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Village of Park Forest - Fire News

Posted on: April 16, 2018

Rich Twp High Schools Forensic Science Classes Watch Live Burns

forensic class 2018

On Thursday April 12 the Forensic sciences classes from the Rich Township High Schools participated in a real life experiment at the fire training site. Students from the three schools are enrolled in the Forensic Sciences class. This class gives students the opportunity to explore science in a different context then the traditional classroom. Currently they are studying the science behind Arson fires. Three years ago Jeannette LaPlante form Rich Central reached out to the fire department to see if we could provide some real life insight into arson fires. What we did was provide insight but also allowed the students the opportunity to see actual room burns. The program starts with a 45 minute presentation at Freedom Hall where we explain the characteristics of fire and the process behind completing a fire investigation. We share the knowledge of how fire can spread so quickly. Fires burn hotter and much faster than they did twenty years ago. Furniture today is built out of synthetics and processed woods held together with combustible products. In the past occupants had 10 minutes or more to escape a home. Now a room will reach flashover and complete involvement in less than 5 minutes. This allows the fire to spread into the structural components of a home in 5 to 10 minutes. Todays lightweight construction of homes allow them to fail and collapse much quicker. Fires move much faster and this has made the science of fire investigation evolve to recognize these attributes. After the presentation students walk to the fire department training site on Orchard Ave. There they get to witness three room burns. We build out small rooms complete with furniture in the burn containers. We then demonstrate how an accidental fire could start and allow the room to burn to the point of flashover. This gives the students an eye opening experience at how fast a fire can spread and within minutes the whole room is consumed in fire. The second burn is conducted using an accelerant to start the fire. The firefighters then explain the clues to look for to help identify how a fire may of started. The third fire is set without the students knowing. After it is extinguished the students participate in the real life experiment and try to conclude on their own how the fire started. They must come up with a hypothesis on how the fire started. As part of the assignment they take some photos of the scene and document the fire to support their conclusions. The students and teachers usually walk away with a new understanding and respect for fire. We hope to keep providing this experience for the students and work to expand it each year.

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