Smoky environments are dangerous. Smoke is the result of incomplete combustion and contains a variety of toxic by-products.
Smoke contains a variety of gasses. The composition of gasses in smoke will vary greatly depending on the amount of oxygen available to the fire. The composition of what is burning also influences the contents of smoke. In other words, a fire fed by wood will produce different gasses than a fire fed by plastics.
Smoky environments contain carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, carbon dioxide, phosgene, ammonia and chlorine.
Almost all of the gasses produced by fire are toxic carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can displace oxygen and cause hypoxia. Hydrogen cyanide was used in gas chambers. Phosgene was used in World War I as a poisonous gas to disable soldiers.
It is essential to use self-contained breathing apparatus. Whenever you are operating in a smoky environment this rule applies. This rule applies whether you are dealing with a structure fire, a dumpster fire, or car fire. This includes during overhaul as toxic gasses are still present.
Additionally, we need to use our gas monitors in smoky environments. We need to be keenly aware of the presence of the presence of the toxic gasses. We should record the values obtained from our meters, especially in light of efforts to track our personnel’s exposure to things that can affect there health and well-being.
Where there is smoke there is fire. Where there is smoke there is danger.