Classroom Day 1
The Art of Reading Smoke
Today’s structure fires are more dangerous than ever before. Lightweight
construction, low-mass synthetics, and open space floorplans have created a perfect storm for rapid,
prolific fire growth and extreme behavior. It is imperative for firefighters of all ranks and experience
levels to be prepared for this new battle. The Art of Reading Smoke, developed by Dave Dodson and
continued by Rob Backer, provides the knowledge necessary for first-arriving firefighters, officers, and
chief officers to determine the fire’s location, progression, and future “from the seat” before seeing any
flame. This knowledge ensures that the correct tactics are implemented for the best possible outcome.
Through the extensive use of actual fireground videos, first-time students will develop, and return
students will refine their knowledge and skills to become INTELLECTUALLY aggressive firefighters, rather
than ARBITRARILY aggressive. The next generation of Reading Smoke brings new research, a new library
of videos, and discussion on cancer prevention, tactics and strategies to develop the next generation of
aggressive interior firefighting!
Rob Backer is a 20-year fire service veteran and currently serves as Captain of Engine 76
for Thornton Fire Department in Thornton, Colorado. He has written for Fire Engineering and multiple
fire service blogs. He is an instructor for The Art of Reading Smoke and The Art of the First Due, and
available to teach nationally.