Defending Against Pyrotechnic Fires

Published Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 | Author: William Barnes

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Pyrotechnic fires, such as you would find in theaters, have been recognized as some of the greatest potentials for tragedy. A good example is the infamous Iroquois Theater Fire in 1903,  in which 600 of the nearly 2000-person audience were killed. 

In most cases,the attempt to leave a densely-assembled hall through inadequate exits can be as dangerous as the fire itself.

Professionals handling pyrotechnic fires should get Fire Prevention Training 

If you work in the following professions, you should be trained on the importance of fire prevention and quick suppression:

  • Stage management,
  • Production management,
  • Stage construction,
  • Lighting design and
  • Special effects.
Once trained, you can use a fire extinguisher to contain fire and keep it from spreading. When firefighters arrive on the scene, they will control and remove the hazard from the facility.

A balanced fire protection design can save lives in case of Pyrotechnic fires 


NFPA has specific requirements for fire extinguishers where pyrotechnics or open flames are present.

Gary Haney, a fire fighting professional, says the following about fighting fires in crowded shows,

“A lot of times in Pyro, we would supply the back stage with 20-pound CO2 extinguishers. We would place extinguishers all around the stage area besides what the groups would bring in. The most serious thing I had was when a fuel guy lit can-fires in the back. We also had a couple of times where drapery that didn’t have enough fire retardant on it caught on fire”.

Gary also says it’s important to be prepared for a fire emergency, “I always made a habit of having fire extinguishers around me. It’s very important to have fire extinguishers in the facilities where people can get at them.”

FEMA recommends that despite the presence of sprinkler systems, all occupancies should have a balanced fire protection design that includes portable fire extinguishers. This guidance is in accordance with NFPA 10 standards for portable fire extinguishers.

“It’s critical to improve fire protection by including portable fire extinguishers as a first line of defense in all commercial structures. It just makes good life safety sense.”



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