Q & A: Sean Gray on ‘Attack from the Burned Side’

Sean Gray recently presented a Webcast on structural firefighting tactics, “Attack from the Burned Side: New Age Tactics and Tasks” (CLICK HERE to watch). Below are his answers to questions posed during the live presentation.

Q. What is your thought about when you have limited staffing–reset the fire or get line inside quickly?

A. I would reset the fire first. Look up the details of 2-in/2-out and what stage the fire needs to be in for an interior attack. Reset it and go inside!

Q. How about attacking attic fires from the gable-end window or vent?

A. We looked at the gable attack, and it will be in the attic fire module being released around March 15 from Underwriters Labs (UL). The problem is that the water has to get onto the decking and the roof support beams’ end to block the stream from reaching the burning materials. It didn’t work as well as I thought it would. Eave attack was far superior.

Q. If you were educating a new firefighter, how you interject your subject with building construction and its relation to fire spread?

A. The exterior fire/attic UL Module will be coming out around March 15. I would encourage you to view that module. It will have exactly what you’re looking for.

Q. We teach from tradition, that’s true. However, in many departments, I believe we also teach new officers just like new firefighters, from a check-off sheet (National Professional Qualifications, NPQ). Many times officers, especially new officers, approach a fire and seem as if they are trying to remember the steps on the check-off sheet that they learned from the hot-seat component of their promotional process. Don’t you think we need to emphasize the dynamic thought process that the officer or incident commander needs to employ as it relates to the fire behavior, building construction, etc. that the officer is seeing on the scene so he/she can employ the proper tactic(s) for that unique incident?

A. I couldn’t agree with you more. There are current discussions happening amongst the UL Advisory board on this very topic. Stay tuned.

Q. What about fog vs. smooth bore nozzles, and how effective is the straight stream from a fog nozzle flowing from the exterior?  I haven’t been able to find what types of nozzles are used in the UL and NIST studies.

A. There hasn’t been a standard nozzle used on any of the studies. The upcoming fire attack study hopes to revisit the smooth vs. fog discussion. Straight stream is recommended at this time without movement of nozzle for an exterior attack. Look up Los Angeles County (CA) exterior fire attack video on Vimeo for a good example.

Q. Are there any studies on the construction where the walls are constructed of foam sandwiched between sheets of oriented strand board (OSB, no studs) called structural insulated panels (SIP)?

A. Not any specific studies from the UL. Check out www.greenmaltese.com. John Shafer has a multitude of reports on building construction materials.


SEAN GRAY is a 21-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Cobb County (GA) Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire safety engineering and is an advisory board member for the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute.

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