I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the members of the Porter, Texas fire department on the loss of their brother firefighter Gary Stately. As reported, FF. Stately and the rest of his crew responded to a working fire located in a commercial dwelling. Heavy fire and smoke was issuing from the rear of the 100x 100 wood and sheet metal building. The first engine in, stretched an attack line thru the front door. Advancing no more than three feet inside the building, there was a sudden flashover that enveloped the engine attack team. All four members inside did what they were trained to due and got on their bellies and proceeded to exit the building as fast as possible. Three firefighters were able to exit the building. Tragically FF.Stately was unable to the exit the building.
This profession we choose is a dangerous one, where in a matter of minutes we could be fighting for our lives. I know, I have been there. So how can we gain an edge that might help us make the right decisions? Let's discuss basic engine company operations.
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SIZE UP FOR EVERYONE:
First arriving Engine Company firefighters at a structural fire must make a quick but comprehensive size-up. I'm not talking about the thirteen point size-up (who can honestly remember all of those acronyms) I'm talking about a shorter version that anyone can remember.
BELOW - U
U - Units (do we have enough help to safely extinguish this fire?)
After you have done your size-up ask yourself the following questions
- What size hose line should I stretch 1 3/4 " or 2 1/2" hose?
- What nozzle should I use, adjustable fog nozzle or smooth bore?
- Should we enter the structure from the burned side or the unburned side?
- How long has the fire been cooking?
- Has the truck performed any ventilation?
- Is the roof open?
- Is the second engine on the scene?
- Is the structure occupied or vacant?
These are just a few of the questions that must be decided upon by the attack team before entering the structure.
I would like to discuss a few of the points above and explain why I feel they should be part of every "Engine Company's Tool Box."
"TOOLS FOR THE TOOL BOX"
1. What Size Hose Line to Use 1 3/4" or 2 1/2"
"Little Fire- Little Hose, Big Fire- Big Hose."
While it is much easier to handle an 1 3/4" hose line, in no way would you get the knock down power of a 2 1/2" line. I know what you are saying "my department doesn't carry 2 1/2" hose line," well maybe they should.
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Some of you may be too young to remember when most companies carried 2 1/2" hose. Did you ever wonder what happened to make such a dramatic changeover to 1 3/4" hose lines? Well, who can remember "Rapid Water or Slippery Water? Allegedly this was the solution that was going to revolutionize the way we put out fire. This solution gave us a 2 1/2" water flow out of an 1 3/4 " line.
The only problem was the price. Many fire departments found it was cheaper and required less manpower to use the smaller diameter attack hose. Rather than to use a 2 1/2" line or the use of an additive. So many departments reduced their manpower and they were not going to go back to the way it was. So today some departments still refused to carry atleast one bed of 2 1/2" hose, if you were to ask them why, you will be surprised at their answers.
Also, I would like someone to tell me how you can possibly extinguish a large building fire using one 1 3/4" attack line. The old gpm formula was at least 1 to 3 gpm of water was needed to extinguish 100 cu.ft of fire area.
2. "Smooth Bore Nozzle - Adjustable Fog Nozzle"
Personally, after I had the fire knock down I would shut down the nozzle and remove the smooth bore tip and replace it with a small booster fog tip that I carried in my pocket. This would assist in ventilation and reduce water damage. Remember if using an adjustable nozzle you have to determine what position the tip is in, whether fog or straight stream.