Standpipe Smarts

Ray McCormack

The engine officer needs to make several strategic decisions at standpipe operations. In this example, there is a set of scissor stairs centered on a straight run hallway, and a single standpipe riser located inside the stairway, serving each floor. I have listed five of the most common decisions that the engine officer will have to make. These decisions set the stage for a well coordinated stretch and attack plan

  1. On what floor will you hook up your hoseline.

If you picked the fire floor, you are making a bad decision. We always want our hoseline to have the best chance of placement and sustainability. Choosing the outlet on the fire floor stair landing doesn’t give us that, because that door will remain open for a period of time and will draw heat and smoke to that landing. Using an outlet on the fire floor places the attachment process in jeopardy and forces us to work in an IDLH. Exiting firefighters end up at an outlet in the hall instead of the stairway. The floor below is the most common location in which to start a standpipe stretch. It typically provides a safe hook up site as well as not not using up significant amount of attack travel hose.

2. Which stairway will be used for attack?

We don’t always have to use the riser stairway as the attack stairway. With scissor stairs and attaching the hose on the floor below, we may have to switch stairways on the floor below to give us closer access to the fire area when we emerge from stairs. I feel that this choice is preferable to using the riser stairway which would cause us to make a U-turn on the fire floor and make for an extended return trip when you may be low on air; however, when you leave the riser stairway to stretch up another, more travel hose may be required than if you had stayed inside the original stairway. It’s best to add a length if you are concerned by what you see and or if you’re missing information.

3. How far is the fire area from the stairway?

This is a size up question that calls on your understanding of how much hose you have available and how your choices impact the stretch. With 150’ of hose available, a 50’ standard would be used for the fire area, leaving 100’ to reach from riser to fire. If more would be needed, then apply the necessary lengths.

4. Will you be able to stretch dry or only wet?

Dry stretches: bring the lead length dry to the apartment door. It is then flaked out towards the attack stairway. A wet stretch means we are charging the line inside the stairway. This is recommended if the apartment door is not controlled or a fire is located in the hallway. This is also an option when there isn’t enough room the flake out the lead length in the hallway.

5. Is there a wind condition?

If there is wind condition, which side of the building is it on? If the fire is wind-impacted toward the interior hallway, seek an alternative stream entry tactic. You can not win this battle head on. A wind driven fire is a game changing event. Implement your alternative plan. 

Keep Fire in Your Life

Battalion Notes: The Suggestion Box (Command Bored)

Erich Roden

The Operations Function (position) in the Incident Command System (ICS) has its hands full during the first few minutes of the fire. This position is the one responsible for deploying and managing companies until the arrival of successive chief officers, to fill in the gaps, and keep things going according to plan. It is also the job of the Ops Chief is to support or not support what the first few companies are doing, once he or she arrives. What’s more, once the balance of the first alarm assignment gets there, this person must start slowing down the pace of deployment to ensure that the initial companies are properly supported.  In my place, I have four engines, two trucks, three chiefs and a rescue company that all want to do something when they get there, as they have pre-determined assignments based upon their order of arrival. With this, there can be such a problem as managing ‘adequate’ resources in some instances if they’re all getting there within five minutes and can overwhelm the chief if things are already going south. It is easy to get into a ‘Plug-n-Play’ deployment conundrum if you don’t get ahold of your companies before they ‘punch-in’ to the fire building. This refers to simply allowing companies to head into the building under the assumption that they know where they’re supposed to be going. Make sure that all of your companies are stopping into the Command Post (CP) and or say Hello to the Ops chief before heading in.  

As a chief officer, if you have any decent-size fire upon arrival, you know that you will soon have at least two hoselines stretched, trucks and rescues poking around on every level and cops and bystanders looking to get info and accountability, all at the same time. This is why we like having companies say, “Hello” in person before deploying and have command boards at the CP to track and account for everyone enjoying themselves during the incident; however, there is one component of the CP that isn’t a box or item on a physical board or tracking system, won’t be found in any ICS class or policy, but can kill your command board and plan and cause all sorts of the above problems if it isn’t managed or tracked well: The Suggestion Box. 

The Suggestion Box is simply the process of a later-arriving company(s) meandering over and standing next to the Ops chief at the CP, letting you know that they’re awaiting an assignment and what productive thing or two that they could be doing – if you let them…

The Suggestion Box is a place that everyone has likely been as a company officer, particularly at greater alarms. I also call this place the “Command Bored.” In full disclosure, I was one of the greatest violators and a frequent visitor as a boss, myself. This Box is not always a bad thing to have on the fireground, but you better know how to manage it, or you’ll find yourself with several more companies in the fire building than you remembered to keep track of, clogged stairwells, and no companies readily available to relieve companies when their bells start ringing and tell you that they’re coming out of the building. 

Posit: You agree to let a company or two that’s been standing around for a bit to, “check for extension” in another wing of the building that you initially considered to be unaffected by fire or smoke. This is a harmless assignment and you add this company number(s) to a corner of your command board as they go walk stairs and hallways for a while, not radioing you so that they get to stay in the building, and forget to keep tabs, as initial, operating companies start sending a litany of updates and location change requests (head to floor above, et al) once the fire is knocked down*.

*Once the fire is knocked down, prepare for everyone to get on the radio, as this is the opportune time they have to do it and keep an eye on their people at the same time under less stressful conditions. Prior to the fire getting a good ‘knock’, expect most of your comms to be from deploying companies and other chiefs. Remember, let the initial companies get to work before hounding them on the radio. They’ll let you know what they need if there’re any immediate concerns. This is also the time that you may forget that a couple of companies got some special treatment from you and are still in the building. Remember to never cross out a company on the board unless they’re actually out of the building. 

Now that you’ve let a couple of companies swindle you into hanging out in the fire building, do you think that they’re going to volunteer to come out? It’s a rhetorical question as you can bet your pension that they’ll meander closer to the fire floor/area, hoping you forgot about them, and radio that they’re available to help a company they just ran into that needs help pulling ceiling or moving hose. This one was in my old bag of tricks, which is why I look for it…

The main concern with regards to safety, sans accounting for their location when you forget about them, is what usually happens when more companies are deployed than need to be: Clogged stairwells. A lot of people spend every second of their careers trying to get out of the engine to cross the floor to the truck, but for some reason, everyone wants to be near the first line’s nozzle when there’s a fire. This means that companies will tend to flock to stairwells to get after the areas involved in the most fire, if their assignment is completed, a company requests more help checking for extension or they weren’t lucky to have been one of the first few companies to arrive. Although we can discuss stairwell management and keeping people off them until they need to be on them, the Suggestion Box is usually the thing that leads to an overly-clogged means of egress. Companies that have been sitting in the nosebleeds until they finally got the nod to head in will make sure that they get as close to the action as possible, and almost always spend time on the stairwells to get a piece. 

Finally, the Suggestion Box is the number one reason you run out of companies later on in an incident. Although not as hectic, you still have to relieve companies once the fire is under control. It is a sinking feeling when you realize that you still need companies to do something, but have been swindled by the Suggestion Box and sent needed companies in to do whatever. Analogous to redeploying charged supply hoselines, consider the time to get these companies out of the building and or relocated in a timely fashion. Moreover, they may be running out of air, too, and will be a two-for-one loss of manpower to get stuff done. I know that you can always call for extra resources or additional alarms, but you’re a pro and don’t want to be known as a two alarm mattress fire chief.  

It’s okay to beg for work. We all do, but that’s what radios are for while you’re out shopping for the meal or driving by another firehouse’s area when the alarm comes in. The Suggestion Box is okay if there’s something that was truly missed, or could be done. Chiefs don’t ever make mistakes, but we do make ‘oversights’ and sometimes need something brought up that we missed. The Suggestion Box just needs to be managed, accordingly. Succumbing to the gravitas of experienced or regarded officers and haphazardly letting people pick an assignment becomes the Mission Creep we sometimes have to make after-action reviews about, later. Always expect this “Sixth Function” of Command to rear its head at good fires and be ready to manage it. You’re the chief!

Line Boss Leadership

Ray McCormack

Being an Engine Officer is privilege, and as such, comes with tremendous responsibility. Taking on that role requires many skills and a strong will. The fireground is the real test of your skill sets and it doesn’t grade on a curve. You must be able to perform at a high level no matter what is thrown your way. To become proficient in the necessary skill sets requires study, practice and determination. The community’s fire protection relies on you.

Leadership must also take place in less hostile environments such as the fire station. New officers or senior officers can be terrible at leadership, but for different reasons. The seasoned officer, because they never cared enough to formulate the traits required, and the new officer hasn’t had the time to be seasoned.The other reality is that some people are just naturals for leadership while others struggle. 

One pivotal trait of leadership is being consistent:a If you are hot one day and cold the next, people will be confused and stay away. When your people don’t know what they’re getting from day to day, that is a problem for the leader and those they lead. In fact, more than half of your ideas will most likely suffer from being simply ignored. The reason for being ignored? Who wants to risk approaching you to discuss things if you’re always in a different mood. Implementing ideas will be an uphill battle with few supporters.

So, trust is vital for quality leadership in the fire station of the fireground; You build that by being a good listener. Digest others’ concerns and try and see their pitch. If your answer is typically rapid and in opposition, did you really think their proposal through? Don’t be quick to reject an idea, instead look for some merit. You must thoughtfully ponder what is presented to you – Meet again and hash it out. This should be something that you enjoy doing. If it isn’t, then the trust isn’t robust enough on your part. Early dismissal of ideas is often practiced by those who feel personally challenged. Remember it’s business not personal.

Fireground trust is built upon decision making. Your decisions must follow the pattern of common sense and risk vs reward. You must know what’s manageable and set your crew up for success. If either one of those is out of balance, good results can suffer, and safety can tip towards being compromised. Know what an outside operation looks like from the start and stick to it. Mixing exterior with interior on such calls can put firefighters at great risk. Know what you want to do and move others to support the plan. Always stretch another line for those just in case moments.

The fire service practices top down leadership. Communication also follows that route sometimes to our detriment. While leadership can be found at all ranks, leading above your rank is rare. I don’t think that’s a bad thing it’s how the structure functions. There are, however, opportunities to influence and collaborate with others of higher rank towards common goals. Remember leadership is about sharing.

Fireground leadership is controlled by the IC and filled in at the task level by company officers. Small unit operations is how we function on the fireground. The goal is saving lives and property. Stretching lines for extinguishment, performing smoke removal ventilation, conducting targeted searches are categories that we use to accomplish our main goals. Direction and focus are two traits of the company officer. Lead your people with insight and encouragement because you understand what is occurring. You must be a student of the fireground anything less and your leadership suffers because it’s blind. When leadership suffers so does followership.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Battalion Notes – The Act

Erich Roden

The Battalion Chief (BC) position, or whatever your rank department designates it, is one of front-line, administrative authority and management of field operations. This includes not only the fireground and scenes of emergencies, but inside the actual firehouses under your charge in a respective, geographical Battalion, too. The administrative stuff and firefighting operations are the easy part of your day, as we have all of the rules, regulations, standard operating guidelines, policy and procedures, ordinances, and union contracts we need to guide us through the day. What’s difficult is how you develop your own voice and personal act to manage all of the above that makes you genuine and competent. 

A sage, experienced chief officer gave me some sound advice when I got promoted to BC: he said, “It’ll take you an entire year to feel comfortable in this position.” I originally dismissed this as hyperbolic management advice that he had to give everyone, but he was absolutely right. Although you’ve spent some time as a company officer, you soon realize that you can’t forget where you came from, but you aren’t there, anymore. Here’s another way to put it: when you’re a firefighter, all of it’s funny; a company officer, half of it’s funny; and a chief…none of it is funny. The fire department is a complex system to begin with, but the BC position is the one that becomes the gatekeeper between line and management. It’s acceptable to integrate into the firehouse communities within your battalion, but no matter what you think, they all want you to be a chief when it’s time to do chief stuff; to take things seriously and with a sense of urgency and importance when approached. Conversely, your bosses expect you to implement policy and procedure without being a contrarian, manage personnel issues with an administrative lens and make sure everything goes according to plan. Simple?

Think back to the last fire that went bad, the personnel misfortune in a firehouse that occurred while you were clocked-in and or rumor that is polarizing every kitchen table with something the Battalion said during rounds. What is the first question the troops will ask? Yep, “who was the chief working, that day?” Every scenario above always begins with a top-down analysis of responsibility. How the inferences and analysis will go depends on what they think of you as a chief. This is subjective, but also where group-think rears its ugly head in terms of context and perspective; however, if the troops consider you a competent and serious chief officer, then you’ll be in good hands as they work through the issue at the table and include rational thoughts about how things went wrong. If they think otherwise, then you’ll take the blame and we all know that blame is a powerful motivator to throw shade at the department – under your name and watch. Regardless, you have little control over your reputation at any rank. Sorry, but it’s true. All you have control over is how you are as a manager and person – and how you react to being called-out on your reputation or quirks. Your act will always precede you, and not everyone will buy it, even though it may have few or inconsequential flaws. This is because everyone has their own expectations and ideology of what makes a (good chief). This isn’t a bad thing. If we were all the same, we’d always have the same problems and solutions to everything and that isn’t what progress is made of. 

So what makes a good chief? Think about the chiefs you looked up to since your first day in the firehouse: were they all the same type of person? Have the same level of competency? Have the same ethos? Expectations? Demands? The answer is rhetorical because it’s a sound, “No.” Moreover, you can always name more than a few chiefs that everyone loved, and you’ll realize after thinking about it that they were different in many aspects. So why is there consensus on likability with these chiefs and not with others, even though they were sometimes markedly different? The answer is simple: they were consistent with their own act. You may not have appreciated everything about them, but you knew they were good chiefs because they were genuine in how they ran the shop. They may not have won at every kitchen table or fireground, but they gave it their all at both. Being genuine means that you find the place your voice (persona) fits between what management wants you to be vs. what the troops hope you will be. I don’t care what anyone thinks, you can’t fake-it-till-you-make-it. Everyone can see through your act and that’s why you need to give a solid year to figure out which one you’re going to stick with. That doesn’t mean you can’t change, I certainly have in a few areas of my own, but it’s the one you’ll feel comfortable portraying because you feel genuine, too.

I won’t get into a ton of different types of chief personas, as there are many, but there are always the ones you thought were the chiefs that you were going to be like, if given the opportunity. How do you pick one? Start with those chiefs mentioned above that you wanted to be like as a firefighter: What worked for them? How did they interact with the troops? What did they do when they saw something that they didn’t like? What particularities did they expect at fires? Who were mine? I’ll give you one that immediately comes to mind anytime someone asks who my ‘BC Crush’ was as firefighter and company officer:

Battalion Chief Leo Harper 

Chief Harper was what you’d call a “Black Socks” chief. His peeve was uniform and appearance. Chief Harper was known as the most squared-away guy back in the day and was black and white with rules, regs, standard operating procedures…everything – an old-school chief. He treated everyone the same, and was also know as the fairest of them all, but I always felt like he treated me a little better. I was lucky to work with him when I got a good truck in his battalion after a few years on the job. He and I also connected on a personal and professional level because he was always the one I wanted (hoped) to have the final say on things, in life and the job. Whether it was a polarizing memo, policy, or issue, his stance was always the one that was or seemed right for everyone involved, even the antagonist. That’s harder to figure out than you think, but he mastered it after a thousand years on the job. He garnered so much respect, that when the announcement came over the house PA that the Battalion was in quarters, everyone quickly tucked in their shirts, put black socks on, took of their ‘illegal’ hats and always walked by a mirror before heading into the kitchen – even those who were detailed in for the day. He was great at fires; didn’t mind the “Suggestion Box” at the Command Post when bosses begged for an assignment (more on managing this in another installment); always took care of the troops and never minded taking one in the shorts for someone in his Battalion, as long as they looked presentable…

Chief Harper is now long retired, but he stays active with the honor guard and has come to every one of my promotions. He still gives sage advice to this day and I recently got to chide him about his particular peeve with guys’ appearance in the old days while we were at a department event. He said, “look, a guy out of uniform isn’t disrespecting me, he’s disrespecting his officer. That’s why I always gave tickles for appearance.” Read that a few times and tell that me that he’s wrong. Yes, he’s of course right. Chief Harper is one of several that I fall back on when analyzing a situation or culture of a firehouse. Take some time to reflect on the ones that make you, too, and work on incorporating their attributes into your own persona in a way that makes it a sincere part of your voice and act. You’ll get a few shots at figuring it out over the course of your first year or so, so don’t rush it. Don’t be afraid to ask your confidants if you appear to be over-doing it, or worse, not being genuine or the company man that turns everyone off. You’ll notice it right away when you’re believed by the troops, by how they respond to you, ask you for help or refer to you when things go good or bad. 

Good luck.

Plan for Your Recovery

Ray McCormack

At standpipe operations, short stretches can occur. They often occur from an incomplete distance estimate, elongated travel route, or a misjudgment of necessary nozzle reach. If you find yourself at a place that doesn’t provide extinguishment of the fire, and there is no hose left to advance, then you’ve stretched short. 

Stretching short is dangerous because the fire is still active and we can’t do anything about it; The fire attack has now devolved into a holding operation at best. So we need to extend our hoseline quickly to recover and extinguishment the fire. 

There are two locations to add additional hose to your hoseline. At the outlet or at the nozzle. Adding hose at the outlet will require the hoseline to be shut down at the outlet. Additional hose is usually added into the stretch at the outlet location on the floor below. This location typically provides a clean environment for making the necessary connections. The down side is that now we have to advance all of the lengths forward and into position to hit the fire. Crews will be working hard against hose water weight over long distances and up from the floor below. 

Another option is to add an additional length of hose with a nozzle attached at the original nozzle location. Once the extra length is attached, it is often the only piece of hose you need to advance. This makes the recovery stretch easier. The downside to this is that adding additional hose will take place on the fire floor. Poor visibility is common and a physical barrier to keep the fire away needs to be provided. You must shut off the original nozzle and spin off the nozzle’s tip to add a length of hose to it. If the female hose coupling is larger than the shut off threads, an Increaser is needed. Flake out the new length and charge it; Add a hose strap to the bale of the original nozzle and tie it off so it can’t close. The new length has to have its own nozzle. 

If the new length you’re adding doesn’t have a nozzle attached to the line, you must shut down the hoseline at the standpipe outlet. The nozzle is removed and the additional length is added to the original line. The original nozzle is then placed on the new length. Do you need to supply additional pressure for the extended hoseline? If the friction loss for your additional length isn’t high, it’s probably not necessary. Remember, we are trying to fix a distance issue. Now advance again and put the fire out already.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Battalion Notes

Battalion Notes will be a continuing series that discusses the important issues and fires going on in your Battalion. If you aren’t aware, chiefs do talk between tours, so there are a lot of things to exchange between them as the other takes the throne for the day. Although we usually discuss and consider these things to be boilerplate personnel and staffing issues, or a fire or two that you went to, it can be much more complicated than that. The fire department is a complex system to begin with, anyway, and for the context of this series, things will center on what you can expect (or not) to encounter at the firehouse or on the fireground in more detail, and with empiricism from our chief officer contributors. We’ll explain and discuss the things that myself and others have encountered over the years, faux pas, misfortunes and wins, and what should be expected when a chief officer shows up to work. These posts’ conversations have the ability to continue in the Comments link at the bottom, so please join in and leave some things in there that you would like us to write about in the future. I’ll be getting other nice chiefs to write, as well, and your thoughts are just as important as ours.

Let’s get this going, then:

Calmness is Contagious

Erich Roden

This is good topic to start with, as it is one of the best pieces of advice that a revered, senior Battalion Chief (BC) gave me when I was promoted to BC. We all know who the ‘Screamers’ are on the fireground and they come in all ranks and sizes; however, the worst offenders are usually chiefs. Although these are the extreme examples of communication breakdowns and ensuing chaos on the fireground, other examples are more benign (anxious and excited transmissions, et al), but can lead to the same disorder just by how they impact your psyche. Posit: You’re responding as the first arriving chief officer to a private dwelling fire and the dispatcher transmits a “we’re getting numerous calls on this” message. I don’t care how many fires that you may have gone to, your body has just released even more adrenaline and cortisol to manage the increase in stress. This leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure and just plain old energy itself and can reduce your ability to critically think and review the plan for the type of building that you’re going to. How do you manage this? Easy. Breathe deeply (Zen-like) and tell yourself that you got this. I’m serious. It is well-known that simple breathing is perhaps the greatest response to increase in stress. So take that deep breath and consider:

You have been a company officer, you have pulled up to lots of fire and people running towards you; you have experienced the two-minutes of terror of knowing that you’re it until more help arrives; that your rig will have a couple of hoselines coming off of it, soon, and that you need water – now. Conversely, you know that your truck company is in front of the building and is staying there until you take up, and that you have to get the engine company in the building, sort out who is where inside with help from the screaming occupants outside – and how you’re going to get to them. You have probably done all of the above before you made chief, but now you’re the one ultimately responsible to make sure this all goes according to plan when you arrive by organizing it all, quickly. So start there with the fact that it may be like that again when you get there and that you got your stuff together then, so it’s time to do it again – light some incense if you have to…

Now, what happens next is what can unravel all the above, and set a horrible tone (pun intended) for the rest of the incident. If the first due engine or truck officer makes an excited, rapid and anxious transmission – that the dispatcher was actually right that there’s going to be lots of fire for everyone – then it’s your job to bring the incident back down to a standard operating guidelines level. Make a calm transmission that you received the message and take another breath as you pull up – maybe focus on getting your PPE on for a split second more to reboot, then take another look at what you’re in for by looking at the building(s) again.

I’ll use a great perspective made famous by the late Andrew Fredericks, who made the seminal statement about excited people on the fireground, that “a garbage man doesn’t get excited when he turns the corner and sees garbage.” Andy was always right about things and the same holds true for us as responding firefighters. If you have buildings in your area, then they could have fire in them at anytime, even lots of it or more than one of them going at a time, some days. Therefore, always mentally plan to pull up to one throughout your tour and realize that it’s up to you to put it out or grab someone who’s in there. Realize that your department has a plan for it all and think about the first few things that you will need to do, should it be on when you arrive.

Below is a fire that I had a couple of nights ago that the cops called in after a vehicle pursuit led to two houses on fire when we arrived. Looking at the CAD in my buggy, I knew that it was on before we were even called, so did everyone else responding. I’ll speak for myself, but I’m sure everyone was anxious about we would expect to find upon arrival, due to the time of day (2am), but the first arriving engine officer arrived and calmly reported what we had: a car launched into two houses, caught fire and extended to both structures. How do you think this impacted everyone before they got there? Yep, it calmed everyone down and surely brought everyone’s head back to where they were supposed to deploy, based upon their order of arrival. Take a look:

It was a lot to take in, upon arrival, but the troops killed the fire quickly, treated the occupants of the vehicle and everything went according to plan with no firefighter injuries. Imagine how the incident would have gone if the first arriving officer, or worse, me, transmitted a bunch of excited and anxious messages. Losing your calm does nothing but make everyone vapor lock and focus on what could be causing you to lose your mind, not about what they have to do when they arrive. I’m not saying there is always a loss of clear communication in these instances, but there is surely a loss of the messages’ effectiveness. The best thing to do when you have an incident that will be tough to put together, even with the right standard operating guideline for occasion, is to take another deep breath of Zen. This will slow your heart rate just enough for your brain to kick back in and allow you to make calm transmissions to get things under control, your companies deployed and rigs placed where you need them. This will also reduce the excitement in everyone who hears the transmission and you’ll notice it immediately when companies report to the command post in a professional manner, ready to kill, to let you know they’re there. If you’re excited, so will they be, even before they head inside or topside.

The same also goes for your demeanor and body language. Be firm and stand with poise, but realize that command presence is essentially calmness in the face of uncertainty and uncontrolled incidents. Just because a chief officer has a command board with companies’ locations correct, doesn’t mean they’re down to sea-level at the incident or running the incident properly. Command presence is knowing how well everyone is actually doing in their locations, because they feel calm enough to talk to you at an incident without getting screamed at, regarding transmitting progress and actions. Companies will immediately see this going on as they arrive and you’ll soon realize that your calmness is contagious, as things soon get better when everyone is thinking clearly and carrying out the plan – and making calm transmissions back to you. Give it a shot while headed to your next fire, and have the troops practice this, as well. Be the Calm Battalion.


Instructor Tips, Part I

Ray McCormack

Fire training evolves from concept through execution. Those involved may be involved from the beginning or just for selected phases. Just when you think your program is complete, be prepared for revisions. We often believe that our programs are fully squared away, only to find that there is something missing – That means you’re paying attention to it.

All of our training should be able to both expand and contract. It can expand after seeing new avenues of discussion that you didn’t see before. You must also streamline the material by ditching what doesn’t work. This allows for new information to be shared. Programs contract by deletion of repetition. Hammering a point home is different from repeating certain, or all the information, over and over again. This is common when videos that explain a topic are shown and then explained again by the instructor often word-for-word without additional insight. The video is a platform for the instructor to build on, not lay on.

Instructors who can bring first hand experiences to a firefighter training course are priceless. Their stories (hopefully to the point) give the listener an opportunity to place themselves in the story while allowing the instructor student wall to be broken for a bit. 

I have had many opportunities to co-teach, which is challenging in and of itself; however, when it works well, it’s seamless. One tip if your partner forgot a section of their talk: don’t tell the students. Either bring it in somewhere else if you forget it and move on. 

Just before concluding, give the students something to think about before you solicit their response. This will give you a chance to think back on anything you may wish to clear up or cover after their replies. Engage them, ask pointed questions, allow for various opinions, and Good Luck!

Keep Fire In Your Life

Bending the Rules of Water

Ray McCormack

Applying water to a fire is different from applying water on a fire. Building fires exist in defined spaces and often extend from them as well. The introduction of fire streams to building fires to knock them back, knock them down and extinguish them, demands targeted water placement for a specific duration.

Water application from a building’s exterior through an opening, such as window or door, is an example of a vertical surface breach. The stream’s shape may be tight, or cover the opening, depending on the user’s choice. It may move about or be held steady; It may strike upwards towards the ceiling, or downward on the window frame. The stream may be aimed straight ahead hitting whatever surface is opposite it’s entry point, or it may be placed far away so that it falls inside, having reached the end of its break-over cycle.

We have many ways to attack from inside the space as well: Your stream can be pointed upward, downward, side to side, bounced or moved in a pattern. Nozzle movements have a greater chance of being blended together inside, because you are usually on the same level as the fire. You can more easily judge what what stream movement is required at certain times and locations. Exterior water through an opening, by it’s very nature, is restrictive.

The current fire environment affords us the same stream options as legacy fires; however, we now know more about our streams’ deflection traits than before. Paying attention to how water works inside is something all firefighters need to know. 

We must remember that the ability to collect available information and form it into a class is readily available to anyone who wishes to pass on the latest stuff. Passing it on is not enough when dealing with firefighting.
I have used simple hallway props for years to show how different streams and their placement impact the interior, firefighting and safety. Attempting to replicate exterior stream techniques on interior firefighting is a dangerous tactical error that firefighters need to know how to avoid. 
While water doesn’t bend around corners, it’s effect can come close if you throughly understand interior fire attack and stream deflection. 

Keep Fire in Your Life 

Occupy Wall Street

Ray McCormack

For firefighters, occupying interior space is the goal. We occupy interior space to safeguard egress, provide extinguishment, and to rescue occupants. We use walls to guide searches, to use as location markers and to provide cooling when hit with a stream. When the engine is able to apply surface cooling to walls, this will aid our forward advance. 

While air flow rates don’t vary greatly with differing nozzle advancement techniques, surface coverage can. Not all application techniques are equal. Some use an upside down ‘U’ for water application, or as I like to call it, a lower case ‘n’. I prefer a circular nozzle movement. With a circular stream motion, we can also pick up the floor – That’s a bonus over the n method. 
The proverbial long, hot hallway may not be in everyone’s repertoire, however, shorter versions exist everywhere. You often have choices on how to progress toward the fire room. Some will flow while moving, some will stop and flow, and some will attempt no flow at all. The last choice gets riskier, the closer you get – Learn how to ‘know when to flow’. We are worth a few gallons of water. 

Flowing the line on the hallway walls provides at least twice the surface coverage of the ceiling. We now have three surfaces resisting flashover. The upper portion of the hallway walls, in addition to the ceiling, is where our steam has its biggest impact. With a circular stream motion, we can also pick up the floor. That’s a bonus over the n method and adds the final surface to be cooled to prevent flashover – The new fire tetrahedron. Floor temperatures directly impact firefighter safety. Picking up the floor on your advance reduces the chance that its heated state will contribute to flashover. There are other reasons to sweep the floor as well. Got any favorites?

Applying water to walls that are not radiating heat back because they are distant has little value. Approaching a second floor, front room, adjacent to the open stairway, calls for a narrow circular stream motion. A wide circle or standard n places water on the far wall or stairway adding little value. Instead, focus on the room ahead, cool the close wall and floor using a tighter method. 

Walls provide more than directional guidance, they provide flashover protection, but only if you wet them. Advance along the hallway wall opposite the fire room and you will get water in the room earlier even in a narrow hallway. Rolling out the red carpet of water in the hallway pays a dividend of safer passage. Invest in your stream and Occupy Wall Street.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Next: Draining Lines – Lifting Spirits