Nozzle movement. How does the nozzle move? Who is where to move it? (Questions no one asks!) Once on the fire floor and inside the fire compartment (bedroom floor, first living floor, cellar door, apartment doorway), the engine team should consist of no more than three firefighters–the officer, the nozzleman, and the all-important backup. (We aren`t going into staffing depletion disgraces here, we are talking bare efficiency to be effective and safe.) We already know that we will move more slowly than we like at drill for all the reasons we have discussed previously. But the position of these three firefighters is paramount.

It is said that the officer is always directly behind the nozzleman. I say sometimes! The officer is to monitor constantly what we are doing, how effective we are, any changes in conditions (negative and positive), and communications with other tactical operations. To do all that and encourage the smooth movement of the line, he must be in the most advantageous position, yet be out of the way–sometimes number 2 on the line and sometimes just off the line. He must be in intimate contact with the nozzleman. He must be heard and felt!

A big clog in the system can be where the officer places himself. If his hand is constantly on the nozzle while performing his more important responsibilities, he becomes more of an obstacle to overcome and drag along than a productive team player.

Now, the age-old question: What is the best position for the backup firefighter? The argument that is as old as the first horse that raced to a fire is that the position is either on the same side as the nozzleman OR on the opposite side. I say neither is correct. The backup is best at the outside of the last turn the hose makes around the structure shape of the room you are passing through. The backup`s job is to move hose rapidly past the corner at the “turn” or around the newel post at the base of the stairs. To do that, he should have the hose between himself and the object being passed. To be effective, he must move rapidly from one side of the hose to the other–all the time ensuring that the nozzleman has no snags and moves almost effortlessly through the firefight.

Overhauling tricks. The fire is declared under control. Operations now switch from extinguishment to overhaul. There is a great engine operation that will reduce the confusion of truck and engine functions. “Pull this, truck; now hit this, engine; now come in here again, truck.” You know what I mean. Emergency lighting lamps that are there to assist in truck work are rendered useless by the “give-it-a-squirt” nozzle teams because there is no time to keep moving the setup.

There are a few tips to assist operations and reduce the confusion of alternating engine and truck functions in the same fire occupancy as well as to reduce the broken emergency lighting bulbs from water spatters. First, let the truck company members do their stuff. The engine should get the hose out of the fire area completely and be ready to move in rapidly if “the fan gets hit with stuff.” The engine`s practice of staying under the truck`s debris and moving to lots of little areas for a “dash” (squirt is more like it) is nonsense. When the truck members declare that overhaul is complete, they should vacate the room and free it of tools and lights.

A well-trained engine team needs two people for overhaul–no officer this time. The two of them must know that they are going to get wet. Keep boots and collars up, helmet liners down, and anything else you are wearing that you can get your body under–do it! Bring the charged hoseline plus three or four feet into the room and into one of the far corners. Turn around, wedge yourself into the corner, and bring the extra hose around the back of one of your legs. Now open the nozzle fully! No squirting! Sweep the entire ceiling, rafter by rafter, to the underside of the flooring above you. Then sweep the walls, floors, and window and door frames facing you. (That will get the truck faces out of the way!) Shut down, go to the corner diagonally opposite, and repeat your actions. Lastly, sweep the floor. Shut down, and exit for the examination of the officers and a little more picking up by the truck if members didn`t do enough the first time.

Rarely do you ever have to reenter the room for additional wash down–that is, if each team did its job correctly the first time (if not, handle that at the critique). One of the benefits of this operation is that “Shut down” and “Take up” orders come a little sooner.

Another trick that saves on time and sprains and strains when overhauling fires in frame buildings is to be able to “wash” the debris of overhauling off the floor and out of the building to the ground below. The truck should choose a window that accesses the building`s front or side, then cut the windowsill and remove it as well as the apron wall (the wall between the windowsill and the floor). Now the overhaul line can wash the floor to the outside of the building. There are many benefits to doing this. The floor is exposed immediately for the arson team to investigate. There are no sprains and strains from raking, shoveling, and sweeping the embers and other pungent objects that otherwise must be removed by hand and garbage pail. Smoldering rugs and the like are exposed and easier to remove. And again, you get to “take up” sooner.

Tom Brennan has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of the Fire Chief`s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He is the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno Unplugged (Fire Engineeering/FDIC, 1999).

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