Venting Tactically: The Ins & Outs of Opening Up

2 Hour Program

Ventilation is a vital function that enhances tenability and facilitates firefighting operations. No other action, however, has the potential to negatively impact the fireground if the necessary precautions are not taken. The evolution of the fire environment has exacerbated this fact by reducing the fire’s reaction time to ventilation, and subsequently, our margin for error. Greater emphasis must be placed on coordinating fireground operations and maintaining positional discipline. A systematic approach to ventilation is needed to ensure our actions have a specific objective and support the mission.


The presentation begins with a poignant call to duty by reminding students that our actions determine the fate of an incident; reinforcing the necessity of competency. A fundamental overview of fire behavior is provided to explain fire development and spread, the movement of air and the byproducts of combustion and the nuances of today’s fire environment. This information collectively provides the functional understanding as to how ventilation works and the impact it has on our operations and most importantly, victim survivability.

The human element of ventilation is examined, identifying the behaviors and mindsets which prompt operational failures and their consequences. The associated misconceptions are clarified to alleviate the subsequent pitfalls. An overview of the tactical ventilation strategy and its objectives are provided, followed by the considerations, variables and elements for its execution. An operational framework, consisting of three key principles and ten guidelines is then provided to facilitate their implementation and enhance the likelihood of success, while preventing avoidable loss.

This presentation is suitable for all levels; from the firefighter performing ventilation, to the company officers requesting/approving it, up to the chief officers commanding the overall operation. The concepts are universal and can be applied to any fireground; from the smallest rural community through the largest metropolitan city.


Lieutenant Nicholas Papa

Nick is a lieutenant with the New Britain (CT) Fire Department, assigned to Engine 1; previously serving with Ladder 2 as a private. He started out as a volunteer with the Newington (CT) Fire Department before joining the ranks of the NBFD. Nick is a second-generation firefighter with fourteen years of experience. He is a member of the UL-FSRI advisory panel for the Study on Coordinated Fire Attack in Acquired Structures. Nick is a frequent contributor to Fire Engineering and a classroom instructor at FDIC International.