Fornell: The Firefighting Blitz Attack

Don’t you get really getting tired of seeing first-arrival videos where the engine pulls up and it takes a good five minutes to get water on the fire?

I know, some will argue that the officer has to make a 360-degree assessment (true) before deciding on a plan of attack, and that with limited staffing nowadays, it just takes a while for folks to decide how to establish a water supply and to get enough people to get the first line to get into operation. 

Horse hockey.

Take a look at this video for a minute and then let’s figure out why this knockdown went so well.

The fire occurred a few weeks ago in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small city in south central Wisconsin served by a progressive volunteer department. 

The fire started in the early evening, in the garage of a tri-level house when the occupant was welding on a car tailpipe and, well you know the rest. 

The response time from dispatch until arrival of the first engine was five minutes.  The assistant chief arrived on the scene before the first engine and sized up a tri-level house, going throughout, with fire threatening the B and D exposures.  He relayed an action plan of using the deck gun to the officer of the first arriving engine and the successful results can be seen in the video. 

But, this fire was fought long before the first unit logged on the scene.

The first-arriving engine has a 2,000-gallon tank; the result of quite a bit of discussion 10 years ago when it was purchased.  Some asked, why, in a city served by a good hydrant system, did they need a rig with such a large tank?

First, they do respond into surrounding rural areas where initial water supply was a primary issue so a large tank was a given, but more importantly, the officers wanted more on-board water on city runs so they could mount an effective and safe attack during times when staffing was short.

The deck gun installation was carefully thought out with a lever operated gun, mounted high enough off the deck to permit 360-degree operation and supplied by a 4-inch riser off the pump.

The attack was helped by the fact that the department just completed monthly drills to practice blitz attack tactics, so the operation was fresh in everyone’s minds.

This attack was effective because of the following:

  • An experienced chief officer arrived on the scene, performed a quick size up and immediately communicated with the officer of the first engine the conditions and action plan.
  • The engine was positioned properly by the driver so that the deck gun could hit both the B and D exposures.
  • The deck gun was mounted on the rig so that it had a wide -inchfield of fire-inch and could be depressed as needed to sweep the forward edge of the involved structure.
  • The gun was specified with a lever control rather than hand wheels so that the stream could be quickly moved where needed (They got this idea from Chicago and FDNY)
  • While there could have been a number of nozzle options, on this particular operation the tip was a 1-3/8-inch flowing 500-GPM
  • The pump operator immediately sent the right pressure to the gun; notice how the stream is shaped like a javelin and able to reach all areas of involvement.
  • The supply line was stretched by an off-duty firefighter from a neighboring department. A good reason to invite surrounding departments to your drills so that all firefighters are familiar with each other’s operations.
  • The first attack line was a 2-inch preconnect with a 1-1/8-inch tip flowing 250-GPM, more than enough to protect the exposures and effectively operate on the main body of fire.
  • Notice that they never lost water, a result of the large tank and efficient hydrant supply operations (read-training).

You may not have a 2,000-gallon tank on your first engine but, utilizing the deck-gun/blitz attack can be performed with any well-designed pumper. 

A blitz/deck gun attack takes practice and a bit of confidence that the on-board water can kill a bunch of fire if it is applied in enough quantity from a heavy-caliber, well directed stream, instead of being frittered away by a well meaning crew with a too-little-flow handline.

Now, look at the video again and get out and practice.