Inferno: Through the eyes of a firefighter

Fire practitioners know what their systems do and how they should operate during a fire.

But do they know the fire fighter’s experience?

What is a fire fighter looking for when they enter a burning building?  Are they looking to see if fire systems are kicking in, or are they keeping watch for other potential threats?

In this session, John McDonough will talk about the reality of fighting fires inside structures and what is going through the mind of a fire fighter at each stage.

He will also talk about ‘modern’ fire behaviour and the challenges that now confront firefighters.

By seeing what is important to those on the ground, attendees will gain some insights into how their systems help first responders when it really matters.


Inspector John McDonough

Duty Commander, Fire and Rescue NSW

John has been a professional firefighter for 34 years and is an Inspector with the Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW). He is currently an operational Duty Commander in charge of 14 stations in the busy inner west zone of Sydney. From 2003 to 2017, he was Team Leader of the Fire Operational Training Team. This team trains all firefighter and officers in structural fire behaviour and fire fighting techniques and tactics.

After returning from a study trip to Sweden and the UK in 2002, he was tasked with the introduction of modern fire behaviour based firefighting techniques and tactics specifically developed to make the role of firefighters safer and more effective. These skills were taught within a training program known globally as Compartment Fire Behaviour Training (CFBT). Over the last 17 years, this has developed into a standardised doctrine for how FRNSW firefighters act and behave at the task and tactical level. It is taught at all levels from recruit to Station Officer.

He has travelled extensively in order to study modern firefighting trends and benchmark against these for world’s best practice in developing training programs. He has delivered fire training courses in Germany, Croatia, Belgium, Poland, France, Canada, Hong Kong and the US. In Europe alone he has trained over 500 fire behaviour instructors. He is a founding member of the International Fire Instructors Workshop (IFIW).

He was a lead instructor on the Canadian ‘F.I.R.E – Firefighting, Instruction, Research and Engineering’ project, designed to reduce risks and impacts due to fire. This project trained instructors from a number of Canadian Provinces and developed a freely available online fire dynamics training program (2013 – 2018). He was also one of four international experts selected as a panel member for the ‘Study of the Impact of Fire Attack Utilizing Interior and Exterior Streams on Firefighter Safety and Occupant Survival’. This research was conducted by Underwriters Laboratories (Chicago 2014 – 2017).

He is a co-author of ‘3D Firefighting – Training, Tactics and Techniques’, which in published in the USA by FPP/IFSTA. In 2009 he was awarded Australia’s highest honour for Fire Officers, the Australian Fire Service Medal for his work in structural firefighting training. He has a Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment and an Advanced Diploma in Management.