Nozzleman Can Cut Down Amount of Salvage Work
The Volunteers Corner
Everyone knows that a sure way to reduce potential fire losses is to do effective salvage work. This is easy to say and almost as easy to do when you have enough manpower to assign men to salvage work. The problem arises—in both large and small departments—when the manpower available at any specific fire is barely enough to handle the fire.
This raises the question of what can be done—and something can be done—when a department operates with minimum manning.
In this situation, the nozzleman becomes an important part of the solution of the salvage problem. The nozzleman has to realize that shutting down the nozzle the moment sufficient water has been applied to the fire is one of the most effective ways of doing salvage work. Furthermore, the officer on the line must know this and must see that his nozzleman shuts down as soon as possible.
Without getting into a discussion of the techniques of applying fire streams, we will simple state that runoff water is water that has not done much to extinguish fire. Runoff water is also a major contributor to the salvage problem. Therefore, to the extent we avoid the creation of runoff water, we minimize the salvage problem.
Shut down and look: Whether we are using hand lines or master streams, once the fire has been darkened down, shut down and take a good look at the situation. Are there hot spots where only smoke is evolving or are there small flames still in the area? Large lines can now be broken down into smaller lines or the pressure—and therefore the volume—on small lines can now be reduced for the mopping up of the residual flaming or hot spots.
At this point in a fire, there is no need to use large amounts of water. You are now in complete control of the situation and you should be able to use only the amount of water needed to do a specific job, such as knock down residual flame or cool down smoldering combustibles. There is no need to wash down ceilings and walls with the same gpm flow that was used in the initial attack. That only means you are not thinking of salvage. The runoff water will now be inexcusable.
Salvage also is part of the initial attack. Certainly you must apply the rate of flow necessary to knock down the fire regardless of how large that flow is. What the nozzleman—and his officer—have to remember is that fire streams used to attack a fire should be used only where they are accomplishing their purpose. At one time or another, all of us have been guilty of opening up a nozzle because we thought we saw fire where there wasn’t any or because we felt the heat was so great that there had to be fire just ahead and opening up the nozzle was the answer.
Don’t forget ventilation: Sometimes it’s impossible for a hose crew to move into a fire area because of the extreme heat, and that’s where ventilation becomes important—not just to hose line advancement but also to salvage. If we are to avoid useless runoff water caused by opening up the nozzle too far from the fire to be effective, then we must rely on ventilation to make it possible to get the line into a good operating position.
Proper ventilation not only can reduce heat in an area and make it more tenable for a hose crew, but it also can improve visibility and let the men see the fire better. With better visibility comes better hose line work and more efficient use of water—which can be translated into less runoff water.
When a fog line is used effectively in extinguishing fire, there should be little water on the floor. It’s a good job when a mop and a wringer bucket are the only things you need to pick up all the water left after a fire attack. This means there wasn’t enough runoff water to seep through the floor and require the spreading of salvage covers—if the manpower is available—on the floor below.
Three basic problems: Salvage work is concerned basically with three problems: water, smoke and heat. As we have pointed out, the nozzleman can do the most to handle the water problem. Eventually he will discover that if he shuts down soon enough, he will have less cleanup work to do after he extinguishes the fire.
The officer is important to minimizing the smoke and heat problems because if he orders the attack to be made from the proper direction, much of the smoke and heat will be pushed outside the building. To do this, ventilation must be coordinated with the attack made by the hose crew. Conversely, if the hose line is advanced from the wrong direction inside a building, the fire, smoke and heat will be pushed into areas that otherwise should sustain minimal damage.
It is one thing to put a quick dash of water into a window or doorway for tactical reasons that will let you get inside and it is another thing to engage in a lengthy exterior hose stream operation that makes a mockery of any idea of salvage.
We have mentioned ventilation before and we mention it again because it can do a great deal to reduce smoke and heat damage. While ventilation is being done to get a hose crew into the fire area, ventilation at the same time is removing to the outside smoke and heat that otherwise would continue to spread throughout the building.
A good fireground commander is well aware of this and he will develop his fireground tactics to make good use of ventilation. In using ventilation to speed fire extinguishment and prevent the spread of smoke and heat through a building, the fireground commander also is joining the nozzleman and the officer on the line in doing salvage work while attacking the fire.