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New video from Fairfax County two-alarm fire shows flashover that injured three firefighters.

Previous coverage including fireground audio from & earlier video from Paul Lof

Over the weekend we brought you video from Paul Lof of Saturday morning’s townhouse fire on Clowser Court in Springfield, Virginia that critically injured a resident and left three firefighters with minor injuries. The firefighters were hurt in a flashover not seen in Lof’s video. It happened before Paul’s arrival and was caught on the video above by a neighbor from across the street.

In the video above, just before the two minute mark, you see fire in the windows on side D. It breaks through one of the windows and by 2:14 the first floor takes off. This started as a kitchen fire.

Comments - Add Yours

  • play4keeps

    excellent video

  • RESCUE 1

    Great video!!!! FYI……The lady is freaking out in the back ground is saying that the firefighters should get out and that ther are going to get burn and die!!! When the the house flashed, she really got spoked out and wanted to evacuate her family from there home!

  • Anonymous

    1st, at times we make a big deal that we care so much for total strangers and it kinda warms my heart that a stranger cares so much for us.

    2nd, after viewing the video several times, I’m convinced that we’re seeing a backdraft and not a flashover. Why? The smoke is dark and pushing out under pressure, even moving at times back toward the structure. The fire is remote (charlie quad) and not getting hit by the attack crew. The fire eventually vents through the window, lights off and the sudden burst of oxygen is enough to light off the dark smoke (incomplete conbustion) throughout the structure.

    Tell me what you see and if you think Iou’re seeing a flashover or a backdraft. Either way, i’m so glad the crew survived with fairly minor injuries.

  • Admiral

    Wow. That certainly looked like a backdraft to me. In 30 years I’ve never seen a flashover blow out that violently.

  • Anonymous

    My Spanish is bad but rough translation I thought she said…

    “What are they doing with that $600,000.00 Fire truck? Does that big ladder work? Don’t any of them know how to vertical ventilate? I hope they are just pulling those comb ladders off to get them out of the way of the extension ladders they are going to use.”

    “The fire department really sucks here, let’s move to Maryland O’Malley will welcome us with open arms and public safety is number one with him!”

    • Big C

      You do not do vertical venitlation until the fire reaches the attic. I think that when you do vertical ventilation. Oh! Thats right….That is how it is done in maryland O’Malleys State.

  • Heavy Hitter

    This video is a great example of what happens when you just show up and take your time and the only reason you work for the fire department is to collect a nice paycheck and pension.

    I can only speak for what I just witnessed in the video but I have to say, the outside vent man should think about another career. While his brothers are inside taking the beating of there life, he is just hanging out on his Sunday stroll walking around clueless and carefully placing 2 ground ladders to the rear (I really liked how he stopped to ask his officer where or what he should do and then quietly contuinues on. Here’s a tip!

    LEARN YOUR JOB and try attending a class on truck company strategies and tactics so you can see what is expected to be accomplished in an expedited manner while operating on the scene of a working fire.

    I am older and not in the shape I used to be in, however in the 3 minutes that you just embarassed yourself,I am confident that I could have easily laddered all 3 sides of the dwelling and quickly smashed at least every window on the first floor which would have gave the brothers a fighting chance to not get lit up. You should try moving like the engine driver!

    I’ll go a step further and say that if all you can contribute on the fireground is that PATHETIC display of outside truck work. You should quickly ask to be transferred to prevention or logistics that way you can’t hurt anyone else.

    Your performance truly makes me sick to my stomach. You are a disgrace. We kill enough firemen every year, firemen die on this job when they are doing every thing right. We don’t need you contributing with your ignorance, and lack of heart and desire.

    Great job to the firemen moving with a purpose and I hope that all of the injured recover quickly.

    • STOML

      First off, it is absolutely a Flashover.

      Second, if the vent man had smashed out all the groundfloor windows as you wanted, it would have only made it flash that much quicker and more violently.

      This fire was held back at first only because it was ventilation controlled. You have to consider what affect an influx of air from ventilation will do to a fire before you arbitrarily start smashing windows. We burn up too many firefighters by that lack of understanding. If you don’t give the interior crews a chance to cool it down (or attack one of the other sides of the fire tetrahedron) before you give it more air this will continue to happen.

      So please, please, always factor in the consequences before you decide where and when to vent!

  • Lt. A. N. Onymous

    It is a Flashover People. Get to know your enemy.

  • Anonymous

    We all get calloused after a while thinking nobody cares as long as we answer the bells and take care of their emergency. Its nice to hear the lady is so concerned and upset that the firefighters are in danger. Guess people really do care eh. Be careful out there.

  • Dave LeBlanc

    @ anonymous,

    Lighting off the smoke is not a backdraft. From what I have been taught, a backdraft is the sudden influx of O2 into an oxygen deprived environment.

    I think, again my opinion, that the room flashed and then the smoke, which is fuel at this point, lit off. Again from my knowledge, backdraft is a violent explosion, where flashover is total fire involvement. Flashover can appear violent (I would imagine for the brothers involved it certainly was) but does not have a pressure wave.

    The “smoke under pressue” is hot, dark, fast smoke as the fire continues to generate more heat. Eventually the temperates reach a point where the smoke can light off. (again probably from the flashover in the room.)

  • T-Bone

    Fuego! Fuego! Fuego! Fuego!

  • dinosauer

    These fires are supposed to go out when the mighty Fairfax County FD arrives on location.It is evident that these people cannot do their respective jobs.
    The Fairfax heirarchy should be concerned with their people doing the job properly. Not with maintaining their self image.

  • driverfiresuv

    Its a Flashover, just take away from this video the need for quick verticle ventilation when available man power allows for it. Great job by the IC to adapt to the quickley changing condition.
    This video should remind all of us why we should be riding 4 on a piece, we shouldn’t be doing more with less.

  • Mike

    Those that are calling for vertical vent need to take a step back. It is a 2 story with an attic/cockloft area. The fire is on the first floor D/C corner. Cutting a hole in the roof will not help. You aren’t going to push through the attic and the second floor to vent that fire. Lots of coordinated horizontal venting near the fire room is what was needed. Hose lines in place and then take every window near or in that fire room. Not windows behind your attack line. I love vertical venting but only when it can be truely helpful.

    Oh and it is a flashover. The room lights off and then that heat lights off all the other smoke back to where the main air flow is coming from

    • herman glick

      Yes it is, take a hook and you can knock through the drywall ceiling. Even if you can’t make the ridge, vertical is almost always better than horizontal….unless you can defy the fact that heat rises. I lean towards a backdraft… the house “breathing” as the color of the smoke changes.

    • James

      Disagree completely, The heat and smoke buildup does not stop at the ceiling of the first floor does it? I would be willing to bet my next paycheck that anyone on the second floor could confirm that it was hot and filled with dense smoke up there. By vertically venting that roof you give the smoke somewhere to go. Horizontal ventilation is not fast it works off the principle of diffusion. Vertical ventilation improves conditions almost immediately because you have the properties of convection on your side. Opening up vertically will ultimately reduce heat smoke on all floors. While it may or may not have prevented the flashover it certainly would have helped the situation.

  • Juan Valdez

    Save that ladder truck for a parade, cause it sure ain’t doin ladder work.

  • news hound

    Look at that truck just sitting there….in good position to ladder the dang near flat roof. How’s about a big pretty hole in that roof and break some windows for gods sakes. No wonder those boys got burned.

  • Eddie Crombie

    This video is another excellent example of fire behavior. Only knowing an extreme fire event was going to happen in this video, the first time I watched it I noticed the light colored, low hanging smoke.

    The weather conditions during this fire were cold with a slightly humid atmosphere. The humidity caused the smoke to not dissipate. The temperature caused it to be lighter in color because the moisture was condensing masking the black smoke. If this happened in the summer you would have most likely seen thick, black smoke.

    There may have been a flashover that occurred in the room on the BC corner that was the initiating event for the rapid fire spread throughout the structure, but I would side with the vent point ignition occurring. I am not sure is I would refer to the spread as a flashover, but it is deadly none the less

    Let me know what you think


    I agree with Dave and this wasn’t a backdraft, how do I know, I watched the movie. From the looks of this video and away from the d-bag saying how cool this is, appears to be a flashover. As I’ve said before, I never took the ever so popular “reading smoke class”, however, its a no brainer here looking at the initial grayish/white smoke suddenly turning to dark gray/black, this ain’t getting better folks.

    The first video didn’t capture what we see in this latest one and seems to be, myself included why people are wondering what could have gone wrong….

    I have to retract my earlier statements, where I agree that you have to do what you have to do when you have limited manpower and that it wasn’t a priority to have the roof opened up. We all know, well most do, that members of a truck company have specific assignments and most of the time have to act independtly. With that said, if there ever were a fire to open the roof up in Fairfax County, this certainly was PRIORITY #1.

    I agree, the truck driver needs to hustle just like the wagon masters doing and seems to be lollygagging (Bull Durham)around the fireground. He’s the first due truck, it would have taken (if he was hustlin) less than 2 minutes to have that stick to the roof. Seeing that cutting multiple holes in the roof WAS A PRIORITY, the bucket man or officer could have gone to the roof (that’s if your truck driver can’t work independently), while the 3rd person is throwing EXTENSION LADDERS 1st and TO THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING 1st. Heck, since you have 4 on the engine and don’t need 3 people on a 1 3/4 line, have the 3rd person on the engine company help the truck out.

    However, if its not known that all occupants are out, then yes, the 2 from the truck need to do a search. Either way and considering you do have a 3 man truck company, this guy needs to have his PRIORITIES in order and has to move a whole lot quicker than he is in this.

    This would be a perfect video to show the Fairfax County Council members, so when their doing the following years budget, they’ll see the importance of having manpower on a truck company and not making sure every recruit class will have a paramedic for the engine company. Once again, glad everyone is ok….


    @Eddie…..are you disguising yourself as Topper Schott????

    Would you also happen to know the dewpoint and the barometric pressure on the firegroung and was that relative humidity or just plain old humidity…lol…..Oh and were you there or can you tell my watching the video…If this is the case, every department in Fairfax and surrounding jurisdictions will have a Meteorologist added to each box….

    @Juan…I thought you were taking a dirt nap…apparentyly your alive and well….Yeah Apple Blossom Parade is right around the corner…

  • herman glick

    Great spotting of T422. Just need to raise the aerial to the roof and open a large hole. Please don’t say this was a staffing issue…while staffing should always be better this appears to be a case of no vertical ventilation. Vent early, vent often, no surprises

  • ScienceOfFire

    Glad the brothers made it out relatively unharmed.

    We can observe several things from this video:

    At the beginning of the video, there is a large volume of grey smoke issuing from the first and second floor. It is possible that, at this point, anyone inside without SCBA will eventually die from their injuries. We still owe them a search. There is an engine and ladder on location, so we know there are at least seven firefighters present. There is no hose through the front door.

    0:50, a line gets taken through the front door. At this time smoke is grey and dark grey.
    1:15 a second engine arrives
    1:45 a second line gets pulled to the front door. At this time, the smoke is light grey in color, indicating steam mixed with the smoke. There is now fire visible inside the rear window on side D.
    2:00 the fire shows from window in quadrant C on side D, and the smoke darkens.
    2:09 fire is visible in quadrant D of the first floor, through the front window on side D.
    2:14 fire blows through the front windows of the first floor. The fire is clearly burning freely on the first floor.
    2:23 three firefighters exit the front door.
    2:50 they hit it from outside and the smoke lightens in color.

    To all the apparent traditionalists calling for roof ventilation: you are dead wrong. Vertical ventilation, *if it could be done in the first two minutes* of this video, would draw the hot flammable gases and smoke through the top floor and attic. It’s likely that the fire would gain headway in the attic, and further threaten the exposures. It is likely that the first floor would still flashover, as the fire is still pumping flammable gases from the kitchen in the rear throughout the building.

    However, if the first arriving engine company used Positive Pressure Attack, with a stabilized vent track, this fire would have either not flashed or would have flashed in the kitchen prior to the entry of the firefighters. This fan could have been in place at the beginning of the video, and entry could have been made at or prior to the 0:50 mark (when they DID enter with a hose) In either case, the temperature in the front room, and upstairs would have been lowered, and there would have been more fresh air in each room. The firefighters would not have had to retreat, and could have easily found the fire, and extinguished it, do to improved visibility.

    Ventilation, having been accomplished by the first arriving engine, would have allowed the three-man truck company to ladder the building and begin a team search, which did not happen in this video, and would have been impossible if two of the members had been raising the aerial and working on the roof.

  • ScienceOfFire

    Eddie: water vapor condenses on COLD things, like my beer bottle, or the cold propane escaping from a tank. Smoke from a house fire would be hotter than the ambient, if humid, air. Humidity wouldn’t condense on it.

    That being said, light or white smoke is a sign of water vapor condensing. The water vapor is probably from the firefighters operating inside. The fire stream absorbs heat, converts to steam, and exits the building. Once outside, the steam loses heat to the cooler exterior, and condenses as steam, in this case, mixed with smoke.

    • James

      Go to any house fire with a closet or small room off and you will see whitish/grey smoke before anyone with a hoseline ever goes inside. Learn your smoke.

  • Eddie Crombie


    I was just pointing out how this is a great video on smoke and fire behavior. Wasn’t busting on anyone like many have done who weren’t there. I don’t live anywhere near there.

    Stay safe brother

  • Eddie Crombie


    Thanks brother. Thats what I was getting at. I guess I worded it badly after reading it again.

  • Anonymous

    No, you worded it poorly.


    @Eddie….just having a little fun buddy…..And Eddie,don’t thank the ghost of David Koresh AKA Science of the Branch Davidian, he’s reading out of a book from St. Elizabeth’s where he’s been admitted for pretending to be a fireman. Though he’s been to 13 fires in his lifetime, all of them as the company photographer, so to fit in, he wants to impress everyone by plagurising words from a book as if they were his….

    Since this video surfaced, it shows a different picture than the first….Please and I mean please, can someone just admit to not opening the roof up and stop making every exuse in the book for why it didn’t need to be. I guess they need to rewrite the books and start teaching everyone that heat doesn’t rise anymore, it stops at the 2nd floor and blows out the windows horizontally…For crying out loud did any of the lineman vent hydraulically out the window????

    A good truck man could have laddered the 2nd floor in the front while smashing the windows out with the ladder, grabbed a straight ladder smash the 1st floor windows out, then raised an extension ladder to the roof, if he was hustling and not taking a timeout to talk to the Chief (good truck men think on their own and work independently while communicating with their officer). If your adrenaline isn’t going a mile a minute on this one, then maybe you need to be a package delivery driver instead of a Truck Driver in the FD.

    Since staffing is an issue and your worried about going to the roof alone, communicate to the 2nd due truck driver, once he takes care of the rear, to meet you on the roof, since the operator of T422 wasn’t going to put the stick up anytime soon. Better yet, since everyone who was inside came out, you now have your 2 truck guys to help you open up the roof (though by this time is a little late in the game)…And not only is opening the roof up going to allow the smoke and heat to escape, you’ll also be able to see inside better (pack rat conditions, holes in the floor etc..)

  • ScienceOfFire

    Heat rises, unless it goes out a window first. PPV blows it out the fire room windows, before it has a chance to convect. PPV requires one guy to vent the fire room windows, and another guy to set up a fan. They can do that in 30-60s, and then be available for other actions. Unless it’s an attic or cockloft fire, dedicating 2 firefighters to the roof, and one to the turntable is a waste of personnel.


    Koresh…Please change your name to Science of Stupidity, then go back to your room in the psycho nutjob wing at St E’s, because they’re doing roll call in a few and need to tighten your jacket up a notch or two…and no more licking on the windows ok!!!! LOL

  • Chief

    Bottom line, piss poor ventilation.

  • Truck man who still cares

    None of you would even be having this disussion if the 4 people on the truck knew what they were doing. I drive on of the slowest truck companines in a major metro city and we would have had done both vertical and horizontial ventialation within 5-8 minutes. Why search what you cannot survive in !!! open up the building and you would not be discussing backdraft or flashover thats what a truck is suppossed to prevent.

  • TF

    Luckily no one was seriously hurt. Never forget that instead of yelling “get out”, drivers can get on the air horns to alert the guys inside.

  • Anonymous

    Mike I didn’t translate all of what she said… she also said there is not common cock loft there is brick that extends beyond the roof of each house in the community. Why don’t they cut one big 4X8 hole on the Charlie side of the roof and get in there and hit it while it’s small? In response to your “first floor D/C corner I give you the following video I hope you are not one who makes command and control decisions that could affect firefighter safety and survival.

  • Anonymous

    Heat rises and an open stairwell puts the second floor into play without a doubt. All you Nay Sayers to vertical ventilation take a look at the same thing from the CHARLIE perspective and tell me if vertical ventilation is dead wrong…

  • brian

    Heat rises and an open stairwell puts the second floor into play without a doubt. All you Nay Sayers to vertical ventilation take a look at the same thing from the CHARLIE perspective and tell me if vertical ventilation is dead wrong…

  • Greg Lange

    As I posted on a previous thread started from the other video our department will be conducting a ‘Close Call Report’ and hopefully this will provide the events/actions which led to this ‘almost tragedy’. As I read all of the comments it is apparent that all of us are interested in the behavior of fire and how we deal with it.

    Our department is very commited to our safety and training us to do our job as well as possible. Like many other departments, we operate under staffing minimums and have to prioritize the tasks upon arrival. The discussion about this fire and video has traveled rapidly through our ranks. I assure all that once we have concluded our report it will be circulated and reviewed in an effort to better prepare future incidents.

    For those interested please feel free to contact me through the department, as I am not the smartest guy in the room and realize your thoughts and comments may help us in the completion of this report.



    Thanks Greg…..I’m sure there’s more to this than the video, but hope no matter what comes of this, you don’t stop going in to put out the fire….God forbid, Fairfax County Government needs to wake up and get more guys on the ladder truck…I’m sure many feel this way, however, to have 3 on the truck when other places with lesser budgets have 4 or more is mind boggling….Most important….nobody was seriously hurt…

  • NJSteve

    What’s all this talk about ventilation and no mention of water?. Where I’m from water usually puts the fire out. I’ve yet to see a fire put out by proper ventilation (although it helps). Did you notice how quickly the open line got control of the fire?

    And I can’t see how a hole in the roof could have stopped the flashover. But I do think a backup line or earlier intense water application could have stopped it. And it was definitely a flashover. Notice how the fire first builds near the open window on the D side. You can’t say that is from lack of oxygen that a backdraft would require. To me this is just extremely rapid fire progression due to heat and flammable smoke buildup.

    If anything I think there is a chance the ventilation happened too soon before the line was ready to advance in. I doubt the D side window went on its own (probably was vented just before the video started) and if it and other windows hadn’t been taken so soon, maybe the fire would have been delayed a little longer till the line could advance.

    As far as using a PPV fan, all that would have done would have been to accelerate the flashover, and maybe even get someone killed if it was done early with guys in there.

    And BTW I didn’t particularly see any truck guys dogging it like someone mentioned.

  • loser

    when is kobersteen going to realize how big of a tool he is?

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