Anatomy of a Fatal Fire


“My life consists of two phases: one before and one after the fire.”

Twenty-four hours in the life of an officer of the fire service. This is a narrative of author Marc Coenen’s experience during an August 11, 2019, fire in Beringen, Belgium, and his lessons learned both for fire science and the psychology of being a firefighter.

Anatomy of a Fatal Fire. What Have I Done Wrong?  explores the conscious and unconscious ways our brain processes information on a fireground.  Understanding how our predictive brain operates in normal circumstances is important, but knowing how it works under challenging conditions is critical for everyone, as actions, thoughts, and feelings are directed by the unconscious more than you might think. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the science and psychology behind fires.

From the author:

“Twenty-four hours in the lite of an officer of the fire service. I begin Saturday morning August 10, and I end the next day late in the morning. The tipping point is Sunday night 3:08 a.m. At exactly that moment, a fire that seemed under control unexpectedly turned into hell on earth. The impact of that tire cannot be underestimated. My lite consists of two phases: one before and one atter the fire. That fire changed my life, and I will have to (learn to) live with it.

 Stunned and completely contused, one question keeps running through my mind: How could this fire end so dramatically? Why did two firefighters lose their lives and a third suffer severe bum injuries? What have I done wrong?”

To come to terms with my feeling of guilt, I began to read and write. In the months following the incident, I devoured works of philosophers of science, historians, geneticists, molecular neurobiologists, behavioural biologists, and psychologists that deal with the various aspects of decision making under time pressure. One way or the other, I had to make sense of that tragic fire and uncover its anatomy.




Item #: 1593705954