Contributors, Firefighting, Training

Transitional Attack is Fractional Firefighting

A week ago, I posted this title and started on this piece. As a member of the current UL panel I have forwarded a version of this to my fellow panel members. The point of a study is to have a group that doesn’t agree on everything, one that pushes for variations, and helps develop future areas of study. Friction is good, and never personal. 

The exterior portion of transitional attack often requires the exterior handline to travel far to hit the target window and restraints the streams use, (high angle stream, don’t move the stream) typically gaining a mere knock back on the fire. A knock back is the lowest result of fire attack.

Knock Back

A state of partial fire extinguishment which will allow for fire regrow in a short period of time without additional intervention.

I believe the exterior portion of transitional attack is being applied fractionally. This current fractional deployment, where the exterior stream is used until a change in conditions is noted is not providing the level of fire attack it could. Transitional attack is currently more about attempting to catch up to the interior attack, instead of improved stream usage and gaining a knock down of the fire. 

While transitional attack will always have you crossing the entry door later than an interior attack, you must maximize the effectiveness of your choice. 

I believe the recommended high angle stream is a good starting point. I have taught it for years for interior attack, a location where it’s almost always reproducible. That same angle is not as easily reproduced on the building’s exterior due to obstructions. Once a change in conditions is observed from the exterior I believe you should move the line back and forth across the opening. You should also lower it and the return it back until it exits the opening. Currently there are no such tactical recommendations. I believe this should be undertaken to reduce coverage voids on the ceiling and stream entry wall. Don’t occlude but move it.

Saying fire temps don’t really go up much after the window hit- yet advising firefighters to have a line by the window in case of regrowth creates another issue, placement of that line, it’s stuck there. Now we have a two-line fire. With one outside doing what exactly? Safeguarding us from increasing “reduced temperatures”? Who is staffing it? The pump operator? Who is watching out for the status of the interior line now? Maybe that firefighter doesn’t have to be there if you do more with the exterior stream initially. 

We need to move toward better knowledge of distant exterior banking hits, break over stream hits, multiple stream placements and how those impact the fire room, hallway, and flow path.

The recommendation that the closest door be used for entry after an exterior stream is applied using transitional attack is a choice that should be well thought out prior to implantation. The reason it’s recommended is, so you can hopefully cut the time for regrowth. Yet cautions are given against depending on the front door for interior attack. These are big recommendations that have life safety ramifications. Choosing an entrance door strictly to shore up a poor attack is something we need to think about, what are you missing?

Transitional attack fractionalizes attack and produces a fire attack that is like a bunt in baseball. While still a hit, you better run hard to first, and you’ll need just the right amount of distance on that hit to get on base. So, you knock the fire back and rush for the interior, however even the closet of window hits often gets thrown you thrown out at first. The room lights up again. The window hit needs to be more robust to get on base. Some can only bunt. Some choose to bunt. 

Saying that the fire regrowth you see is no big deal is being a bit disingenuous. While the temps don’t rebound to their original level in under so many seconds so what? When do they? Flame abundance and reach height are sizable, that’s what drew you to the window in the first place. Some would say that the current effectiveness of a well-placed exterior hit is enough. I would say it is not. 

In the study the only place the transitional attack didn’t have to apply water was in the hallway on the way to the fire room, yet the room is still on fire. Hitting the fire from outside can gain you better results if you apply your stream beyond what’s currently recommended. If another technique or additional placement can give better room coverage, then why wouldn’t you do it?

Does the visual on transitional attack suck? Yes, it looks like a waste of time and effort. So, what did we from gain a transitional hit? Reduced temperatures and fire regrowth. Some are attempting to shore up transitional attack by rushing back to the door, any door, and walking to the fire room if possible instead of crawling. Some are using booster lines with extremely low flows for the exterior stream, but that line can’t go inside now. Both fixes are suspect yet understandable because even supporters of transitional attack aren’t blind to the problem of regrowth.

We need to move past a simple change in conditions guideline. We did when the nozzle went past the window (whip) experiment wetting mid room. You do all that work, moving the line to the far corner of house why not add more water to the room. While alternative stream techniques are mentioned their use is only in case conditions don’t change. Hitting the lentil as a secondary stream placement increased mid room coverage and took whole room coverage to its most complete state. Multiple stream variations should be encouraged to gain a knock down state. It’s needed due to the current ineffectiveness of transitional attack to do more than produce a fire knock back.

Another reason transitional attack is fractionalized is because the value of being inside pushes crews to do less on the outside. If you do the least amount on the outside should you even bother? While many turns away from time to victim data or interior landmarks, firefighters know that transitional attack takes time. Can you have it both ways? The victims’ lives are impacted by their height in the room, distance from fire, location shielded or not, and the amount of exposure time. Rushing is because victim exposure time is the key to rescue. Exterior attack shouldn’t be weak it should be robust. The way we have it set up now it’s weak. 

If you don’t see the race to get inside, you haven’t been watching. The race is not to find people it’s to get the room extinguished. However, if you choose exterior attack do a better job outside and there will be less need to rush which just might improve your search for life. Interior attack only occupies one space the whole time on scene, giving it a better reflex time to victims on the path to the fire. 

Fire knock back makes for lower temperatures, but nothing changes on the interior, there aren’t less turns or the distance to the fire room hasn’t shortened, still the same clutter, still smoke. 

The exterior part of transitional attack needs to increase hold time thereby allowing hoselines to be properly placed, improving search and extinguishment.