1. #1
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    Default A few basic firefighting questions

    I have a few questions for you. I just finished fire school a few weeks ago (i'm a volunteer) and i am finding out that i don't know as much as i think. Here are the questions.

    When attacking a fire inside of a room or building, are you always supposed to bounce the water off the ceiling? Or are there times when you are supposed to put the water directly on the fire?

    We use combination fog nozzles on our engine. When attacking a fire (either right on the fire or off the ceiling depending on the answer to my first question) are you supposed to use a straight stream or a cone? Or does it differ depending on circumstances? If so, what does it depend on? One of the guys in my class was on the nozzle and i was backing him up and he hit the ceiling with a straight stream and the instructor said "no, use a power cone" and said "do your thermal balance" and i didn't know what he was talking about. I would have asked but I didn't run into him again that day. What does that mean, do your thermal balance?


    When advancing a hoseline in through the door up to the second floor with 3 men on the line, is one guy supposed to stay at the door to hump hose in, one guy at the top of the steps to hump hose, and the nozzleman advances alone to find the fire? If so, when is the guy at the top of the stairs and the guy at the door supposed to move up? If they need to move to another room, does the backup guy go back to where he was and the door guy go back to where he was to pull more hose? I'm just a little confused here, and I don't want to be accused of leaving the nozzleman alone so i can go hump hose if thats not what i am supposed to do.

    I'm sure I will think of more questions. Thank you very much for your help.

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    I'm a truckie, but during day calls, our engines run light and the truck might be full so I've jumped on the engine a few times. As far as hitting the fire with a strait stream or a fog stream, I was taught that when you hit it the first time, hit it high, off the ceiling with a strait stream. If you use the fog, it will produce alot of steam that will end up burining you.

    After hitting it high, with a back and forth sweeping motion, I was told to then make a back and forth sweeping motion on the floor infront of you to cool the floor and clear out anything so you can advance furthher into the building.

    Once again, I am a TRUCKIE, but this is just what I remember from fire school and the few times I've trained with the engine companies in my dept.
    MFD Truck 2
    The Workhorse Company

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    Ok, after 20+ years, here are my greatest tips to answer your questions. Never and Always are two phrases that don't belong in fire tactics. You can't say you'll never try something and you can't plan on always doing something. Be adaptable.

    Always/Never hit the ceiling and Never/Always hit the fire? In time, with training and experience, you will learn when to do which.

    Always/Never use a straight stream and Never/Always use a fog? In time, with training and experience, you will learn when to do which.


    Good Luck. (that should make it clear as mud )
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Exclamation Bones is right

    I tend to prefer the straight stream at the base of the fire but have been known to use a narrow or a wide fog at the base or at the ceiling or at the walls.

    Sometimes I like an interior attack and get the fire out. Other times I start an interior attack and have to back out. Sometimes I decide to start on defense.

    Sometimes when I think one engine will do it, we end up at 3 alarms. Sometimes I call 3 alarms and the first due engine gets it.

    The only things "routine" (I hate that word) in the fire service are re-loading hose and washing trucks.

    With time will come real knowledge.

    Stay safe,

    Pete
    Pete Sinclair
    Hartford, MI
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    Quick answers to complicated questions:

    As was pointed out, you cannot use a "hard rule" when dealing with fire. Each fire will present unique characteristics that will require you to change tactics.

    Hitting the ceiling - If you have a well involved room, and you are in doubt, hitting the ceiling is usually an aceeptable thing to do with your initial attack. However, if you are able to identify the location of a fire in a room, your job is to put the fire out. If you see a concentration of fire, put the "wet stuff on the red stuff" and put the fire out. The ability to recognize this will come with experience. You will learn from trying one tactic and changing to a different one.

    Fog/"Power Cone"/Straight Stream - In the 'old days' we were taught to approach a fire with a full fog for protection and then close the stream as you got closer to the seat of the fire until the fire was extinguished. Of course, that was 24 years ago and house construction methods have made homes much more air tight and they tend to hold a lot more heat. This is why ventilation has become much more important. The other problem is that we are finding a lot more heat stored inside a burning building. As you know, heat rises, so the most heat is at the top of the room and the least is at the floor. This is a thermal balance. The theory of hitting the ceiling is to first deflect water throughout the fire room and to also cool that atmosphere at the top of the room. What can happen is that if you hit the ceiling first, you can cause the super heated gases to be forced lower which will displace the cooler atmosphere at the floor level. This could create an environment where the firefighter can no longer function and force you to retreat. The "power cone" 'suggestion' assumes that if you move directly into the fire with this hose stream, you tend to keep the higher heat above you as you advance to the fire. NOW... the down side of this method of attack, and the use of a full-fog, is that the heat can be so high in the room that all of the water you us will immediately turn to steam and not reach the fire. The result can be that you will find yourself in an atmosphere of super heated steam which can penetrate your turn-out and cause thermal burns to the firefighter and again making an environment that you cannot remain in. So, it is another 'crap shoot' that you will have to develop a 'feel' for with experience. It might work fine today, but would be the worst thing to do tomorrow.

    Advancing a Hose Line - Never forget the 'buddy system'. You must always maintain contact with your team. The nozzleman should NEVER be on the point by themself. As I mentioned above, things can turn to crap real fast, so that person always should have a back-up who can immediately assist and can also watch what is happening around you while the nozzleman directs the hose stream. The third person can stray back a short distance on the line to help pull it around obstacles, but you still want to be able to keep in contact with that person. If that person goes too far away and falls through a hole in the floor, how long would it be before anyone realized that they were gone? You have to work with what you got. If you have radios, the third person can move a little farther away, but normally you don't get beyond the sound of each others voice. If you have a long stretch, the ideal thing is to assign additional firefighters to "shag the hose" to keep the hose team moving effectively. Of course, manpower is seldom adequate, so you are forced to do what you need to do, so you must develop a method that works for the situation at hand that you can live with (the keyword there is 'live').

    That is a REAL brief description of things that will take you years to digest and get comfortable with. Add to that the fact that things will change during your career, so you just have to keep your head on straight and learn as you go. In reality, that is one of the reasons we enjoy doing this job... the constant challenge. Good luck!!
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

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    Like everyone else said,

    No hard and fast answers to the questions, but sometimes it helps to hit the fire with a 30-45 degree fog pattern in a rapid clockwise motion. That will push some of the steam away from you...(if you forget and go counterclockwise it'll bring the heat and steam back on you). I like to try different things in different situations and bouncing the water off the ceiling is a good tactic too. Sometimes hitting the base of the fire with a straight stream will push it back and actually spread it, it depends on the circumstances. The most important thing is that the water is getting a chance to absorb heat from the fire. The process of heating water to its boiling point and converting it to steam absorbs an awful lot of heat, and I am sure someone will come back and say exactly how much.

    Most houses (I guess I should have a little more faith in humanity) are a total mess and it will take some doing to get the hose stretched where it needs to go (depending of course, on where the fire is), especially if it gets charged too early. Three people can certainly do it but it does mean the third guy has got to straggle a little bit and help get it around stuff, up stairs around landings and whatnot. Like MetalMedic said, its ideal for everyone to stay in voice contact, but with SCBA's on breathing air and the commotion that usually is going on, its difficult at best to hear from a distance. The most important thing is to stay in contact with the hoseline no matter what. Its got the path to the rest of your guys on the line, and it will also tell you which way is OUT if the pooh hits the oscillating wind machine. The answers will became clearer with time. I am still relatively new to all this myself, but every incident is a learning experience. Drill to keep those skills fresh in your mind.

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    I'll keep this short and basic....

    I teach and prefer smoothbores, no pistol grips, and holding the line at arms length, and to sweep the floor first and then go high on the ceiling wiping in a clockwisw manner for 5-10 seconds or until the fire darkens down...working the stream from above me to in front of me....I let it lift and repeat if nessessary and or advance the line by duck walking. Room and content fires extingush rather fast in this manner.

    If a fire is small enough to get with direct steams...then we use the can. The can can even hold a room for some time....and it can hold a hallway from a room for just as long......

    Knowledge comes with experience....you'll learn what works for you.
    Last edited by VinnieB; 11-18-2004 at 04:10 PM.
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    I'm surprised how many "it depends" responses this thread has generated. Opening up the old "smoothbore vs. fog" can of worms usually sparks some heated debate here .

    It seems to me, just through reading the forums, that the smoothbore, straight stream attack is preferred by the big urban departments (think FDNY, Chicago, Detroit etc.)Suburban and rural departments seem to prefer the versatility of the combination fog nozzle. Both have their merits, just as each style of attack has its merits, depending on the situation.

    For example: Room heavily involved, not vented, with rollover at the ceiling or already flashed over, I'd go for the ceiling with a straight stream. In a room heated to the point of flashover, a fog or wide power cone will convert to steam (a LOT of steam) quickly and cook you like a lobster (or here in Louisiana, a crawfish) . This is what the instructor meant about not upsetting the thermal balance. You cool the overhead too quickly, the heat drops to floor level and you get burned. A straight stream is less likely to do this and will knock back the fire without upsetting the thermal layers.

    Different situation: Room and contents fire, not yet flashed, still in the growth phase. No rollover occurring yet. I'd hit this with a wide power cone, directly at the fire. The reason being, the room is not yet superheated enough to convert all that water to steam. The wide cone breaks up the water droplets finer than the straight and absorbs the heat better. Then once you get it darkened down, go to straight stream to get penetration into the base of the fire.

    That being said, there's a guy named Paul Grimwood in England who's been teaching yet another method, which is to "pulse" a quick burst, power cone pattern, at the ceiling to cool the overhead gases. This has also been proven effective under the proper circumstances, provided it's a quick burst (like 1 second or less)so you don't upset the thermal balance.

    Probably a more complex answer than you were looking for, I know. But to agree with the others here, you'll have to learn through experience what works best in which situation, get a feel for it, so to speak. Continue to study fire behavior so you can begin to predict how a fire should react in different situations. You're never done learning on this job. Every fire and drill you attend yields more knowledge and experience. Take every opportunity to continue your training, take classes, and if you have the opportunity to attend live fire training, do it! And get on the nozzle as much as you can while you're there! Good luck!
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    Originally posted by nsideff
    Like everyone else said,

    No hard and fast answers to the questions, but sometimes it helps to hit the fire with a 30-45 degree fog pattern in a rapid clockwise motion. That will push some of the steam away from you...(if you forget and go counterclockwise it'll bring the heat and steam back on you).
    Would someone explain this to me? If you start a circular motion with a hose stream, you will produce a corkscrew stream of water that is propelled away from the nozzle. Is fire "left handed" or what? Why would it move away from a corkscrew that is in a right hand twist but somehow fight its way backwards if it is in a left hand twist? The same forces are propelling the hose stream away from the nozzle. There is nothing "sucking" back, no matter which way you rotate.

    Maybe I have been lucky, but I have rotated the hose line in both directions based upon which side of an opening I am operating on and which hand I happen to find has better dexterity to execute the rotation. I have noticed no difference in the fire and steam behavior no matter what way I rotate the hose stream.
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

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    Originally posted by MetalMedic


    Would someone explain this to me? If you start a circular motion with a hose stream, you will produce a corkscrew stream of water that is propelled away from the nozzle. Is fire "left handed" or what? Why would it move away from a corkscrew that is in a right hand twist but somehow fight its way backwards if it is in a left hand twist? The same forces are propelling the hose stream away from the nozzle. There is nothing "sucking" back, no matter which way you rotate.

    Maybe I have been lucky, but I have rotated the hose line in both directions based upon which side of an opening I am operating on and which hand I happen to find has better dexterity to execute the rotation. I have noticed no difference in the fire and steam behavior no matter what way I rotate the hose stream.
    I was wondering the same thing, myself.......... Never heard of it before.......

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    it pertains only to a fog nozzle. I'm going to get remarkably untechnical here simply because I don't know the specific names. On the front of the fog nozzle there are the rotating teeth. They rotate to break up the water in a direction that spins the water droplets so that if you were to move the nozzle counter clockwise it *theoretically* will bring the fire and steam to you. We tried this in our burn building and there was a difference, but in my personal opinion i really don't think it would be enough to get one burned.

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    How would that bring the fire to you? I always thought the nozzle pushed the water "out"...

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    The nozzle he is refering to creates negative pressure when moved counterclocke wise.

    I did the same test in our burn building...not much really noticed. About the same amount of heat and steam was drawn in behind me....but very uncomfortable never the less....IMO not a good way to promulgate our mission here in South Eastern NY...actually...just down right stupid.
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    Its funny how a basic question is so complicated, but heres what I was taught. If the room is in rollover make short bursts at the ceiling with a 30 degree fog, until it blackens then vent, then hit the seat of the fire. If its not rolling yet, then hit the seat with a fog. We were taught to use a Z pattern instead of a circle pattern, don't know why thats just what our instructor liked and thought worked best.

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    I prefer to use a tight powercone- not a straight stream- to hit the ceiling in short rapid bursts... this knocks the fire down but as long as you pay attention to how much water you put up in the thermals, wont roast you. Then when the fire is going out, then I usually get a little wider powercone to hit the fire more directly. I've also used 3 or 5 second Z- and O-patterns. They work just as well... I just prefer to use the bursts. Every situation is different and there is no one absolute way... a lot of it is up to your imagination to come up with tactics that work for you. What works for me down south, may not work for the boys up north because of weather and what not... just ask questions of the experienced guys at your station. They'll be glad to teach you.
    -Jason

    Pasadena Fire Dept.
    Station 10

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    VFFYG2003, now that you have gotten to read 5 or 6 different ways of attacking the same fire, aren't we building your confidence?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Originally posted by Bones42
    VFFYG2003, now that you have gotten to read 5 or 6 different ways of attacking the same fire, aren't we building your confidence?
    No kidding...just wait till the foam geeks show up.

    VFFYG2003....just try not to re-invent the wheel....
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    Thank you all for your help so far. It just worries me thinking that i might go into a fire and put water on it the wrong way and screw something up. I hope that would never happen. I guess it does depend on lots of things. I'm sure I will have more questions in the future. Thank you very much.

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    Kid the best advice I can give you is to listen and learn to your senior man and officers. And if you can't get a handle on the fire.....Increase Flow, Improve Ventilation, and/or add another line.......if what you are doing doesn't work....try something different. There is not "always" or "never" in the fire service....think outside the box....and understand fire behavior.

    Good Luck and don't hold back on your questions no matter how "dumb" you think they are....the only dumb question is the one you never ask.....
    Last edited by VinnieB; 11-19-2004 at 11:19 PM.
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