelling laterally to adjoining rooms.’

He continued: ‘Due to the size of the property, fire crews used two large PPV (positive pressure ventilation) fans at separate access points to the house. These high-powered fans pressurise the fire compartments, while high exhaust outlet vents force the hot gases and smoke from the building. This prevented the fire from spreading to a separate wing and enabled the crews to carry out a faster, safer search.’

A total of six teams of firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the property on the ground and first floors. They used KFRS’s new thermal image cameras inside the rooms, to detect hotspots, which were extinguished with hose reels, using water supplemented from a bulk water carrier.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire, which is believed to have started in some books and other paper items that were accidently place to close to an open fire. The resident and five dogs were led to a safe place and offered assurance while it was brought under control.

SM Nolan said: ‘I am extremely proud of the crews from Maidstone, Sittingbourne and Medway that worked so hard with one clear focus on saving this wonderful property.’

SM Nolan added: ‘An important safety message from this incident is that unfortunately there were no smoke alarms fitted at this property. These devices provide early warning to a fire breaking out which, in this case, may have lead to earlier detection. If a fire had started in the night when the occupant was asleep, it could have been life-threatening.

‘I would appeal to all residents to check their homes today to ensure that they have working smoke alarms. They literally have the potential to save your life and your property.’