Engine Company, Firefighting

Tactical Safety for Firefighters: Nozzle Backwards

By Ray McCormack

Firefighters would be so much better off if they just placed the hoseline under their arm with the nozzle pointing behind them and then crawled backwards as they entered the fire area. Does that sound reasonable? Some like to quote this technique as being suitable for basement fires, but why not all fires? Doesn’t it sound cutting edge? Remember, in a digital world any silly idea can have merit…did I say silly?

Here are the advantages of such an attack position:

  • You will have your back to the fire, so when your tank air starts to warm up, that is your signal to open up the nozzle.
  • You can stare at the back up firefighter and the hoseline behind you. Actually the hose would be in front of you. Either way.
  • If you need more line because the nozzle it starting to get under your arm pit, then just crawl forward allowing the nozzle to reposition so you can regain control of it (now that’s funny, cause control is not something you’ll have with this technique. Did I say that already? Oops.)
  • You’ll have to keep the bale open. No on-again-off-again stuff. Looks like pencilling will be a thing of the past, too; sorry, fire gases.
  • If you need to leave because you are fatigued you will not have to turn around. You’re already facing the exit. Big time saver.

These are all positive aspects of a backwards nozzle operation. Did we miss anything? Oh yeah, one biggie: you can’t see the fire!

Second biggie: Lack of nozzle control and direction.

Third biggie: You can’t see where you’re going.

Fourth biggie is on you.

Okay, some glitches exist. Don’t tell me you’re ready to toss this new idea aside! Don’t do it. Let it live on–someone who simply craves new perspectives will repackage it. Remember, there are no silly ideas in today’s fire service, there’s just poor salesmanship. Repackage it and sell this idea to the fire service. Not a believer yet? We’ll throw in a study; that should help convince the fence-sitters among you. “Backwards Nozzle Operation Moves Forward!” Remember, tactical safety is not just about evaluating new concepts, it is also about allowing even legacy tactics to live on.

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Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for Firefighters

RAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine.