Choosing a Nozzle for Hoarder Fires

Good afternoon from the Jumpseat. When I teach fighting fires in hoarding environments, the question that is asked the most is which type of nozzle should we use? I know the nozzle debate has continued since the days of the steam pumper, but the intent of this blog is to hit a few key points on selecting the right attack method for fighting fires in hoarding conditions. 

Let’s look at these key points in selecting your nozzle: will a smoothbore nozzle be able to penetrate into the piles of belongings? How much water will it take to absorb the intense heat that is produced from the extra fuel load? Can you use a combination of methods to attack this monster?  

These are questions that come up often, so let us break them down one at a time.

Can a smoothbore penetrate deep into the piles? Well, that depends on what is being hoarded. Often times people hoard different things. From books to car parts, it will be depended on the types of belongings found in the home. A common occurrence in  these conditions involves newspapers and books. These piles may be easy to penetrate deep into while knocking them over. This is where the benefit of a solid stream can be seen.  

How much water will it take to reduce the extra amount of heat? This is also a hard one to determine. Often in such condensed areas, the piles of belongings will only have the top layer burning. Lack of airflow mixed with the belongings so tightly and only the top layers burning can actually somewhat reduce the amount of heat to a lower than expected level. Think of a burning rolled up newspaper, only the outside burns. If the piles are at waist level or lower this is where the heat can be increased because the fire will consume larger amounts of fuel. This is where a fog attack may be beneficial, but always keep in mind the thermal performance of your turnout gear and you may not want to be in the room until the initial attack is made with subsequent ventilation. 

Can you use a combination of attack methods to battle a hoarder fire? Yes! This is my suggestion when faced with these conditions. If you identify that a house is loaded with belongings, a combination attack may provide your crews a extra layer of safety. Select your nozzle, choose a point of entry and apply water from outside the house. Oh my, did I say squirt from the outside? However, we are aggressive firefighters who fight fire inside. I agree, we are aggressive firefighters, but hoarder homes are not normal conditions. They require different methods of attack. 

If you use a 380-degree size-up and suspect "Heavy Contents" are present choose your weapon while keeping this blog in your mind bank! Think outside the box and choose wisely. Darkening the fire down from the outside and waiting for ventilation does not make you a lesser firefighter, it makes you a smarter firefighter and may just bring you home safe! Stay tuned for more options for attacking a heavy content fires as we bring out some oldy, but goody types of attacks!

Thanks for the visit to the Jumpseat! 

Identify, adjust, and attack!