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Do you understand what nozzle reaction forces are and how they impact our ability to extinguish a fire? Nozzle reaction is created by the volume of water leaving the nozzle and the pressure at which that water leaves the nozzle. Captain Dave Fornell and Firefighter Paul Grimmwood have conducted extensive research revealing that firefighters struggling to manage nozzle reaction forces are not able to focus on safely fighting the fire.
1. What is your department’s minimum tactical fire-flow requirement?
2. Are you really achieving the fire flow you think you are?
3. Are your nozzle reaction forces within your crew's working limits?
4. Is your current hose and nozzle configuration effective and safe for the modern fireground?
The only way to establish the effectiveness of your hose and nozzle configuration is to conduct a formalized evaluation to ensure your firefighters are going to battle with the most efficient and effective weapon. Many departments conduct this type of testing after a close call or line-of-duty death. Don’t wait until a tragedy forces you to react to your departments limitations, make the effort to ensure you are giving your firefighters there best chance of safely extinguishing the fire.
Proper stream application
How you position your body and the manner in which you make your advance are crucial to the success of the advance. You and your partner should be on the same side of the line, and down low. One popular method is crawling on both knees. This method is helpful during high-heat conditions so you can stay low.
The leg-forward method lets you use your outstretched leg to feel debris, holes or stairways in front of you before the full weight of your body comes in contact with the obstacle. The nozzle firefighter should hold the line at arm’s length out in front for maximum maneuverability. If you let the nozzle push back close to your body, it will be impossible to maneuver properly.
While advancing, your stream should be operated forward and upward in a rapid side-to-side or clockwise rotation striking the ceiling and the walls. This is done so your stream can break up and cool superheated ceiling gases and cool the primary radiant heat sources. Don’t forget to sweep the floor to cool burning material ahead of your advance to prevent knee burns. As the fire darkens, the stream should be lowered to cool the primary fuel source.
The officer’s role during the advance
After taking command of the stretch, the officer should try to locate the fire while the crew is making the stretch. Depending on the type of structures you respond to and the location of the fire within it, you may be able to do this from the exterior while conducting your 360-degree size-up. But there may be times when you have to enter the structure ahead of the nozzle team to determine the quickest and most direct route to the fire. The decision to enter ahead of the attack line should not be made arbitrarily, but should be based on the current fire and smoke conditions and your ability to do so safely. The officer-in-charge should don all PPE, including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), a portable radio and a thermal imaging camera. Determining the route ahead of the attack line’s advance can have a major impact on your crew’s ability to quickly and safely extinguish the fire.
Once the stretch is complete and the location of the fire has been determined, you must take command of the hoseline advance. Many departments have policies dictating that the first-in engine officer should remain outside of the structure to take command and initiate the Incident Management System (IMS). Since the actions and decisions of the first-due engine and the primary attack line will have a major impact on the outcome of the fire, the first-in engine company officer must have the flexibility to go with the crew when the fire conditions and the crew’s experience level dictate the need for close crew supervision.
Before advancing through the door, the officer must ensure that the crew has donned all PPE and should relay the information gathered during their size-up such as the fire’s location and intensity, location of the stairs or how far inside the entrance the fire is located. As soon as entry is made into the fire the officer must evaluate conditions and make any adjustments necessary to the advance. The officer’s presence lets the nozzle team focus on nozzle operation and hose advancement, since the officer is constantly monitoring the fire and smoke conditions for any changes and can quickly notify the crew.