Who Had the Nozzle?


Arriving with fire out one window on the third floor of a six-story multiple dwelling, the truck company made its way up to the fire apartment and began to force entry into the apartment. As the “irons” and “can” were forcing the door on the narrow landing, the nozzle firefighter quickly slipped past them up the stairs to the next half-landing. He flaked out the hose in a horseshoe pattern down the stairs to the fire floor before the forcible entry team opened the fire apartment door. This was a very good tactic to perform, because the weight of the water assisted in the line’s advancement into the fire apartment. It’s normally easier for a charged line to slide down the stairs than for a firefighter to pull it up a staircase, and it can also save time, energy, and stamina.

As the truck company members entered the fire apartment, the outside vent firefighter informed them that the fire was now out two windows and that access into the apartment from the fire escape was not achievable. With that, the engine officer called for water in the hoseline, and the nozzle firefighter bled the line. The truck relayed to the engine that it was straight in, third room on the right. The truck backed up into another room to allow the engine company access to extinguish the fire. Within a few minutes, the room-and-contents fire was knocked down, and overhauling began.

While packing hose, a firefighter asked: “Who had the nozzle?” The question was answered, and he replied, “Nice job.” After a fire, “Who had the nozzle?” is probably the most commonly asked question. However, isn’t there more to it than that?

The nozzle’s basic concept still remains the same. The nozzle firefighter pulls the bail back to allow water to flow, and if he turns the nozzle’s head to the right on combination nozzles, the water goes to straight stream. So was it just the nozzle that put the fire out? What about the other firefighters on the engine company who assisted the nozzle firefighter in achieving a successful outcome?

The chauffeur chose an appropriate response route to the location while steering the apparatus through a maze of streets and double-parked cars, all the while stopping at red lights. After arriving safely, he spotted a hydrant and flushed it before hooking up the supply line. The clumps of rust and debris that flowed out of the hydrant could have clogged any pump’s intake screen. Then the chauffeur supplied the proper pump pressure to the line, making the line controllable for the nozzle team. He also made sure there were no kinks in the line, to ensure a proper flow rate.

The officer assisted the chauffeur on the response, especially watching traffic at blind intersections. Arriving on-scene, he reminded the chauffeur to pull past the building to allow for truck placement. Inside the building, he relayed to the company that there was no wellhole in the building to assist in stretching the line. Once the members flaked out the hoseline and it was in position, the officer notified the chauffeur to “start water.” As the hoseline began the fire attack, the officer ensured that the nozzle team was positioned on the same side of the line and moving in low, in case a fire rapidly ignited overhead or was driven by wind. As the line advanced into the fire area, the officer reminded the nozzle firefighter to sweep the floor to reduce the chances of burn injuries; keep operating the stream upward in a clockwise or side-to-side motion, hitting the ceiling and resulting in greater coverage and deflection; and use the stream’s reach for protection and fire extinguishment.

The backup firefighter assisted in the stretch and dropped the folds of hose at a proper location, flaking hose out as the team moved up the stairs. [There are a few methods of flaking out hose in structures, depending on the type of landings or hallways you find. In large buildings with long hallways, you can flake out the hoseline on the fire floor if conditions warrant. In a smaller hallway, you can flake out the hoseline in an adjacent apartment or up a stairwell. In some instances, fire will prevent you from flaking out the line on the fire floor, and you will have to do it on the floor below and possibly in some apartments on this floor.]

While the nozzle firefighter bled the air from the line, the backup firefighter got in position on the same side of the hoseline, preparing to advance. As the line proceeded into the fire apartment, he stayed a few feet behind the nozzle, pulling hose in behind the team and going back to untangle the hose when it got hung up. As the water was flowing through the line, he applied forward pressure on the hose while supporting the nozzle firefighter’s position. Also, as the nozzle firefighter directed the line and operated to the left, the backup firefighter moved to the right to reduce the backpressure on the line. It’s important to remember that when the nozzle firefighter changes the hoseline’s direction or elevation, the backup firefighter must move the hoseline in the opposite direction. While performing all these maneuvers, the backup never lost a grip on the hoseline and offered words of encouragement to the nozzle firefighter. Even when he became a little fatigued, he used his boot to put pressure on the hoseline, pushing it into the baseboard so that he could reposition his hands and maintain his grip while readjusting his body position.

All of the actions and tactics outlined above combined to ensure a successful firefight. Maybe someday firefighters will ask a series of questions instead of just “Who had the nozzle?”

Remember the old saying “There is no ‘I’ in team”? You could also say, “There is no ‘I’ in nozzle.”

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 23-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NY. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC Portable Ladder H.O.T. program and an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering. He wrote the Portable Ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com.

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