With the recent release of the second and third volumes in the Compartment Firefighting Series, Reading Fire and Fighting Fire, FIRE magazine spoke to Shan Raffel. The handbooks have been created by Benjamin Walker with the support of Shan, who is one of the leading international figures in Compartment Fire Behaviour Training (CFBT).


What do you do?

I have served as a frontline firefighter in Brisbane since 1983. I am still operational and currently serve as a Station Officer in my own community.


How did you get involved in the Compartment Firefighting Series?

I have been in contact with Ben for a number of years now and we often discuss key issues relating to operational safety and efficiency. Even though our experience base has developed in different parts of the world, I am amazed how we share the same fundamental beliefs about training and operational tactics. We both seek out the latest knowledge from our international contacts and keep an open mind. Working with Ben on these books was a logical progression from our years of collaborative research.


How have you been involved in Reading Fire and Fighting Fire?

Ben has been the driving force. I have written certain sections and we peer review each other’s work.


What made you feel practical guides were needed on these topics? Are they topics that lack resources?

A lot of the material out there is based on old tactical paradigms or limited current operational experience. More resources are slowly being released that reflect the latest science. My concern is that some of these are overly complex and even confusing, which means they can have little relevance for those on the frontline. Some of the material is dogmatic and has a narrow perspective on the application of the emerging science. Working with Ben has been an opportunity to contribute to a knowledge base that is to the point and supported by broad experience. The focus needs to be on providing the knowledge in a manner that the average firefighter can relate to and apply in their context.


What do Reading Fire and Fighting Fire offer frontline firefighters and incident commanders?

This is the core information that is essential to the development and implementation of safe and efficient firefighting strategies and tactics. The handbooks provide the foundational knowledge required for the first arriving officer to start the most efficient suppression and rescue plan. Incident commanders must have a sound understanding of these principles and be able to rapidly recognise critical changes in the fire behaviour indicators so they can make rapid and accurate adjustments to the incident action plan. It is also essential that the crews that are tasked with implementing the incident action plan understand fire behaviour, can recognise key changes in the fire behaviour indicators and understand the impact of their actions.


Why are these handbooks so valuable for those on the frontline?

You would expect that foundational information would be very well understood by all levels of frontline firefighters but, for a number of reasons, this is not the case in many parts of the world. I believe that these books will play a major role in building that missing foundation by providing a concise and up to date core resource, offering information that is accessible to all.


Anything else you would like to add?

It has been refreshing to work with Ben because of his down to earth desire to share back to basic knowledge that will not only keep firefighters safe, but help them to serve the public in the best manner possible. This is what these resources aim to do.


Reading Fire and Fighting Fire covers

Reading Fire and Fighting Fire are available to purchase now for £23.95 each, or receive a 20% discount if you buy both together for £38.