Smoothbore or Fog?


SB or FOG? My 2$$
It’s time to but this debate to bed. I say BOTH. There certainly is a place for both and if you find yourself only taking a stand on one of the two nozzles, chances are you are uninformed. SB and Fog a lot of times are dependent on the demographics they serve. Where I work in suburban America, BOTH nozzles are needed and are beneficial. The biggest problem I see when debating these nozzles is that many firefighters are just simply uninformed or under educated on the advantages and disadvantages of BOTH nozzles and even at times, don’t know how to operate the nozzle properly so that it is an effective weapon. The lack of knowledge prevents progress. Staying in your own “bubble” (not getting out of your own department to see how the rest of the world does business) prevents progress. Close minded firemen…”We have always done it this way…and no one got hurt….or just put the damn fire out” mentality, prevents progress. I will take it one step further, it not only prevents progress, but it makes OUR job that more dangerous. That’s right, not just your job, but ALL OF US. This is not an opinion, it is an evidence based FACT. Here are some quick points to ponder that are FACT. Fog nozzles DO NOT provide ANY type of protection with interior firefighting. It is a myth that has absolutely no merit. Watch the video and see what type of “protection” it provides. When operated on a fog pattern, you can move almost as much air as a PPV, essentially creating a wind fueled fire. Again, see the video when the fog pattern is opened twice. Observe how “violent” the conditions get. Drastically changes conditions and heat conditions increase significantly. The ironic thing is, this is what I was taught in 1989 in rookie school. “We don’t know what we don’t know, until we know we don’t know.” I now know it was wrong and dangerous. I’ve learned this through training, education, and experience of being steamed burned (multiple times). Moral of this point, NEVER operate any type of fog pattern, no matter how narrow the fog pattern, when combating interior fires (when fire suppression, not to be confused with mop up). Don’t think so?? Just google the history of the fog nozzle and pattern and how they were originally designed to be used or read up on Lt. Andy Fredrick’s, then come back and finish reading my boring rant. Always use a straight stream. Again, watch video and it clearly demonstrates why we should not be using fog patterns. With that being said, fog nozzles on a straight stream are extremely effective and are excellent weapons. In addition, it does provide the firefighter with a little more versatility to use during overhaul and hydraulic ventilation if needed. Best Fog nozzle weapons are the 50 psi nozzle pressure nozzles. To keep it brief, it equates to high volume of H2o (150+) with low nozzle reaction. The greater the nozzle pressure, the greater the nozzle reaction which equates to gating down the flow. Automatic Nozzles are dangerous, period. Don’t use them with interior firefighting. If you don’t agree or understand, go flow test one and you will see. Don’t use 100 psi fog nozzles. These were big in the 80s and 90s, but fortunately are phasing out of interior firefighting. SB nozzles are extremely effective interior weapons and have been since the inception of the American Fire Service. They have low nozzle pressure (50 psi), typically open orifices the pass debris (essential for stand pipe operations) and solid packed streams that will penetrate objects such as dry wall much better than their fog counterparts. They typically have the same reach as the newer designed fog nozzles, but more volume of the stream goes further distance. SB also are typically small, light, basic, and compact, unlike their fog brothers from another mother. This design makes it ideal for combat firefighting. Light and small equates to aggressive movement of the nozzle….no big fog bails weighing it down. Simple in design….less that will go wrong, and that IS a big deal when the shit hits the fan. And, they are just plain durable and an effective weapon. The biggest mistake I have seen in my career for those who have not been exposed to SB nozzle operations (and that’s a lot of departments in suburban America), is the lack of understanding on how to operate this weapon in an effective mode. It should be moved aggressively all over the room, hitting the floor, sweeping the upper atmosphere, using the ceiling and walls to break up the stream into small droplets. The droplets will not be as fine as a fog stream, thus working to our advantage to not completely jack up the thermal balance like the fog pattern does. Many firefighters loose site of a simplistic concept they teach us in rookie school. GPM extinguishes BTUs. If we allow firefighters to use a SB line when they have never used one before but we don’t train them on how to use it, then we shouldn’t get pissed if they have a negative experience and decide it is not a viable option. So, the point of this rant…..BOTH ARE AWESOME WEAPONS THAT SHOULD BE USED. I believe in having versatility on an engine and by having both options, only make sense. Don’t take mine or anyone else’s word on this, go find out for yourself by training, reading books, studies, and journals about this (that’s right…we do actually learn from reading others materials and can apply what we learn), and challenging the status quo. If you have formulated an opinion on this but it is not based on your own research, training, experience, and education, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your position on this subject. Be the courageous follower in your department and challenges all perspectives to find out what works best for your demographics. “Challenge the Status Quo!”
Be Aggressive-
8 5 0 F I R E M E N

2 thoughts on “Smoothbore or Fog?

  1. Dennis LeGear Ahead of the time at the OFD Daryl Liggins, Jay Comella, Jim Edwards and I plus others………CITY OF OAKLAND
    FIRE DEPARTMENT interior stream policy put in place the same time all NP was reduced to 50psi with 160gpm and 260gpm our target handline flows (Steve Kerber, Aaron Fields, Ray McCormack FYI looking fwd to the air entrainment part of the interior study)

    Policy & Procedure #
    Binder #2
    Submitted: October 2, 2004



    Standardize stream selection for interior structure firefighting.


    It shall be the policy of the Oakland Fire Department to use a straight or solid stream when engaged in an interior structure fire.


    Straight Stream: Narrowest stream formed by a fog nozzle.
    Solid Stream: Stream formed by a smooth bore nozzle.
    Broken Stream: Stream formed by a smooth bore nozzle when the bail is partially closed.


    • Minimize fire, heat and steam pushed into uninvolved areas of the building.
    • Reduce steam burn injuries to firefighters and occupants.
    • Minimize thermal balance disruption.
    • Increase visibility to aid Truck and Engine company operations.
    • Maximize overall reach of stream.


    When preparing to enter the fire area the nozzle firefighter shall ensure that when a combination fog/straight stream nozzle is being used, it is in the straight stream position (barrel rotated all the way to the right).

    The recommended nozzle handling techniques for directing the stream are important for the nozzle firefighter to know and understand:

    • Hold the nozzle, at an arms length, from the bail. This position allows the firefighter to direct the nozzle quickly by simply bending the few feet of hose in the desired direction.
    • Direct the stream out in front and overhead using side to side or clockwise nozzle rotation.

    • As the advance is made, direct the stream off the ceiling and upper walls. (“T” or “O” pattern works well) The deflected water will:
    • Covers a greater area.
    • Cool superheated gases at the ceiling.
    • Prevent flashover by cooling upper levels of the fire area.
    • As the main body of fire is knocked the angle of the stream can be lowered and directed at the burning solid fuels. (seat of the fire)

    Conditions that warrant the use of water fog or broken stream while operating on the interior of a structure:

    • After extinguishment, a water fog or broken stream may be directed out a window in the fire area to assist with removal of heat and smoke. If a smooth bore nozzle was used to control the fire, the bail may be partially shut to create a broken stream. If a fog nozzle was used, adjust the nozzle to a fog pattern.
    • Small incipient stage fires confined to mattress, stuffed chair, wastebaskets etc.
    • Smoldering material i.e. overhaul.

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