Letters to the Editor

That one moment in time

Iam writing in response to Tom Brennan’s “Nozzles Schmozzles!” (Random Thoughts, June 2005). Although I agree with most of Brennan’s comments, I believe the article may be shortsighted. To insinuate that a nozzle/hose combination has little to do with how successful an engine company is, in my opinion, is off the mark. If you use the nationally recognized formula of length times width divided by three equals gallons per minute, then yes, it shouldn’t matter whether the water is applied in the form of droplets, a solid slug of water, or even ice cubes.

My issue is that even the best hand-picked engine company will be doomed from the start if it is using a line that, because of extreme nozzle reaction, causes it to choke the bail back (as we see in many trade journal photographs), thus decreasing the gpm to numbers insufficient to absorb the required Btus.

Let’s face it, gpm are what put the fire out no matter how you apply them, and no “great and successful” engine company would use a 300-foot-plus, 134-inch hoseline with a fog nozzle attached to the end to attack a building fire. It just will not put out the gpm necessary to extinguish a formidable building fire. Gpm numbers are affected by nozzle selection, and there is no way around it. All types of nozzles have their place; it is up to the successful engine company to select the right nozzle/hose combination for the situation.

Alan Robidas
Firefighter
Concord, New Hampshire

Tom Brennan responds: Alan, you’re right! But on this ONE page of my thoughts at that moment in a column that has been going on for 12 months a year for 20 years, I don’t intend it to be everything on any subject. Just a couple of things about “stuff” I want to pass on that usually many may not talk or think about or may simply ignore.

In this case, I assumed (maybe a mistake) that the basic flow for the hoseline (size, amount, height, type, and nozzle screwed on-to be complete) is supplied by the pump operator with “no problem.” I wanted to share only thoughts that came with thousands of structure fire advances and successes. There is not enough space for the whole textbook.

One more Random Thought from my experience: When assigned with Engine 283 from Brownsville, Brooklyn, 35 years ago, something happened that reduced the water supply at the nozzle. We had “done” the long hall and two of the three rooms on fire and were “dancing” between the first two and the last one.

Momentarily, we lost effective pressure. Instead of “dropping and bailing,” a legend of a firefighter in his own time, Henry Fifield, put the palm of his hand over the open bore to reach the same target to cover us for a calm retreat, but the fire darkened, and we advanced. I wonder what this engine company would say about your comment negating any great qualities of an engine company team. Or, maybe your lesson is just a little farther down the “experience” road.

Bunker pants and firefighting

Ihave been a full-time firefighter for five years and recently was assigned as an assistant in the training bureau. As I was studying for a class at the kitchen table in the firehouse, a paid-on-call firefighter asked me, “Why wouldn’t you wear bunker pants when entering a fire?” I replied: “You wouldn’t?”

He then showed me the September 2005 issue of Fire Engineering. On the cover were Chicago firefighters on a ladder truck preparing to enter a structure with a hotel pack. The firefighter carrying the hose had on boots without bunker pants. After seeing the photo, I was taken aback. I could not help but question why a progressive training magazine such as Fire Engineering would allow this picture on the cover. I understand that all fire departments work differently, and I am not criticizing the Chicago Fire Department or its practices.

Complacency is one of the hardest issues to combat in the fire service, and I would think that Fire Engineering would try harder to emphasize safety over the “cool shot.” I will continue to read and learn from the magazine. My only concern is the firefighters who know they should worry about safety but whose common sense is overridden by the “coolness” of not wearing full personal protective equipment.

Todd J. Maier
Driver/Operator
St. Francis (WI) Fire Department

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