Tactical Safety for Firefighters- It’s About Nozzle Reach, Not Stream Reach


Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
It’s About Nozzle Reach, Not Stream Reach

While stream reach gets all the attention, and most of it well deserved, it can fool you into stretching short. Stream reach does not equal extinguishment. Nozzle reach equals extinguishment.

While the ability to hit distant fire by incorporating the reach of the stream is a common fire attack method, we need more. Those that use transitional attack often fall short of final extinguishment and extending fire because they use stream reach instead of nozzle reach as their stretch criteria.

Because not every fire exists in a three sided alley where stream reach is the only factor we might need, nozzle reach and mobility for placement at the seat of the fire is what is needed at the majority of structural fires. The reach of the stream used to attack the fire will typically run from far away to up close. However if you concentrate on stream reach only, you will be good at inline extinguishment only.

We need to realize that the nozzle needs to be able to access all areas that the hoseline was stretched to cover. Hoseline stretches must cover the fire area with the nozzle; not stream reach. We must not only have the capability to hit a fire in a room, we must have enough line to enter and move to any spot in that room with the nozzle. This is why hoseline estimation and line support are so important at a fire. To almost have enough line to reach the fire doesn’t work. We must be able to get close to the fire area and inside the fire area to complete extinguishment and battle extension.

Including stream reach into your extinguishment plan is fine for exterior fires and fires you don’t plan on getting up close and personal with at the moment; however, when you stretch a line inside to extinguish the fire at its base and cover extension, you need that nozzle right there so that you are maximizing your protection and extinguishment capability. Knowing your streams scrub area is important, but it is not enough to finish the job. Nozzle reach within the fire area is king. The line needs to be long enough so that it can rapidly move to where it is needed, and many times that includes more than one hot spot.

When you estimate your hose stretch, do it for what you will need inside the building. Do not estimate your hose stretch on outside access and stream reach. Hoseline support becomes important especially when a transitional approach is used because that charged line will now have to be repositioned to the interior; however, line support will not do you much good when the stretch is short because the estimate was incorrect. It is always improves your tactical safety when you anticipate the need for more hose so that the nozzle can go wherever you need it to go inside the building.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Photo Barry McRoy

3 thoughts on “Tactical Safety for Firefighters- It’s About Nozzle Reach, Not Stream Reach

  1. Ray, the stretch is truly king. The nozzle’s home at the end of extinguishment is overhauling at the seat of the fire. The nozzle pulled for interior operations must be able to touch the seat for success to be ensured. If this is not possible the stretch was short. Relentless efforts to reenforce this key fact over the years is unfortunately a necessary effort. A key example of this is the 100 foot standpipe stretch and pack. Many Fire Departments justify this using the maximum outlet spacing code of 100 feet as a guide, unfortunately the code includes 50 feet of stream reach and requires you to hook up on the fire floor. In this case the standpipe outlet gives us a clue if hose team is using the riser closet to the fire, the minimum amount of hose that should be attached is 150 feet from the floor below. If the fire’s seat is the most remote area serviced by the riser 200 feet will be required to get the nozzle to touch the seat. Standpipe code differs city to city because of local changes one must of course go out and pre-plan. While pre-planning, I guarantee it will become rapidly apparent that 100 feet is just inadequate.

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