For the past few columns, I have tried to recall some of the “What did you mean by that U?” or “Oh yeah, but we don`t do that here!” comments I have received from time to time throughout the country. This month, we continue.

The nozzle has made it to the landing outside the door to the third-floor rear apartment of a four-story multiple dwelling. What do you do with the 50 to 70 feet of hose needed to “make” that apartment?

Well, contrary to the sarcastic remarks, there is more than one solution or place to put it. The main thought here is, Why is it there and how will you need to use it when the apartment door is opened and rapid attack is attempted? The secret of great nozzle attack is movement. The nozzle team must move rapidly through the apartment–as rapidly as the fire permits. If the fire slows you down, that is one thing. But if the snag on advance is from the poor hose layout, that is a crime. If there is a half landing- type staircase with a window on the outside wall (one half landing below the fire floor), provide a large opening. (I am not getting into the “break it or not” argument here)–enough of an opening to pass a large loop of “extra” hose out for a smooth return to the fire floor during the advance.

If the public hall is large, this loop can be laid on the landing on the same plane as the fire door. Or, if the hall is small, force the door to the front apartment and have the firefighter assigned the nozzle calmly “walk” it into the apartment as far as he can and turn around and bring the nozzle back to the fire door. In all these cases, you should have enough hose smoothly laid out to “do the job.” And this is also a great layout for operations above the fire floor should fire extend there. Snags, kinks, and knots are virtually eliminated, and a much more quiet and professional operation begins.

Note: Taking the additional hose up the staircase above the fire floor is not a good idea in these combustible dwelling occupancies. The second line is responsible for the floor above the fire, and its extinguishing operation will hamper and impede the progress of the line in the fire apartment as the first line will stop the smooth advance of operations above the fire floor.

When, then, would stretching the extra (needed) hose “up” the staircase above the fire and returning the nozzle to the fire floor door, forming a “gravity-fed” loop of sufficient hose, be a good idea?

The answer is, it would be efficient and safe to do so IF (1) the building has a standpipe connection within an enclosed staircase–as is found in high-rise dwelling buildings and (2) you are using the standpipe outlet on the floor below the fire for primary hoseline supply and (3) the hallway door is closed and the fire condition found does not prevent you from bringing what is left of the three lengths (at least) that you connected up the staircase and back down again to the fire floor. It is the most rapid advance you can provide for the 150 feet of hose you just connected–especially if it is 212-inch hose.

Another reason: Your backup line is coming from another standpipe outlet. Your fire line will be “out of the way” for the advance of the second line–at least until you get it on the public hall and down to the fire apartment. See? It all fits! KISS.

We are the first-arriving engine. The second engine is responsible for stretching large-diameter hose to us and providing water supply.

This is a mess in departments with sufficient hydrant water supply. It means that a hydrant stream will supply hydrant residual pressure from an average of 250 feet away from the pumping engine. It also means that there will be two engine units at the same location. It means that the access to the fire building is heretofore blocked from one end of the street (given that the engine parking scenario is at least away from in front of the building). It means that one pumping engine is not more than a useless bus at this location. The opposite side of the fire will also be locked because hose larger than 212 inch “dropped” to serve as a hydrant supply is never dressed to the side of the street–with water supplied it snakes for the entire face of the asphalt.

Better: First engine drops (any configuration of securing couplings and adapters and fittings to a hydrant here is permissible and certainly parochial). The second engine, by communication, arrives at that location and, after a few one-person connections, pumps the supply line. The members leaving to walk to the fire building to secure a second line dress the large-diameter hose at the only time that they can–when it is dry. Pressures are sufficient on the fireground, and water is established virtually uninterrupted. The street is clear for positioning additional equipment. In-line pumping was never meant to be anything more than a 400-foot hydrant connection!

TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the City of New York (NY) Fire Department 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. You can e-mail him at





Hey, just what do you guys mean by OVM and VES?

Outside vent man (OVM) was the term given to the old tillerman when we lost tiller seats with the one-piece truck companies. The tillerman was the partner of the chauffeur for more than 100 years of manually raised, spring-assisted, and then hydraulic aerial ladders. As a matter of fact, today`s staffing levels could not even raise yesteryear`s wooden aerial devices.

Today (again, if you work for me), the firefighter assigned OVM has the many-fold job of answering for the most severe life exposure. That`s the one on the opposite side of the fire from the nozzle. He is to perform vent-enter-search (VES). He is to assess and remove if possible anyone in the “area” of the fire before the nozzle stream along with its entrained air pushes the flame and by-products through the space to the outer air of the vented window. Many times, that is an entry and search from an aerial, from a portable ladder, or (mostly in eastern cities) from the balcony of the fire escape serving the fire apartment. That person is first to get into the space within which the survivor has the least time to search the area and get out before water starts.

After that, he should provide any additional horizontal ventilation that may assist the interior search and extinguishment effort. So actually, the real name for the tactic performed by the OVM is ESV or Enter, Search, and then Vent.

Why do you say that immediate venting of peaked-roof private dwellings immediately on arrival is a waste of time?

Well, there are a lot of qualifying remarks that make this an accurate operation statement. If the building is two or fewer stories AND it is of platform construction and you don`t have unlimited staffing levels on arrival, then get to and account for the people you are sworn to protect! We lose 80 percent of the civilians lost in fire each year in private dwellings. The “big secret” of accounting for them is to try to reach them from inside the structure AND from an opening to every room in which a human can survive from the outside–OVM, or VES, or ESV, or whatever.

Besides, you don`t cut a roof unless the fire is under the roof, and the sheathing of a private dwelling is the flimsiest construction material in America. With a fire under it, it may be too dangerous. Another reason is that a ventilation hole is effective IF you make an opening from the outer air to the fire. It is almost impossible to push down the interior ceiling through the storage flooring in the attic that holds Christmas ornaments, cribs, rugs, and the rest of the “usable” and “still good” stuff up there. Take those portable ladders and the aggressive firefighters who “always” get to the roof of these types of fire buildings, and get to the bedroom windows, search immediately, and get back out. The primary vertical ventilation hole that may be needed can be cut by later-arriving personnel–the ninth and 10th firefighters assigned to truck functions.

Do you ever make exceptions to this philosophy?

Sure–at least two times! First is balloon construction. If that is the case, a hole must be cut in the roof–at the ridge pole of the highest gable, as early after arrival as possible. Completion of this hole is vital for fire control and channeling the rapidly spreading fire in the walls and floors so that it will not “stop” our search crew in its tracks.

The second exception is the presence of “new” skylights in the roof that you can see on arrival. A skylight in a private dwelling ensures that you will be able to create a hole from the outside air to the spaces below in which people live and breathe simply by having one of the first-arriving firefighters get there and break it! Then get down from the roof and help with the search effort.

The other night we arrived at a structural fire in a four-story building that had four people showing at four different locations on the front of the building. We had only three people on the truck!

And what about the rear? This is a tough call, but you are the only one who can make it! The answer is, Where is the fire? You have to outguess its location and where it is going AND the order of priority for removing the victims based on which one has the least time to survive. It is not always the one making the most noise. Oh, they will get your attention alright, but the one or two at the side or rear of the building may be the one(s) with the least time to live without you!

ALWAYS locate where you think the fire is, and then function. Today (in the paid sector), political forces have forced us to arrive and operate with too few people. While we wage small battles to begin to correct this dilemma and threat to civilian and firefighter life, we have to do something! The only silver bullet you have in the game is to refine the fire-location guess and set priorities for yourself and the “not-enough-firefighters” who do arrive. n

TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the City of New York (NY) Fire Department 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. You can e-mail him at