Smoky Mountain Weekend 2019 Recap

This past weekend I attended the Smokey Mountain Weekend Fire/Rescue Expo in Gatlinburg, TN. You may know the name Gatlinburg due to the deadly 2016 wildfires that devastated the area. Though you can still see remnants of the fires on the mountainous landscape surrounding the town, this small tourist designation is thriving. Specifically, this past weekend when it was invaded by fireman from Tennessee and the region.

With nearly 400 in attendance the classroom and tactical classes were filled with enthusiasm from both experienced and rookie firefighters. As I sat through my first class I have already assembled several pages of notes to not only fuel (pun intended) my Babacita consulting work, but to also help improve my department, the Lone Oak Volunteer Fire Department.

Below are the classes I took and some key notes I accumulated:

  • Recognizing Elder Abuse - Excellent to understand the laws and resources available to protect elders. Documentation is the key thing. Keep accurate records, photos, etc. with your incident files. If elder abuse is a pattern these records will help tell the story and are invaluable. There is a great checklist to keep handy on your trucks that will help with the documentation. Check it out here: As first responders we are also required to document and report anything we see so this documentation will also protect yourself, your station and your community.

  • Residential Concerns: Old House, Small House, Large House - Another class with some great information. The importance of the 360°was hammered pretty hard and I completely agree. We talked about identifying the layout also during this phase as the IC begins to develop the strategy. –We talked about potential hazards –Attics –Size of the structure –Layout –Utilities –Floors, specifically with mobile and manufactured homes –Search and rescue –Overhaul –Structural collapse indications –Insulation

–SLICERS was also discussed in-dept as a new outline

Size up

Locate fire

Identify flow path

Cool fire from safe location

Extinguish fire

Rescue if needed

Salvage when we can

  • Reading Smoke - This was the highlight of the weekend and the main reason I attended. I believe reading smoke is an art form and a complex challenge that is always changing.

–Things discussed included

–Smoke is fuel

–Fuels have changed over the years and are more explosive

–Smoke has trigger points

–Soot is black, ash is white and contains about 70% particulates

–Hydrocarbons (black oil droplets) will self-ignite at about 450°F.

–Polyethylene’s self-ignite around 660°F.

–The importance of using TIC’s (thermal imaging cameras) to determine smoke

temperature before approaching


–Grey/brown smoke – wood

–Black – polyethylene’s

–Backdraft signals

–Breathing or angry smoke

–Smoke stained windows

–Mushroom smoke



–Fire is still growing, light-dark streaks of read over top

–Flashover 700°-800°F – cool this down or get out… the hotter the greater potential