By Mike Kirby
Published Saturday, August 11, 2012
| From the September 2012 Issue of FireRescue
Just as we must be prepared for the “usual” or “routine” residential fire, we must also be prepared for fires in standpipe-equipped or high-rise buildings. One major component of preparation is ensuring we have all the proper equipment needed for a safe, successful outcome. Specifically, we must ensure our “toolbox” is adequately stocked to meet the various challenges we may face when getting water to a fire that 1) has poor water pressure or 2) is beyond the reach of apparatus-mounted or elevated master streams for an advanced fire situation.
As Tom Lakamp and I have discussed in previous Fire Attack columns, firefighters should use a lightweight, 2½" hoseline from the standpipe riser to initially attack a fire from a standpipe. Why? Because several key elements—reflex time, advanced fire situations, large open spaces in office occupancies, heavy fire loads, poor water pressure, pressure-restricting devices, pressure-reducing valves and wind-driven fires—will usually require a greater gpm flow than you can achieve from smaller, common 1½"or 1¾" fire lines.
As you evaluate fire hose to make your standpipe pack, you must take into consideration weight, durability, friction loss and ease of packing. A single-jacket, extremely lightweight hose may not prove to be very durable for repeated uses, but a heavier hose compromises your ability to carry it up multiple flights.
Portable Master Stream Considerations
When the standard 2½" hoseline doesn’t cut it due to advanced fire or low pressure, alternative water delivery methods must be pulled from our toolbox. The ability to deliver an unstaffed, high-gpm, portable master stream from the standpipe is one such alternative that’s essential for high-rise incidents. The three major nozzle manufacturers—Akron Brass, Elkhart Brass and Task Force Tips—all make a lightweight 2½" portable monitor that will allow you to effectively deliver unstaffed, high-gpm fire streams to a fire. You should also be able to deploy your regular master stream in portable mode to the same areas if you need more water, or you don’t have the new “lightweight” 2½" versions.
Additionally, these devices may be used from the standpipe of an adjacent building to apply water to the fire floor, if needed. Tip: In this situation, make sure you use a smooth-bore tip to provide maximum reach, penetration and ability to pass debris through the system.
Another alternative for delivering a high-gpm fire stream is to attack the fire from the floor below by using a specialized nozzle. The only device that’s currently available on the market for this type of operation is the HERO Pipe from Elkhart Brass (www.elkhartbrass.com/products/high-rise/hero-pipe/multimedia).The HERO Pipe is designed to operate off a 2½" supply line that’s connected to a standpipe riser and deliver an unstaffed stream from a window on the floor below to the next floor up. This system is extremely beneficial to firefighters in advanced-fire or wind-driven fire situations.
The KO Fire Curtain
To suppress air flow and help combat a wind-driven fire, you may also want to consider reviewing and utilizing the KO Fire Curtain (www.kofirecurtain.com). Numerous tests have proven the benefits of covering the windows to eliminate air influx and improve control of the fire. Without the KO Fire Curtain, hoselines may not be able to advance or control this type of fire.
A Review of the Basics
When assessing equipment needed for high-rise firefighting, also be sure to review the basic equipment needed, and make sure that you have it with you and it’s in good working order. The basics include:
- A pressure gauge to obtain flow pressures from the riser
- A 30-degree elbow to reduce kinks
- Tools to overcome pressure-releasing devices/valves, such as Allen wrenches and screwdrivers,
- An 18" pipe wrench
- Multiple door chocks—try the Fat Ivan (www.fativan.com)
- A low-psi, high-flow nozzle that will easily pass debris. The smooth-bore 1¼" or 1 1/8" tip are the most popular choices and will provide high flow, far reach and good penetration.
Another nozzle that will easily pass debris on a 2½" from a standpipe riser is the Vindicator Heavy Attack nozzle. This is very much worth researching and evaluating as an alternative to the smooth-bore (www.1ststriketech.com/products.html).
Lastly, ensure you have adapters so you can supply a damaged fire department connection (FDC) or pump into the system from a place other than the FDC. Double males and female adapters, 2½" gated wyes, Storz to 2½" adapters and high-pressure 2½" to 3" can all supply the FDC.
Are You Ready?
Firefighting is a dynamic job, and becoming more dynamic every day. As a result, we must maintain and carry a multitude of tools and equipment, which means there are just as many tool/equipment considerations we must make when preparing for each response, particularly when dealing with a fire in a high-rise or standpipe-equipped building. Review and maintain your tools and equipment regularly to ensure you have the appropriate equipment in your toolbox. There are some tools you just can’t scramble to obtain, especially when plan A or even plan B doesn’t work. Make sure you’re ready for plans C, D, E, etc.
Sidebar 1: Trends in Tool Accessories
Just as firefighting has evolved and continues to evolve, so too do firefighting tools. Here are just a few of the trends occurring in tool accessorizing:
- MN8/Foxfire (www.mn8products.com) makes an illuminating tool wrap that not only provides better grip but it allows you to see the tool in smoky or low-light conditions. To further improve your grip, wrap oxygen tubing under the tool wrap and around the tool to create “ridges” that keep your hands from slipping. I’ve also found that regular grip tape used for hockey sticks works well too but it doesn’t provide illumination. The illumination wrap can also be used on helmets, SCBA and other items.
- Fire Axe Inc. (http://www.firefighteraxe.com) now makes axe handles with built-in illumination technology, removing the need to wrap their tools.
- The “Marrying Strap” or “Marry Strap” available from Fire Hooks Unlimited holds together a Halligan and a flat-head axe so your other hand is free to hold onto a stair railing, ladder rung or hold a flashlight.
- The FIDNEY tool belt, created by an FDNY firefighter, and also from Fire Hooks Unlimited, allows for easy carrying of a box-style flashlight and hand tool.
- The “original” can harness from Fire Hooks Unlimited allows for over-the-shoulder carrying of the 2½-gallon water can. It proves useful in transporting the water can, and even allows the use of the can while it’s slung over the shoulder. It’s also equipped with reflective striping so you can see it in low-light conditions.
Note: All of the products from Fire Hooks Unlimited can be found at http://www.firehooksunlimited.net/harnesses.html.
Sidebar 2: Tool & Equipment Gear Tests
NewCal’s FatIvan Door Chock
By Chad Allison
“Weighing just 5 oz. and measuring 4" x 2" x 1", you’d hardly know the tool was in your turnout pocket or strapped to your fire helmet. But don’t let the small size and weight fool you. It’s a 100% corrosion-resistant chock constructed of engineered plastic and zinc-plated steel, with a strip of reflective tape to catch the eye. So what’s most apparent about this door chock is that the manufacturer, NewCal LLC, used high-quality materials when constructing it.
“I tested this chock by using it on some heavy doors, such as the double-door entryways leading to residential and commercial high-rise buildings in downtown San Diego. On one fire incident, I noticed the residents of an apartment complex using a waist-high concrete trash can to keep a security screen door propped open because of the door’s weight. I put the FatIvan on the hinge of the security door and was able to remove the bulky trash can, which prevented it from hindering ingress and egress of the working firefighters. I figured with the weight of the heavy door crushing the small, plastic-looking FatIvan, the chock was surely going to sustain damage. But after the incident, it still looked and operated like new. A few months and a few dozen doors later, it still looks and operates like new.”
W Tool from Weddle Tool Company
By Peter F. Kertzie
“The W Tool’s design incorporates three basic components: a manually operated 6,000-lb. hydraulic power head attached to a telescopic main body constructed of an outer 2" x 2" square steel tube; an inner 1.5" x 1.5" square steel tube that’s 27 inches long designed to adjust in length telescopically to 39 inches; as well as top and bottom plates constructed of half-inch plate steel. The top plate is designed to receive multiple heads that will allow the tool to perform multiple rescue tasks, while the bottom plate is equipped with two steel purchase points to allow for use as a rescue strut.
“The W Tool is designed to help truckies push the door frames apart just enough to allow the throw to clear the striking plate of the door. We used the tool first on a heavy wood door with a wood frame. Slowly the tool spread the frame. A slight splintering noise was heard for a moment and then pop—the door opened. Amazingly, there was no damage.”
The FUBAR Forcible Entry Tool
By Peter F. Kertzie
“The FUBAR is basically a demolition tool, which I put into the Halligan category, despite the many differences between the two. But let’s first examine some of their similarities. Like the Halligan, the FUBAR is 30 inches long, weighs about 9 lbs. and is one piece of forged steel.
“At one end is a fork similar to the one found on a Halligan, as well as a nail puller and gas shut-off feature. On the other end is a spanner wrench, hydrant wrench and a jaw sized to fit over standard 2"-by-anything lumber. With this jaw I can twist, pry and split dimensional lumber. Just drop the jaw onto the lumber and push or pull on the opposite end. The tight-fitting jaw coupled with the 30-inch length provides a nice mechanical advantage via a lever for getting the job done. I can also use the jaw to fit over many residential doors, helping me pop them off of their hinges.
“One of my other favorite features is the top part of the jaw. It’s flat, wide and smooth. The slightly rounded shape allows smooth prying very similar to the way an electrician’s conduit bender works. The duckbill can be swung into position behind brick molding, boards on boarded-up windows, trim, kitchen cabinets—the list goes on.”
Lumiflex’s Rescue Cablelight
By Dan Pfannenstiel
“The Rescue Cablelight is a 200-foot-long cable that’s spun with thin conductors and then coated in a phosphor-based chemical. The cable and the conductors are then housed in a clear, heat-resistive polymer that exceeds firefighter safety standards at 385 degrees F. When electric current passes through the conductors, the chemical is excited and the resultant byproduct is light (as opposed to heat). The cable is roughly 5 mm in diameter, has a tensile strength of 480 lbs., has directional and distance markings, and is 100% American-made.
“The entire system weighs 22 lbs. and features a “flashing” mode for an even more visible alert. The light emitted is measured between 50 and 60 candelas, but more importantly, say the inventors, is that the light emitted is around 500 nanometers of wavelength (we know this as the color green), which is optimal for the human eye in low-light situations.
“In complete smoke-free darkness, the Cablelight illuminates the immediate area enough to perform tactile tasks. It’s visible in moderate to heavy hot and cold smoke conditions, and it’s easy to find. It’s also visible on thermal imaging cameras.
“When used in conjunction with a soft pack (stored in a lineman’s coil configuration), it deploys with ease. The electronic beep that’s transmitted does not irritate K9s working with technical search teams. Extremely cold weather does not adversely affect the product. And it is fairly impact-resistant, although we did damage it by giving it a significant strike with a forcible-entry tool.”
Super Vac’s Super V3 Power Pro Ventilation Saw
By Randy Frassetto
“Once we started up the saw, it ran extremely well, with a smooth idle and a very quick response on the throttle. The chain brake was easy to reach and worked well, and the tool’s “shock absorbers” took the brunt of the vibration caused by the motor, preventing excessive shaking of the sawyer’s arms.
“Being able to handle a tool when working on the fireground is one of the most important things to consider for safety and efficiency. During our tests, we started off just rolling rafters, then we switched hands and rolled the rafters in the opposite direction. The Super V3 has extremely good balance to it, as we noticed when it feathered over the rafters in all the tests.
“One of my favorite features to this saw with regard to handling was that wrap-around handle. It made life much easier when maneuvering the saw at all different heights and when switching hands.”
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