By Mike Kirby and Tom Lakamp
Published Tuesday, August 14, 2012
| From the October 2012 Issue of FireRescue
All across America, engine companies respond to fires every day as the fire department’s first line of defense. And we can safely assume that most of these fires are controlled with a single hoseline. But what happens when, upon arrival, the fire requires more gpm than your usual single hoseline can deliver? Do you still initially deploy the standard booster line, 1½" or 1¾" hoseline out of habit? We’ve seen it numerous times, so we know it still happens, but should it?
Two main reasons to use a larger line: advanced fire conditions and exposure protection. So when you pull onto the street and encounter a heavily involved fire in one building, or a heavily involved building that’s exposing onto another building, what do you do? Are you ready to rapidly deliver a high-gpm stream for attack or exposure protection? Are your hosebeds set up to rapidly deploy a 2½" line? Where do you position the engine? Do you wait for a water supply to start operating your master stream device?
These are all relevant questions that need to be answered prior to arriving on the block with this fire situation. Therefore, part of your regular training regimen should involve preparing for this type of attack. Being able to rapidly put a high-gpm master stream in place in certain situations may be the best tactic to save lives and/or property.
The Quickest Way
What is the quickest way to deliver a high-gpm stream for exposure protection? Most likely, it’s your apparatus-mounted master stream. But in order to utilize this tool, it must be user-friendly. In other words, it must be able to swivel 360 degrees, flow above and below the horizontal line that forms the top of the engine, deliver a high-caliber stream—preferably with a smooth-bore tip—and have the ability to be controlled at the device.
Control at the device allows the user to start the apparatus-mounted master stream at the pump panel, climb to the top of the apparatus and then aim/open the device from that location; it also means the user can control the device when it’s in portable mode, away from the apparatus. One simple way to control the device is with a one-quarter turn or gate valve. Having control also allows firefighters to change tip sizes from the device.
High-gpm Tactic #1: Heavy Fire in One Building
When faced with a fully or heavily involved structure, apply high-gpm water immediately from apparatus-mounted master stream, but remember: To do this, you must position the engine effectively, which means you may not follow the standard positioning guideline of allowing the ladder to have access to the front of the building. In this situation, however, the engine is the apparatus that’s best equipped to immediately supply water from a high-gpm master stream device that can be used to control the fire.
Question: Do you start the water in the master stream device while supply lines are being established? Answer: Yes. But, of course, it is suggested that you first flow your device from tank water during training to determine how long it will last. Use different size tips to determine your desired reach and penetration, and to see just how long your supply will last. Let your supply flow until you can’t flow anymore. You’ll be surprised how much water you can discharge in 30–60 seconds. Remember: This tactic is better than doing nothing and can knock a lot of life out of the fire while you’re waiting on your water supply. Fortunately, it only takes one firefighter to operate a master stream, so while it’s being operated, another firefighter can start deploying a 2½" line.
High-gpm Tactic #2: Exposure Buildings
When one fully or heavily involved building is exposing onto another, apply water immediately from the apparatus-mounted master stream between the two buildings to protect the exposure from the main fire building. Again, you have to position the apparatus properly if you want to use the apparatus-mounted master stream effectively. Remember: The engine’s master stream device is the quickest method of delivery for a high-gpm water supply, so position appropriately.
Quickly begin to flow water even before your supply is established. Every moment that passes, the fire will continue to grow and expose the adjacent structure(s). Just as in the previous scenario, it’s best to apply water than to do nothing and let the fire grow; you can protect a large portion of an exposure with 30–60 seconds of well-placed water.
As you obtain a water supply and additional personnel arrive, multiple hoselines must be deployed to handle this unique situation. Depending on available equipment and staffing, a 2½" line can be placed between the structures, which will allow the apparatus-mounted master stream to be focused on the fully or heavily involved original fire building.
In addition to the above, another maneuverable hoseline must be deployed into structures exposed to the fire building to manage any fire extension. Fortunately there are 2½" portable master streams that can be put into position with limited staffing to protect exposures. These devices can be deployed very rapidly and can easily deliver upward of 500 gpm.
Remember: When stretching hoselines into an exposure, think about how the fire is extending into and through that building. The fire will extend through windows, other openings (like vents), soffits, combustible siding, etc., and then travel into void spaces in the exposed building, requiring the use of tools to open up the void spaces and thermal imagers to help search for hidden fire.
Training Is Essential
To be prepared for any rapid, high-gpm delivery operation, training is essential. There are several quick, effective drill evolutions that engine companies can perform to practice rapid, high-gpm delivery. Not sure where to start? Start small: Pick a location and have your company rapidly deploy a 2½" line, and then position the line to protect an exposure or attack a heavily-involved structure fire.
While doing this, also see how long your booster tank will last without a water supply, so you can gain confidence in starting to flow water and estimating how long it will last while still acquiring the main supply. From there, expand your training to include rapidly using the apparatus-mounted master stream, deploying a 2½" simultaneously and deploying portable 2½" master streams to see if you can achieve maximum gpm in all situations.
Knowing how long the booster tank will last with all the standard hoselines and during high-gpm situations will help ensure you’re ready for the “routine” and not-so-“routine” fire. Gaining knowledge and confidence in your abilities will go a long way to ensuring a successful outcome on the fireground.
Comment Now: Post Your Thoughts & Comments on This Story