Blitz Attack Uses Minimum In Manpower and Water
The Volunteers Corner
The blitz attack offers the officer of the first-in pumper an alternative for knocking down a fire with a limited amount of water and manpower. Although the name is of recent vintage, the attack goes back to the days when piped deck guns were carried on hose wagons in the larger fire departments.
Essentially, the blitz attack is the immediate delivery of a large-volume fire stream on a fire to knock it down to small-line size.
In rural areas, it is based on the decision that the use of a 250 to 500-gpm stream with water from the booster tank will darken down the fire in no more than 30 to 60 seconds and extinguishment of the remaining fire can be done with a small line, using water remaining on the attack pumper or on the next-arriving piece. The officer of the first-in pumper therefore has to decide whether the water carried can best be used for the blitz attack or for the protection of exposures.
Where hydrants exist, most of the gamble is taken out of the blitz attack decision. In one way or another, a backup water supply and additional lines are readily available.
Tank size: A blitz attack pumper should carry at least 500 gallons of water and the tank should be able to flow a minimum of 250 gpm—and hopefully 500 gpm—to the pump. The nozzle used should have an adjustable fog pattern so that the full stream can be projected through a window or doorway, and when reach is vital, the straight stream position can be used.
Speed is essential, so hand lines should be preconnected and should be at least 2 ½ or 3-inch. I have seen a 3 ½-inch preconnected line with a 500-gpm fog nozzle used for blitz attacks. The lines will necessarily be short—100 to 200 feet, depending on the manpower available and how close a pumper can approach most buildings in its response area.
The preconnected line can be coupled to a rear discharge and packed in the hose bed or it can be coupled to a hose gate on the side and carried in some other convenient spot on the pumper. In some departments, a hard suction tray is used for carrying a preconnected large line. You can even make up a 100-foot line into two connected doughnut rolls that can be carried, preconnected, atop the apparatus.
If your pumper has a mounted deluge set, a 2 ½-inch hose preconnected to the set and just long enough to reach a hose gate will provide a 500-gpm flow to the deluge set within seconds. If the pumper can take an advantageous position, the deluge set with a 500-gpm fog tip provides an ideal blitz attack setup. At most, only two men are needed to make a fast attack.
Conditions for attack: Elevating water booms can be used effectively for blitz attacks. Keep in mind that a successful blitz attack depends on certain conditions. The building should be tight rather than open. You have to judge when the fire has broken through the building to the extent that a blitz attack will be unsuccessful. Knockdown depends to some extent on the conditions for an indirect attack, which requires a tight building for best results.
You also have to consider the size of the fire. It may be beyond your blitz attack capability and your first move should be to protect exposures and then try to confine the fire.
The location of the fire in the building will determine whether you can reach it with a blitz attack or whether you will have to go the usual ventilation and hose line advancement route. Usually, the fire should be showing when you use a blitz attack. Also, some buildings are just too large for this fast attack.
Good points: The advantages of a blitz attack are a quick knockdown of the fire with a minimum of water and the purchase of time before the fire rekindles. Hopefully, in rural areas the next piece will arrive with more water in time to proceed to overhaul.
There also are disadvantages to the blitz attack. The heavy stream may drive fire where you don’t want it to go in a building. The pushing of hot gases may make halls and stairways impassable and thereby endanger occupants. You may run out of water without having knocked down the fire. This can lead to loss of both the fire building and exposures.
When you have a limited water supply, an error in judgment in making a blitz attack can have disastrous consequences. Size-up must be both accurate and rapid. If you have limited flow capability for blitz attacks, then you must recognize fires that cannot be blitzed by a 250 or 300-gpm stream.
Structural features: Fire may be in concealed spaces in a building and your blitz stream will be ineffective. Recognize when structural features demand conventional fire fighting, but be quick to spot situations where a blitz attack will open up a path for immediate interior fire fighting.
In years past, this was the objective of short duration, heavy initial attacks with deck guns. In successful attacks, the deck gun remained in operation for a brief time— just long enough to darken down the fire— and lines were then taken inside the building. This is basically what we try to do today with a blitz attack.
In any event, you will immediately know whether your blitz attack has been successful. You will have your answer in a minute or less.