## Fire Fighters Need Maths

October 22, 2015

Black Saturday Bush Fires Australia

The Fire Season in Australia arrives suddenly. The frightening warning (above) can be heard on the national broadcaster as fires spring up around Australia. It seems no time at all since Aussie fire fighters were helping fight fires in California. Now they’re back. Elvis, The Aircrane, returns form the US for another tour of duty in Victoria.

Aircrane, Elvis, returns to fight bush fires in Australia. Herald Sun

Here is something you may not realise:

## MIDDLE SCHOOL MATHS.

You can check out a typical Fire Fighter Maths Curriculum here. The significance of the Fire Fighter Maths is that the numbers are shocking. You can look at a wildfire on TV, but when you calculate how much time you have to escape, the answer is truly terrifying.

So here is a Fire Fighter Maths problem from one of Mathspig’s Middle School Worksheets titled:

# METRIC UNITS

On 7th February 2009 a bushfire began in Victoria Australia that killed 173 people, injured 414 people, destroyed 2,100 homes and displaced 7,562 people. Known as The Black Saturday Bushfires the fire front travelled at up to 600m per 30 seconds. The radiant heat produced was capable of killing people 400 meters away.

Are fire fighters safe in such a fire? How much time do they get to escape the fire in a fire truck even if the fire front is 5 km away? We can do the math:

Q 7: You are a fire fighter in a fire truck when the wind hits the fire front at 120 km/hr. Suddenly, the fire front starts moving at 100 kph. You are, thankfully, in a fire truck but the wind and smoke haze makes driving the truck difficult. You can only make 80 kph along a straight road away from the fire (See pic above)The fire front is 5 km away. How long have you got before the fire front hits?

1. Find S1 (Fire Front Speed) and S(Fire Truck Speed) in m/sec and kph.
2. Fill in this equation where  d  (distance of fire front from point on map) and d2 (Distance of Fire Truck from the same point on a map)

d1 =   d2   +   ………

3. Use the following equations to calculate the time t that you have before the flames hit.

# USA UNITS

On 7th February 2009 in The Black Saturday Bushfires the fire front travelled at to 656 yds per 30 seconds. The radiant heat produced was capable of killing people 437 yds away.

Are fire fighters safe in such a fire? How much time do they get to escape the fire in a fire truck even if the fire front is 3.1 miles away? We can do the math. Answers below.

Q 7: You are a fire fighter in a fire truck when the wind hits the fire front at 75 mph. Suddenly, the fire front starts moving at 62 mph. You are, thankfully, in a fire truck but the wind and smoke haze makes driving the truck difficult. You can only make 50 mph along a straight road away from the fire (See pic above). The fire front is 3 miles away. How long have you got before the fire front hits?

1. Find S1 (Fire Front Speed) and S2 (Fire Truck Speed) in ft/sec and mph
2. Fill in this equation where  d1   (distance of fire front from point on map) and d2 (Distance of Fire Truck from the same point on a map)

d1 =   d2   +   ………

3. Use the following equations to calculate the time t that you have before the flames hit.

# WORKSHEETS

Fire Fighter Math 1: Wildfire Algebra You will find the worksheets in both METRIC & USA Units Here. Yes! There is a small fee. Mathspig and Roni the Rodent (left) have this very, very slow get rich quick scheme going. Ha!

Lesson Plan:

Students discover that fire fighters need middle-school math. Students complete some warm-up exercises involving unit conversions (mph to ft/sec or kph to m/sec) without and with a calculator and then they simplify algebraic expressions and solve simultaneous equations. Students use this math to calculate real life fire front speeds that fire fighters have faced in Montana, USA and Victoria, Australia. The power of this math is that the calculations are based on the stories about and conditions faced by these real fire fighters. No lectures are needed on the danger of wildfires as the numbers speak for themselves.