Tactical Safety for Firefighters: Avoiding Hot Water

By Ray McCormack

There is a common narrative fallacy I’ve often heard that says firefighters get too close to the fire before applying water. Do some get too close? Of course, there is a “some” component for every argument. There is also a majority component for the same. Most firefighters are not getting too close to fires they are going to extinguish and if they are there are reasons why.

In some of my lectures, I use a slide where the nozzle team is very close to a doorway that is filled with fire. There was plenty of room to avoid this choice as they are directly in front of the doorway while performing this transitional attack. They are so close it begs the question did the nozzle firefighter steal the backup firefighter’s girlfriend and now it’s payback time? They are not being forced into this position they chose it, and it’s a too close call.

So what’s going on when the nozzle team’s call is too close? When we look at this from a reasonable distance we see two issues right away, one being direct access and the other angles. If your nozzle position is directly opposite the opening you wish to place water into then a too close position is unwarranted at least initially. This is where the reach of the stream is beneficial and should be used to improve conditions from a far.

An angled entry is basically shielding your direct water application into the opening. So if a room entry is at the end of the hallway but off to one side and not directly in front of you then guess what? You will need to move closer to that opening in order to hit that room directly. This is simple Trigonometry not that math was ever simple. This is a case where many scream about your love of fire intimacy but the stream reach in this case only hits it’s target when it’s angled into the opening and that angle only emerges at closer range.

Are there other factors? Yes, there are, but we’ll save that for the classroom. So when someone says you’re getting too close, explain the “why” to them if they haven’t had the opportunity you’ve had and hopefully they will get off your back like that “pushy” back up guy should have done.

Keep Fire in Your Life  

Ray McCormackRAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine. For more on Urban Firefighter, visit http://www.fireengineering.com/urbanfirefighter.html.



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