Nozzle Power and Fire Loads
Chief Glenn Gaines, who is the Acting Director of the United States Fire Administration last week put something out on Facebook that I thought was very interesting. In his short posting on Facebook, he opened up discussion on the use of 1 ¾” handline, especially looking at the current fire situation. I thought that this was an excellent point and one that allows me to make a great segue into this week’s discussion. Due to the heat release potentials in today’s households and structures, do we need to rethink the initial handline? I think there is a lot of validity to this thought and I think that we need to re-evaluate our tactics…
The size up, nothing in the fire service is more critical than a good size up and maintaining situational awareness after that size up. As was discussed in the last article it is very important for the first in officer to make a lap of the structure, especially McMansions. Due to the size and the potential fire load in these structures, the officer needs to capture as much information as possible. From the size up, we develop our strategy and tactics to handle the fire.
One thing I think we need to caution folks on is choosing the right hose line for the fire. Now this one is up for discussion and I do not have the crystal ball answer. I have pulled the 1 ¾” line and never had a problem with it but there have been instances where you can be overwhelmed. The fire that occurred in Prince William County, VA and took the life of Technician Kyle Wilson is a case in point. The troops from PW tried to get a 2 ½” line into the house, but because of the severe wind conditions, they were not successful. This was a rare situation and I think most of the time the 2 ½” line is one of the trump cards we bring to the game, but unfortunately, in this instance they were overwhelmed.
Another issue is the fire loading. We have been brought up with the time temperature curve and have based a great deal of our decision-making on that tried and true instrument. Do not forget that when we are talking about wood products we are talking about 8,000 BTUs per pound; with petroleum products, we have the potential of 16,000 BTUs per pound. I encourage everyone to look at the work that NIST is doing in their fire modeling and look at the significant fire development that occurs with modern furnishings. The rapid development of fire in furnishings made from petroleum-based products is “incredible”. These fires and their resulting flashover are explosive and even with handlines in place firefighters are being injured and killed. So once again, I think that we must take the time and consider a more aggressive move towards handline advancement in these structures to ensure that we have sufficient knockdown capability and sufficient holding power in case we need to get out of the structure.
Along with proper selection of handlines, we also need to be careful with ventilation. Gone are the days when the truck company made a lap and took out every available window. Careful consideration needs to be given as to what will happen when we open up the structure and we need to think more about channeling the fire and products of combustion. One of the issues that I saw that came out of Charleston, and the Sofa Store fire was the opening up of the windows in the front of the building. From what I have seen and what I have read, this act really pulled the fire out of the front of the store. I can see the frustration in the faces of the troops and understand that they were trying anything to get the brothers out, but in this instance, it may not have been the best task based on the build up inside the store. So, make sure that we take a minute to figure this out, ventilation has to be done, but it needs to be done correctly.
Post & Courier
A little bit to think about, but things we do need to think about on a regular basis. Please make sure that you are reading, going to classes, and networking to get the best information available to make the best decisions you can on the fireground. When you go to fires, look at what they are doing, read the building, read the smoke, and read the fire…..
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