Never Put The Can Ahead of The Nozzle

Ray McCormack

Many departments are finally discovering what the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has know for decades: that the can is a useful, first-strike extinguishment tool. Even the term “Can” comes from FDNY. The pressurized water extinguisher is carried by a firefighter as part of their assigned tool compliment. While it may enter the fire area ahead of the nozzle, it should never be mistaken for a handline attack.

Imagine advancing down a hallway with an 1.75” line and the can firefighter jumps ahead of you to take over fire attack. I know it’s happened, well meaning, but poorly thought out. The 2 GPM flow contained in the can is no substitute for the 150 or more GPM flow attached to the nozzle firefighter‘s hip.

The can can do an amazing job under certain fire conditions. I know it’s capabilities because I carried and used one for years as a firefighter. I directed and supervised it’s use as a company officer for many more years. 
The can presents the fire service with a great opportunity to search prior to handline application. The can is not built for fire attack, that’s a handline‘s function. The can is a limited water resource tool. You cannot think that a fire attack water supple of 2 gallons is sufficient. 

So the Can, like any other tool, has its place in the fire service. It should be carried, if possible, by those firefighters who enter the building first. Including the can as part of the search allows containment and knock back capability. 

What you should not do is think the can is all that you need. When you use the can for extinguishment, you must be extremely diligent that extinguishment has been achieved. Don’t be lazy about stretching, because you have a can or two on-scene. If you find that the can is being used as a handline substitute, be careful, because now you’re putting it ahead of the nozzle. 

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