Anatomy of a Fatal Fire. What Have I Done Wrong?

Marc Coenen
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Anatomy of a Fatal Fire. What Have I Done Wrong?

By: Marc Coenen

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

In Anatomy of a Fatal Fire. What Have I Done Wrong? Marc Coenen explores the conscious and unconscious ways our brain processes information on a fireground.

Following a fatal fire in Beringen, Coenen had to face the fire’s lasting impact. He began “devouring works of philosophers of science, historians, geneticists, molecular neurobiologists, behavioral biologists, and psychologists that deal with the various aspects of decision making under time pressure. One way or the other, [this fire office] had to make sense of that tragic fire and uncover its anatomy."

Understanding how our predictive brain operates in normal circumstances is important, but knowing how it workunder 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. 






Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Fire Officer

  1. Saturday, August 10, 2019, 11:00 a.m.
  2. Sunday, August 11, 2019, 2:00 a.m.
  3. From Well-Built to Shoddily Renovated
  4. Previous Fires in the Building
  5. Sunday, August 11, 2019, 2:18 a.m.
  6. Sunday, August 11, 2019, 3:08 a.m.
  7. Sunday, August 11, 2019, 11:00 a.m.

Chapter 2: Lessons from the Fire

  1. Afterward You Know Everything Beforehand
  2. Is Seeing Believing, or Believing Seeing?
  3. Thinking About Thinking
  4. From Information to Deception
  5. To Recognize Is to Decide
  6. Philosophy of Science for the Fire Service
  7. Is Thinking Doing, or Doing Thinking?
  8. The Mismatch Between Brain and Environment
  9. Decision Theory for the Fire Service
  10. Nothing Human Is Alien to Us

Chapter 3: A Brain Adrift

  1. Intuition at Work
  2. The Discovery of the Brain
  3. The Conscious and Unconscious Mind
  4. Handling an Incident with the Handbrake On
  5. A Theory More or One Less?
  6. Am I Going Mad?
  7. Posttraumatic Growth in the Middle Ages
  8. Black Lives Matter





Selected Bibliography


Number of Pages:
Published Date:
March 2024


  • 5
    commentaar op het boek

    Posted by Walter Cuypers on Apr 17th 2024

    I was truly captivated by the book “Anatomy of a Fatal Fire” by Marc Coenen. The author skillfully portrays the intense emotions, harrowing decisions, and overpowering impact of this life-altering experience. This captivating book not only immerses you in the chaos of the fire but also leaves you inspired by the strength of the human spirit. A must-read for those in the fire service department and anybody interested in a powerful story about sacrifice, chaos, self-discovery and working under immense pressure and adrenaline.

  • 5
    Anatomy of a fatal fire

    Posted by Jul Janssens on Mar 31st 2024

    An intense and instructive read that provides compelling insights into how the human mind works in daily life and on a fireground.