Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Close Is Too Close?

“The fire service’s weekly safety column”

By: Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

How close do you get to the fire? Do you stand above? Crawl by? Scoot under, or walk next to it? These events don’t sound safe on the surface, but under the right circumstances they are common and fundamental to being inside a structural fire. Extinguishment options besides getting the hoseline in place, which includes: deciding hoseline diameter, nozzle type and GPM flow, is the starting location of the initial attack.

At what point do we start our attack? When you have a room fire some distance down the hallway from your entrance position, and the fire is contained within the room, the nozzle should not be opened just yet; we need to advance closer first.

The reasons we do not open up right away in the first example is because we do not have a proper attack angle yet. If the room entrance is to one side of the hallway, then shooting the stream straight down the hallway will not put out much, if any, fire. You need an angle that allows the stream to enter and penetrate the fire room. Without that, you are wasting water and effort. A proper stream angle will make your attack more efficient which translates to a quicker knockdown.

If the fire has left the room and is coming down the hallway at you, we will be opening the hose line at first advance. When the fire is advancing on your position, you must hit it back and then move forward, getting closer to the point of origin. We should not be under the fire like a broiler, which is a sign of inefficient flow and or poor nozzle technique.

Do we pass fire? Yes we do pass fire but only for two reasons: suppression and rescue. These two caveats allow us to pass two different types of fires. For suppression, we pass fire only after it has been knocked down. Knockdown is controlling the fire within an area almost to the point of full-extinguishment; we pass knocked-down fire areas in pursuit of full- extinguishment of the fire area. If rescue is required, we may have to pass active fire which has not been attacked yet.

When you have a handline, you also have a responsibility to use it. You must attempt to knock down all the fire you see and save the rescue work for someone not assisting with extinguishment. There have been painful examples of abandoned hoselines due to attempted rescues when we probably would have fared better using the opposite approach.

The old time adage: that a properly positioned and operating hoseline saves more lives than any other rescue method is TRUE!

When we have fire at the door, we need to aim the stream upward and place it directly within the doorway space. If you normally use a circular attack motion this is not the time for that method. Remember, efficiency and economy of movement goes a long way to you finishing your extinguishment assignment.

Making it rain early pays big dividends. Shooting streams horizontally into rooms does not allow for optimum coverage, and will often result in a stream that shoots through the fire room extinguishing very little. Prior to crossing the threshold, we should have quite a bit already knocked down. Once we enter, move aside from the doorway and continue your attack; if you can locate the next room of fire, hit that too, so that the cooling effect can start reducing the heat release load and result in a faster knock down.

Open the line when you have a good shot at the fire; open the line when you’re in heavy smoke and high heat and uncomfortable in your gear. Remember that you probably do not have a knock down unless you have smoldering rubble beneath you. How close is too close should never be an issue if you use the reach of the stream to your tactically safe advantage.

Next Tactical Safety – Following Orders

1 comment:

  1. Every fire building is an unique situation. I have seen a nozzle man shoot the stream down the hallway and knock down the smoke for us to make it down the hallway to effect a rescue yet given what seems to be the same conditions the stream had no effect whatsoever. That's where the experience of a senior man comes into play. It boils down to being able to read the smoke. Not every fire can be knocked down with a smooth bore and sometimes using the fog nozzle can do more harm than good. Hard training is critical to develop experiences that will come into play when working in your first due area. Every firefighter must learn how to read smoke and continue to hone that skill.

    But, do not forget your second due area structure training but only after mastering what is in your first due area.