Suburban Fire Department, Urban Mentality: Nozzles

Part 2

By Steven W. Stein

In part one of this series, “Suburban Fire Department, Urban Mentality: The Fast-Attack Engine Company,” Steven W. Stein described the the Forest Park (OH) Fire Departments (FPFD) approach to engine company operations.

The FPFD uses three types of nozzles: smooth bore, vindicator, and combination.

Smooth Bore

The smooth bore nozzle is most prevalent on FPFD engine companies. Going back to the core beliefs of the FPFD fast-attack engine company’s maintaining high degrees of hostility and aggression toward fires, the smooth bore delivers the highest number of gallons per minute (gpm) per capita. [1]

The advantages of high gpm and low-discharge pressures are great benefits to crews operating in the immediately dangerous to life or health environment. These advantages come with a cost, however, since low-pressure hoselines are more likely to kink. To avoid kinks, engine companies must use the following two techniques, which are imperative to success:

1. Properly deploy and flake the line. A well-flaked line will generally allow for a more rapid deployment and will be more apt to free itself of kinks when charging.

2. Chock doors; it is imperative for the fast-attack engine company. The mark of an experienced engine company firefighter is not a “salty” or burnt door chock (this simply indicates that this firefighter did not take the time to chock any doors at his last fire).

Combination Nozzle

The combination nozzle our engine company uses serves its purpose for the utility runs we routinely encounter: dumpster fires, car fires, brush fires, and so on. It has the capability of disbursing between 150 to 180 gpm, which will extinguish the vast majority of our one-room burns (room-and-contents fires). If the attack crew immediately needs a greater volume of water (180 to 220 gpm), it can quickly shut down the line, spin off the combination attachment, and take advantage of a ⅞-inch smooth bore. tip. An important caveat to this technique is that it is absolutely imperative that the crew operating on the line notify the fire apparatus operator (FAO) BEFORE it spins off the combination attachment to allow for pump discharge pressure (PDP) adjustments.

Vindicator Nozzle

The vindicator nozzle is the newest edition to FPFD engine companies. Captain James purchased the nozzles for the companies in 2007. The vindicator nozzle requires the same nozzle pressure as a smooth bore [50 pounds per square inch (psi)] and has the capability to act as a foam nozzle with no added attachment. Critics of the vindicator say that the reach of the stream is inadequate. Through our own flow tests, we reached flows of 235 gpm at relatively low PDPs (less than 150 psi) with a stream greater than 40 feet. The vindicator meets the needs of our crews deploying interior lines in high-risk occupancies with high life hazards where the fire must be rapidly contained and extinguished.

A Note on Friction Loss and Hose Charts

Although manufacturers’ hose charts are great tools to give you an idea on the capabilities of their hoses, the only way to truly assess friction loss and gpm capability is to flow test your hose with your nozzles on your engines. FPFD annually tests hose in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association. This is a great opportunity for our senior FAOs and firefighters in charge of hose records to assess flow capabilities. A flow meter is an invaluable tool to quantify and benchmark your company’s ability to flow water.

3-Inch Supply Hose

Three-inch hose is a necessity for many older communities where the hydrants have only two 2 ½-inch outlets. Three-inch hose is a versatile supply line that can be used in several scenarios as a supplement to or in place of a 5-inch if the situation so warrants. If the engine company misses a hydrant or is blocked out and the FAO is forced to hand-jack hose to the closest available water supply source, 3-inch is much easier to deploy than 5-inch. Keep in mind that 3-inch hose is capable of flowing 800 gpm, which is well within our threshold of risk tolerance for one or two in-service attack lines.

The 3-inch supply line can also be used to supplement a “well” stretch in an accommodating stairwell. The 3-inch may also be used as a flying standpipe for various multifamily and commercial occupancies.

Note that there are one 2½-inch connection and two 1¾-inch connections with male threads at the end of the water thief. In most cases, no more than two lines should be deployed off this 3-inch supply line in a standpipe setting. Also, there are one 2 ½-inch connection and two 1¾-inch connections with male threads at the end of the water thief. In most cases, no more than two lines should be deployed off this 3-inch supply line in a standpipe setting. In addition, note that the water thief discharge handles should be kept in the “CLOSED” position at all times, so as not to inadvertently prematurely charge a handline.

The 3-inch supply hose can also be used to supplement the waterway on an FPFD truck company. The waterway should be supplied using the largest plumbed discharges on the apparatus. On FPFD engines, they are accomplished through either the 3-inch right discharge, 4-inch right discharge, or the front 2 ½-inch discharge.

With respect to the length of the 3-inch supply line, see the below explanation for the 5-inch supply length.

5-Inch Supply Hose

There is nothing innovative about having a 5-inch supply hose on an engine company in the 21st century. FPFD engines do not reinvent the wheel with respect to supply hose; however, one should note the third intake for large-diameter hose (on the rear of the engine).

With respect to the 750 feet of supply hose (both 3-inch and 5-inch), this was determined based on hydrant distances within the city. The City of Forest Park requires hydrants to be spaced every 300 feet, so having 750 feet of supply line allows our engines to approach from two hydrants away from the fire building and still be able to connect to any intake on the apparatus. Furthermore, if crews encounter a bad hydrant, the FAO can drop our manifold (see picture below) and quickly transition to a reverse lay operation if needed. [2]

If a water supply failure should occur, the FAO should take immediate steps to inform command and more importantly, the engine company operating on the hand line that no longer has an adequate water supply. The engine company officer in conjunction with the incident commander shall determine whether the company will continue with an interior attack; maintain a marginal position to allow the truck company to complete a search; or to cease interior operations and go defensive. The engine company does not back out of the structure until all other personnel are out of the building. In the past, FPFD truck company members performing interior searches were left inside buildings while mutual-aid engine companies backed out attack lines, which resulted in a near miss and hindered interagency cooperation for several months.

Steven Stein is an Ohio-certified fire instructor and a faculty member of the fire science department at The University of Cincinnati. He earned an MBA from The University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business. Stein works at the Forest Park (OH) Fire Department, where he also serves as a regional training committee board member. He is also the founder of Firefighter Hired.


[1] The per capita measurement is based on the comparison between gpm disbursed and PDP required to achieve desired nozzle pressures.

[2] Other options include abandoning the 5-inch supply and dropping a 3-inch for a reverse lay. It should be noted that a reducer will be needed to convert down from the manifold to an 1 ¾-inch attack line. The preferred method would be to use a 3-inch line in conjunction with the initial attack line if there is a bad hydrant.

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