BY TOM BRENNAN
Recently (in writing on a Web site), someone asked me a question that is becoming trite, “Chief, what do you prefer in extinguishing structure fire in an offensive mode-the super automatic nozzles or the ole smooth bore?” I thought for a second and then started in ….
I really am getting bored and tired (I would have said sick and tired, but I am afraid of the first word at my age) with that question. “I have an answer,” I said, “for once and for all” (from my perspective).
It doesn’t matter if you have your thumb over the open butt! Complicated or simple, expensive or less expensive nozzle equipment, shape of the hose stream and whether it has a hole in it or it is solid or the dimensions of the slugs or droplets of water-none of these factors will be able to make a poor engine company great or a great engine company average! It has to do with so much more. Get the tactic started right and done!
If you know your “stuff,” you will have to agree-extinguishment operations at offensive interior structure fires, and lots else, break down because a host of other basics are either not in place, not practiced, not respected, or complacently ignored for the easier way to do things. It is not the type of pattern, nor is it any other argument on what discharge water should look like as you try to win the battle of aggressive interior firefighting-it is who and what the nozzle team is!
If we can package as many as possible of the qualities of great and successful engine companies on the fireground, we can have successful operations:
Experience. You don’t have to have tons of fire duty to have this under your belt (as most complainers think today). It’s what you do with the few fires you do get on your shift. Some of us go to one fire 20 times and learn nothing. Others respond to a few fires ONE at a time and learn everything! If you leave your lessons in the structure or street and take up without a critique, you will never ever recapture that knowledge and experience. (See, it’s simple.)
Bravery. A gift over time, tradition, innovation, team playing, and the practice in place of the behavior of the paragraph above-and, in the engine company, a product of spirit and “teamsmanship” and training.
Daring. Another time.
Knowledge of the following: How fire burns, just what practice extinguishes it, where it probably is in the structure, where it is going. Also, just what is too hot? How do you get a positive change in the atmosphere you find yourself in or have to get through? What could you do that would make a negative change-to you, to the team, to the truck function, or to the victims? What is the layout of the area in front of you? How far do you have to go? How are the turns and bends going to be handled? How good are the trucks?
Teamwork. Line selection: Do you take the line that will work or simply the one you always stretch? Get the size and amount of hose in the most effective position before you ask for water (or anyone else does). Practice and refine hose layout practices that provide for a smooth movement through the fire compartment without water interruption (kind word here). Where will you put the extra hose necessary once the fire compartment door opens? Relieve each other as ordered. No sense changing the nozzle if the entire crew has had the same punishment.
Speed. Movement of the hoseline through the premises or a space: Each member of the stretch knows the value of individual assignments on the stretch. The firefighter with the nozzle, the head, is useless without the backs, knees, strength, cooperation, spirit, and additional qualities of the backup team.
Efficiency. Get to the seat of the fire as quickly as possible with the “stuff.” Advance, advance, advance almost always, AND be able to hold when you have to. Create most offensive extinguishment operations in the least punishing and yet improving atmosphere. (Wrestle with this one at company drill!)
Think! Outguess the fire location and the structure layout. Always know where the fire you have to handle IS, where it IS GOING, and where it IS NOT!
Professionalism. Ensure that the hose stretch is complete, sufficient, and probably effective. Ensure that the layout of hose is best for horizontal entry and operations at the level your fire assignment is in the structure. Know the nozzle operation and the position it is in before water is started (should have been at roll call). Be quiet! Smooth and quiet! “More hose! More line!” is the hallway noise of poor operations. A great team can anticipate the needs of the unit by feel and all the other senses of the backup team.
Imagination. Outguess the problems you will encounter, and know how to overcome them. Guess what the stair assembly will look like. Where is the fire? Where are the people-yours and theirs? Where is the fire likely to go?
Decision making. Decide at the base of the stair or front door if you will wait for more hose or if you have enough-scissor stair, return stair, shaft-wrap stair, and wellhole stair assemblies all need different amounts of hose to get to the same relative location.
• Decide where and what to “hit” first.
• After bleeding the line, decide in advance when to open the nozzle.
• Know if the dwelling you are in goes consistently in ONE direction: left-left-left, right-right-right, or straight down the hall in front of you.
Order. For the nozzle “team,” it is the result of a smooth, efficient, professional, and quiet operation. ■
■ 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 was the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno Un-plugged (Fire Engineering/FDIC, 1999). He is a regular contributor to Firenuggets.com.