Many times high fire loads encountered upon arrival quickly preclude the use of standard handlines for an initial attack.
In these cases, the movement of water and establishing a solid, constant water supply become crucial. Fires requiring large quantities of water for suppression (a high critical application rate) will dictate the water supply and delivery operation from the initial setup. If a fire has burned past you on the fire curve, additional handlines may provide no relief. The commitment to use high-flow portable monitors and truck-mounted master streams (500-2000 GPM) also comes with the commitment to supply the necessary water for continued operation. Keeping in mind these additional supply requirements, the use of portable monitors or truck-mounted master stream devices can offer some of the following benefits.
- Higher initial fire flows and increased reach can offer improved firefighter protection by keeping either interior or exterior operations in a more tenable atmosphere while providing higher knockdown potential.
- In limited staffing situations, higher fire flows can safely be provided with minimal personnel. For flow-based operations, more GPM per person can be delivered than with any combination of handlines.
- A single line put in place with a portable monitor can deliver flows from 500-1250 GPM, providing a wide range of options to meet changing fireground conditions. The new lightweight features of portable monitors offer fast deployment and the ability to better utilize pump capacity and available water supply during initial attacks. Faster knockdown translates to an overall reduction in stress levels of attack personnel.
- A single large blitz line can have as much effectiveness as up to 5 handlines with hose and necessary support. This can amount to a large savings in time and resources.
- Higher flow rates can translate to increased reach and better penetration than handlines.
- These high flowing devices can support a more effective allocation of personnel resources on the fire ground and provide a single engine company with more tactical versatility.
- Portable monitors can provide unparalleled safety in haz-mat and vapor mitigation procedures, exposure protection, and high-flow foam applications with a self-educting master stream nozzle.
- The “scale up” feature of a single line supply followed with a second supply line (either 2 1/2- or 3-inch) can be used for primary initial attack or upgraded to surround-and-drown defensive operations as required by command.
Even with all of the noted benefits of using high-flow portable or truck-mounted devices, successful suppression strategies often fail due to some of the following issues.
- Lack of training will always affect the procedures used in proper deployment, placement, advancement, and operation of attack lines.
- Though 3-inch lines are flexible and mobile, their flow rates are limited. The use of 5-inch supply line will provide high flows, but restrict advancement of the line after flow has been initiated.
- The idea is that these sorts of high flows and the associated devices are either unnecessary or unwise. Typically, for most calls, this is true. But for the small percentage of fires that cause our largest dollar losses, low-flow handlines normally are proven ineffective as the move inevitably is made towards defensive operations.
- Higher flows translate to higher nozzle reactions and a much heavier stream, which sometimes can create unsafe operations on the fireground. Due to poor training, tie down straps, when required, are infrequently used and the portable monitor is often placed in service well below the elevation safety stop pin.
- Improper or inadequate training on this type of attack can result in extensive water usage and potential collapse in the fire structure.
- The choice of supply line to the portable monitor will, in some way, affect its use. Portable monitor use will focus either on highest flows (up to 1250 GPM) through 5-inch LDH lines, or on maximum maneuverability (up to 500 GPM) through 3-inch lines.
- The perception is that these lines and associated streams are strictly for defensive situations.
By initiating an aggressive attack utilizing a pre-piped master stream device or a portable pre-connected monitor, you can attack the fire using your total capabilities. As long as the device and stream is carefully and accurately placed, and personnel operating the devices are mindful of the method of attack being used, the results will typically be successful. If, on the other hand, all components of your high-flow initial attack were initiated properly and the fire still surpassed your ability to suppress it, there was probably little else you could have done. Remember – Big Fire = BIG WATER
Rod Carringer has more than 28 years experience with the Center Township (IN) Fire and Rescue in he is an active firefighter and assists with department training. He is also Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Task Force Tips.