Water 💦 Is The Equalizer 🔥

Water is the equalizer in destroying the Fire Triangle. Understanding the Fire Triangle is necessary for successful extinguishment and survival on the fireground. Water application increases survivability for civilians and firefighters alike. 

Water eliminates the heat before the entry of oxygen, creates and maintains survivable space for civilians first and firefighters second, and aids in property conservation. Homes can dry out, but it is difficult for them to be unburned.

Current building and remodeling practices hinge on energy efficiency creating a significant opportunity for more oxygen-limited fires. When arriving on the scene of a fire presenting with these conditions, we must never forget that water is the equalizer.

Water application on black fire, superheated gasses, and the heated interior environment will allow engine and truck firefighters to conduct fire attack and a rapid primary search. Water application is the leading tactic in preventing death on the nozzle.

When placing people before water, fireground commanders must understand the importance of rapid attack or fast water from the water supply we bring to the fire in our booster tank and following it up by utilizing the booster backup.

This tactic provides more water on the scene, and additional firefighters get the initial line in operation, and a primary search underway rapidly. UL’s scientific research indicates the first flashover in a structure occurs between 00:03:20 and 00:04:50 during four experiments under similar conditions from 2009 to 2020. But a building will continue to heat and bring other rooms to their ignition temperature, setting the stage for the next flashover event on the fireground.

While the booster backup tactic will not completely extinguish all fires utilizing two booster tanks, the forward advance of the enemy will slow down while awaiting reinforcements. When in this situation, firefighters must have tactics reinforced through training to establish a sustained water supply.

Options for the water supply include a forward lay, reverse lay, or hand stretching within a reasonable distance based on your supply hose. You will find videos of these tactical options below. As a fire ground commander, I prefer the reverse lay option to the hydrant. This tactic can provide an additional advantage against the enemy, maximizing the gallons per minute sent back to the fire scene with an engine pumping from the hydrant.

Water provides firefighters the most significant opportunity to win the war against the fire, the products of combustion, and the ongoing demolition of structural building components. Water is the equalizer in leveling and destroying the enemy on the field of battle.

Our fields of war are the neighborhoods we protect. We are responsible for the people within those areas who depend on us to rescue them at all hours of the day and night. People go to sleep easier at night knowing we will come for them, their children, and their families.

Tank Water Blitz Attack 2.50" 1 1/8 Tip, Water Supply 3.00" Driver Back Stretch to Hydrant.

Tank Water Blitz Attack, Gustin Pack Add On, Driver Water Supply Back Stretch to Hydrant.

Residential RAM Attack, Driver Water Supply Front Yard Hydrant Hookup, Deck Gun Attack

Water Supply LDH Forward Lay, Hydrant Positioning, Two Firefighter Hookup, Supply Hose Management

Water Supply LDH Reverse Lay, Driver Hydrant Hookup Full Tap, All Hydrant Discharges

Water Supply, HOT Exhaust Hose Protection, Grass Fire Prevention Urban Interface

Death on the Nozzle, Boarded Up, Trust Your Gut, Nozzle Firefighter, Coordinated Attack

A coordinated fire attack is essential in our modern fire environment where fires are burning hotter and faster than ever with our synthetic home furnishings. Civilian lives are depending on the synchronized actions of firefighters to remove heat and improve their oxygen-deficient atmosphere. Together the fire conditions and civilian lives present tremendous challenges for the incident commander and the nozzle firefighter that at times will require you to listen to that voice inside called gut instinct.

Oscar Armstrong

County Fire Tactics asks you to take a moment of pause while reading this article to remember the loss of Firefighter Oscar Armstrong II 18 years ago today, March 21st, 2003. In March 2003, Firefighter Armstrong was assigned to the nozzle position when his life suddenly ended in a flashover during a residential fire at 1131 Laidlaw Avenue in the Bond Hill section of Cincinnati Ohio. At the time of his death, he was 25 years old and left behind two children, and a fiance expecting the birth of another child.


When the incident commander arrives on the scene, regardless of rank or vehicle style, the framework for the overall success of the fire begins with the scene size-up, selection of the tactics that will put out the fire based on manpower available, and the tempo at which the tactics are carried out. The photo shows smoke coming from a one-story wood frame with a central hallway leading from the front to the rear. This older home is sealed up tight, boarded up windows, and a damaged roof tarped with furring strips. A gut instinct by the IC drove a slightly slower tempo in recognizing the potential for extreme fire conditions upon opening up this oxygen or ventilation limited fire.

257 Elm Street Atlanta Georgia

This fire occurred less than six months after Firefighter Steven Solomon lost his life in a fire that occurred on November 23rd, 2006 at 257 Elm Street in Atlanta Georgia. Chief Isakson attended Firefighter Solomon’s funeral and received a first-hand account from an Atlanta Fire Chief regarding the initial conditions and operations where Steven lost his life. Isakson’s gut instinct to slow the tempo and open up before letting his firefighters advance was based on the fire behavior similarities that the two fires presented.

Steven Solomon

The unedited house fire video below shows in real-time how the nozzle firefighter is challenged more than ever to read smoke, understand fire behavior, and prevent rapidly changing fire conditions through the proper application of water with a gallons per second mindset. Gallons Per Second is a firefighter’s primary weapon to level the playing field and defeats the enemy by controlling and reducing the heat, also known as the third leg of the fire triangle. The video also captures the actions of both firefighters and the driver operator confirming proper stretch of the attack lines, proper operational pump discharge pressure, and adequate fire flow to get water on the fire in the right gallons per second.



The time-delayed tactics employed during the operation included utilizing the booster backup concept from the second due unit, and utilizing the third due unit for a sustained water supply. The fire was controlled with only about 1,500 gallons of tank water from the first two engines on scene. Employing actions like these place people before water in support of incident priorities on the modern fire ground.

During the initial fire attack, the ongoing size up revealed a separate one-bedroom apartment only accessible from the Charlie side of the structure. The line going down the Bravo side continued the interior fire attack in this section of the converted single-family home. Direct water application through interior fire attack allows firefighters to rapidly remove heat, and replace it with oxygen through our fire ground tactics. Water creates and maintains survivable space giving trapped civilians the highest probability of survival. View a related article titled “Gallons Per Second, Creates Survivable Space, 2.50″ Smooth Bore Attack, Water On The Fire”.

As referenced above, from the Nozzle Firefighter to the Fireground Commander, knowledge and understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics is more important than ever before. By studying ALL of the UL studies we can continue to operate as an aggressive fire service utilizing scientific facts to occupy interior space and improve incident outcomes for civilians and firefighters. Part of this knowledge must include the opportunity for more than one flashover event.

Maurice Bartholomew

While the first room may flash in as little as three minutes and twenty seconds (00:03:20), other compartments within the structure will continue to heat and await additional oxygen as seen in this ventilation limited fire. UL has conducted tremendous fire behavior research in real structures over the past decade. UL’s scientific research indicates the first flashover in a structure occurs between 00:03:20 and 00:04:50 during four experiments under similar conditions from 2009 to 2020. View the newly produced UL fire video.

Fire conditions rapidly evolve and as professionals, we must continue to educate our peers, and superiors on the need for training, proper fire flows, and nozzles capable of punching the fire in the throat. Train and mentor your brother and sister firefighters. This article is written in memory of Maurice Bartholomew, Steven Solomon, Oscar Armstrong, and all firefighters who have died on the nozzle.

Water Supply— When do we secure a hydrant?


When do we need to pump LDH?

When do you need to pump LDH? This Company is Moving Big Water.

Water Supply

Do you pre-connect NST/Storz to hose or leave in hydrant bag? Top Three Photos By: Phil Cohen “Camden NJ”

Does your company/driver understand how to pump the four-way valve?

When do we need to pump LDH? Do you use some type of fourway valve?

First Due Stretched Attack line. Second Due gave a three inch feeder "water supply" and supported Fire Attack. Third Due secured hydrant. Just a thought for some Suburban/County Fire Tactics. This allowed for a rapid and successful knock down with timely searches and ventilation.

Securing a hydrant is so high on so many Fire Ground Commanders’ check list; they sometimes fail to really evaluate the Fire Flow needs. They have it ingrained to get a hydrant. First, I would like to say most Working Fires are controlled with Tank Water. And most, if not all LODDs have nothing to do with a lack of on-scene water. I am a big advocate of using water to need more. So, why do we put in our tactics text books that the second due secures water? Or better yet place it in our SOGs? I will tell you why! Because some time in the past; we ran out of water trying to make a knock on a FIRE. Then the following day a MEMORANDUM came out “FIRST DUE WILL SECURE A HYDRANT”. I guess the thinking is that this would guarantee success at all fires.

Do not miss-read this post. I would love to have a hydrant in front of every structure that was on fire. This is not the case. So we must train on decision making with conditions at hand. When dealing with a normal size house and your first two engines carry Suburban Booster Tanks/Suburban Manning, evaluate your capabilities. Time Your Tank and account for Tactical Priorities!

Well, what if the first on-scene Engine “crew of three with 752.5 gallons of water on board” has a one room fire on the second floor of a small private dwelling with possible entrapment? Now how important is it for second due to secure a hydrant while only two firefighters stretch an attack line and try and advance in and upstairs with a return staircase. The FLASHOVER will happen before you even get a supply line in place and even then the line will not take back what has already occurred. Let’s evaluate the needs here. More firefighters to assist getting a line upstairs to extinguish with Gallons per Second/PRE-VENT FLASHOVER or have second due secure a hydrant so when the house goes fully involved because the crew of three could not reach the one room fire they will have a secured water supply. Then will the static supply lay of 500’ really supply what you need? Please don’t put the cart before the horse. Just because the First Arriving Engine secures a hydrant does not guarantee success. But, if you’re going to secure a hydrant then why not do it 100%. You think, what is a 100%? That would be when the hydrant is fully tapped and a Pump pulling the water and then pushing it. There can be over 500 GPM difference at only 300’ of LDH. Remember friction loss does exist in LDH. Seven pounds per 100’ using 5” at a 1000 GPM and 20 pounds per 100’ of 4” at 1000 GPM flow. The other problem is the residual water available when not fully tapping the PLUG. We have found nearly 25% more water available when fully tapping.

Success is only a possibility when Firefighters FIRST and Fire Officers Second, understand Fire Ground Tactics. Firefighters are the ones stretching and applying the water. They are the ones at the hydrant by themselves.  Fire cannot be extinguished with Strategy alone. Fires cannot be extinguished without Tactics. So make sure your Firefighters can perform their required Tactics and then confirm your Officer knows when and why to call for specific types Tactics to be performed. Just simply stating to always catch a hydrant first will not guarantee success.

When looking at your water supply capabilities look at your hydrant bag first. Does it carry two ball valves to full tap plug? Do you have a 2.5” NST to 5” storz for the plugs that do not have a steamer and/or it is unable to be opened? Does your hydrant bag has the steamer to storz connection in the BAG or pre-connected to the hose in bed? I HIGHLY RECOMMEND do not pre-connect!! Having it pre-connected does not SAVE TIME. It only limits your capabilities. When your bag has everything but the steamer to storz, it’s incomplete. What if you do a reverse supply and the steamer to storz is left at the scene and the Hydrant firefighter now has everything but the BIG CONNECTION? What if you need to hook up to a 2.5” port? Now you must remove before connecting.  What if you decide to hook-up a four way valve? Then, there are the ones that will not swivel freely and your LDH gets turns in it. If it was not pre-connected, you just spin it on and then click in the storz. LAST and MOST important!!! Connecting storz with locks on them is a ONE PERSON JOB. Disconnecting storz with locks will most likely be a TWO PERSON JOB. Do you carry a pipe wrench for hydrants that are old and your hydrant wrench cannot get a grip on valve? Escambia had a Fire where the hydrant wrench would not work because it would not close enough to grip.

So if you really need hydrant water than make the most of it. The Big Fires need Big Water. If you’re dealing with a house fire and people are possibly trapped evaluate your priorities and manpower available. It is awesome if you have Engines and Trucks arriving at the same time as to always allow the Second Due Engine to secure a hydrant. The problem is most of the Fire Service does not have this available.

So at your next Fire ask yourself if it is more manpower or more water you need first. If it is water you need; make the most of your supply.

Why would you not apply a hose clamp everytime?

Why would you not apply a hose clamp? This allows the hydrant firefighter to charge hydrant and advance to scene.

Are you think about a split lay? What if the NST to Storz was pre-connected?

Do you consider split lays? How does this assist fast water? How does this assist with Big Water?

Do you take advantage of short sections of LDH?

Do you take advantage of short sections of LDH? Do you just pull another 100' off the rear to create more kinks and apparatus blockage?

The ability to allow more apparatus into the scene. The ability to control water supply at the scene.

Escambia Engine 4 Hydrant Bag. What do you carry and where?