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.
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.
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.
Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
While the fire service tries to figure out how much firefighting it can stand and which line to pull, there is a heavier burden to bear and that is commitment-the commitment of protection of your fellow firefighters while attached to a hoseline. There is a sacred bond between an engine crew and the firefighters they protect. This bond is sacred and must not be broken.
Any fire can challenge your crew beyond what you thought possible. You must work at developing challenges in the training phase so that when the reality phase kicks in, you are prepared. For those that believe all extinguishment issues are solved through the looking glass, please take a deeper look. Your people must also be morally tough so that when the chips start to fall, they can throw up a temporary shore, at the very least, for those who might otherwise be trapped.
When the bond snaps, we need to know why. There are few things tougher to do than hold your position at some fires, but hold you must. An engine company provides protection and saves lives. When the bond breaks, the repair may never come. Keep Your Bond Sacred
Video of fire scenes show us as we are. They are not complementary. They are real. While we all feel better because we would never look that bad, are you sure? Some will aways be poor performers and some will just have a bad day with the video rolling.
What we often see is poor task skills incorporated within a poorly structured attack plan. While some individuals stand out due to various errors, they are often operating within a broken system. So, two problems emerge: firefighter errors and scene disorganization. The bigger of these two errors is improper scene management- a total lack of SOP or SOGs, just Helter Skelter!
The task issue of forcing a door or stretching a line incorrectly can hopefully be overcome by someone who paid more attention to those lessons at the academy. Firefighters all learn skills in training school and hopefully rework the memory muscle at house drills; however, when we witness task errors throughout, we are witnessing dysfunction. Fireground dysfunctionality is not easily solved on scene because the problem goes deep. The problem is the fire goes out and no injuries are encountered and we collectively pat ourselves on the back and nothing improves. For many, there is no need for improvement if these two benchmarks are reached.
Beyond skill drills which make up the foundation of firefighter training, we need to also incorporate fire operations protocol . We need to revisit the fire academy as groups and work on our approach to fires in people’s homes. We need to practice directing the actions of firefighters. We need to have our firefighters not just in bunker gear, but truly ready to work on air. our leader needs to understand that good fireground management starts long before arrival on scene. Remember if you want to look good look practice your act.
In Ray’s class, “Engine Company Errors – The Dirty Dozen”, a lack of SOPs is cited as error number one.
Minimize all kinks with plenty of hose when wrapping hydrant.
When catching a hydrant always get plenty of LDH hose around the hydrant. It takes ten feet when catching a corner or 180 catch. It is very easy to come up short and create an unwanted kink or kinks that could cost you greatly in your available fire flow.
Also consider later arriving companies they may be blocked by supply line. When possible loop your LDH to the inside or soil side and not out into the street. The above photo is an example how the line can greatly close down a street. If we were to loop inside it would allow for more street access of later arriving companies.
Before the LDH was the main supply line, we used 2.5 and 3inch hose for supply. Most fire departments laid in or out and allmost always applied the clamp. Now with LDH the primary supply line in the American Fire Service, we just about in some places forgot about the clamp. The clamp is just as important today, as it was twenty or thirty years ago. The clamp keeps photos of your supply bed charged on FB. The clamp allows your driver to do other things and first utilize tank water. The clamp allows the hydrant firefighter to send water/charge the hydrant and then advance down to the scene. Once at the scene this is an additional firefighter that may assist the driver with final hook ups and release the clamp. So many times when the clamp is not applied, the hydrant firefighter is waiting to charge and delaying this firefighter from advancing down to the scene.
An additional note is that it sometimes takes two firefighters to break loose the LDH storz and the driver is all alone. If they were to clamp and allow hydrant firefighter to charge and move down; this would give the driver an additional firefighter to assist with the disconnect of the LDH storz.
So why not use the LDH CLAMP? Have you trained on it? Do you know where it is? Do you clamp everytime?
What if the hydrant is out of service? Have you trained on maximizing tank water? Have you timed your tank? How much tank water is available on your first alarm assignment? Do you think catching a hydrant guarantees success?
Many times every day in America, a fire company secures a hydrant for a working fire. While securing a hydrant can guarantee a sustained supply, it does not guarantee successful fire extinguishment, and/or an adequate supply for a given fire. First, you must have enough fire fighters on-scene to utilize booster water, by stretching and advancing the proper size attack line for the fire situation you are faced with. After this most critical decision has been made and acted upon; then we can and should ensure an adequate supply through other available booster tanks and/or properly securing hydrant water.
So many times a given fire is well within the capabilities of the first due booster tank, but there are not enough firefighters on the first arriving fire company (anything less than four personnel)to efficiently utilize that water. So, when the second due company is delayed because they are securing a hydrant, the firefighters on the scene may be in greater danger, unable to successfully utilize their booster water. It is critical when arriving first due at a working fire, to determine where the fire has BEEN, where the fire is AT, and where the fire is GOING, and where it is GOING to be in two to three minutes. “BAG IT“. After this, you can determine initial tactics. This will assist in the decision to have the second due Engine come straight to the scene and provide additional firefighters and booster water, or delay its arrival to secure a hydrant, because of the need for more water than is available on the first two arriving booster tanks. So many times it’s about how and where you use your initial water, and not how much you have. Once again, always securing a hydrant does not guarantee success. Proper flow rates and application of water on the seat of the fire, along with a prompt and sustained water supply are a recipe for successful fire extinguishment.
If you do determine there is a need for hydrant water, maximize the hydrants available water. Make sure you are able to connect to all available ports. Ensure the distance from the hydrant to the fire is within the acceptable friction loss numbers. Even LDH needs pumping when you need maximum water for fire extinguishment. When you place your engine/pump directly on the plug you can almost pull water. When you just hook up and lay the line down the street, you are relying on the municipal water system to provide adequate water based on the daily consumption and available pressure. When the fire apparatus pump is at the plug, you can utilize it to boost pressure and overcome the friction loss created, even in LDH.
Can you maximize the tank and hydrant together? Can you zero out your intake,? Does your LDH intake swivel, so you can turn it forward or rear of apparatus, depending on what direction supply is coming from? Do you rely on supply strickely from one hydrant supplying one engine and take all attacks lines off that one engine? If you do this, your placing all your trust in one hydrant and one pump.
The 300′ Drill!
Catch a hydrant and lay 300′ of LDH supply line on the ground, and charge the hydrant to feed the fire department pumper. Stretch and flow as many lines as possible. Calculate the amount of water,(GPM) you are able to flow. Second, shut down the hydrant and hook up a second fire department pumper to the hydrant, hooking up to all available hydrant ports. Once you have secured all available water from the hydrant, hook up the previously laid LDH to a discharge on the pumper, and send it all to the pumper 300′ down the line. Once again, stretch and flow as many lines as possible and calculate your flow (GPM). You may be surprised with the positive results. This will show how critical it is to have a fire department pumper maximizing the hydrant, and taking advantage of all available water.
When do you stretch Multiple Attack Lines off the First Due Engine on arrival? What is the consumption or cost of charging those lines off tank water? How many Firefighters are needed to operate these lines? Do your firefighters understand when to SHUT down, even if the fire has not been knocked down? We need to THINK in terms of Gallons Per Second when operating off TANK WATER!!
When do you need to pump LDH? This Company is Moving Big Water.
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? This allows the hydrant firefighter to charge hydrant and advance to scene.
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 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?
Curb the Supply. Bring supply in Curb side when possible.
The LDH is a serious water supply asset when used properly and totally understood. But with anything it too can be a problem when all factors are not considered. When securing a hydrant consider a reverse lay in the opposite direction of the remaining companies that are responding. This will allow them easier access with-out the hinderance of the LDH blocking them. Consider hugging the curb to lay the line as close as possible to curb and not block the street. Once you have arrived at the scene try and minimize any excess hose by breaking and utilizing the shorter links out of the compartment. Also consider if a Ladder Company has arrived and/or will be needed. If it has not arrived and will possibly be needed, consider how to arrange supply as to not impede Ladder Company positioning.
Take the time and get it right the first time. LDH is only as good as we allow it to be.