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.



“The What’s and the Whys”


You really can’t say one without the other being attached to it. You can’t really be “Combat Ready” if you don’t maintain strict “Operational Discipline”. If you don’t practice, live, and believe in being operational disciplined and maintaining a state of combat readiness….the outcome of our incidents are predictable. People will be injured, people will die, even firefighters will be injured and die….… may not happen today or tomorrow, but rest assured it will happen. Don’t expect to handle the nothing calls with complacency and expect to perform exceptional on the big calls…….it won’t happen that way. It’s rolling the dice and sooner or later, our luck will run out and we will pay a big price.

I debated on whether to post this because on the surface it seems so basic and non-interesting. However, the more I thought about this seemingly apathetic approach that some have in the fire service and reflected on my own personal experiences, it became clear that this is something worthy of mentioning again. A vital step in being prepared to succeed on the fireground, starts with how we dress and prepare for the big game. Every call is the “Big Game”, regardless whether it is a fire alarm activation or a reported structure fire with multiple calls received. Taking the same disciplined approach to every call fights complacently. There is nothing more accurate than a recent statement made by the City of Pensacola Fire Department Battalion Chief Ginny Cranor. “Complacently is the best friend of worst case scenario”. Think about that quote for a moment and let it sink in…..the unforgiving blunt truth. And…if you are an officer take NOTE, it’s all on your shoulders. What you permit, you promote.

So let’s take a look and dissect a company that exudes operational discipline. This is an engine company in my department and what one can expect from every company within my department-Operational Discipline being Combat Ready on every run.

FULL PPE on EVERY CALL INCLUDING SCBA-All the bunker gear donned and worn properly. Everything is in a place for a reason. Suspenders up tight, gloves either on or readily accessible for rapid donning, collars up, jacket snapped. SCBA donned properly including the SCBA waist strap…..I know it looks cool with the waist strap hanging down but looking cool does nothing but create an entanglement hazard with operating in a combat situation. Wait until rehab and look cool then.

HOODS ON EVERYTIME-If you don’t don your hood every time, it is VERY likely you will forget when you are masking up. How do I know that? Because I have made that mistake multiple times including one time burning my ears when I forgot to hood up. I fixed the problem by NEVER going on a call without my hood donned. In addition, GAS LEAKS-as Battalion Chief Curt Isakson pounds into everyone’s head, “Hoods up, flaps down”. That IS your only flash protection in the event shit goes sideways. Hoods on every time and create that muscle memory so you don’t forget like I have.

RADIOS IN THE RIGHT PLACE-Radios on radio leather straps, under the coats, just below the waist line of the SCBA so that the firefighter can lift up his jacket and have access to the radio knobs. Lapel mics just outside the coat collar so that the firefighter can easily HEAR and TALK on the radio. It is under the coat because the radio and the accessories are not heat rated, meaning at a certain temperature much lower than your gear, it will degraded and malfunction. Avoid the “door chalk” radio…the radio that has no lapel mic and the one you have to carry or put in your pocket. Carry it and it takes up an arm/ hand that you should be using for a tool. Unless you plan on holding it up to your ear the entire incident, you WILL miss radio communication. Find a better way to carry it…or spend your own money and buy a strap. It may save your life….don’t take my word, research it and you will understand.

LIGHTS-You will never have too much light….but you will not have enough light at some point. Notice all the firefighters have THREE lights. A box light, a 90 light, and a helmet light. They all have their purpose and it may make the difference whether you make a grab or not, or find an exit or not. Don’t take my word…… to a brother that is proven and been in many fires, they will attest to the importance of multiple lights.

IDENTIFIERS-All four company members have the correct company identifiers on their helmets. This is important and makes all the difference when trying to determine who is with what company. I can tell you from and command perspective, this is vitally important. Notice the names on the shields…this helps increase firefighter accountability as well. HOWEVER, this is usually varies from FD to FD depending on what their standard is. BUT, what you can do (but you can’t see in this picture), is use a label maker and place your last name on the bottom part of your mask. This makes it easier to identify you quickly, especially if you are injured or unconscious. You also can’t see in this picture, but company identifiers on the bottles of SCBA are vital and increase company accountability as well.

TOOLS-Every firefighter has assigned tools based on riding positions on the rig. As Chief Lasky would say, a firefighter without tools is nothing more than a well-dressed spectator. Not only carry the correct tools, but also tune the tools up so they work best for the company. IRONS tuned filed down, marked and married together for quick deployment and convenient carrying and an aluminum wedge to further assist with forcible entry. Hooks equipped with wrap for good grip, always carry the versatile 6 foot hook, the water can with a strap to easily carry-notice it is equipped with multiple wedges. Always carry tools….don’t be “that guy” that comes to the command post and is given a task, but doesn’t have tools with them to accomplish a given assignment. FDNY Lt Mike Ciampo has a simple rule and just makes sense, “2 Hands, 2 Tools”.

POCKETS-Guaranteed that every firefighter in this picture has multiple items in their pockets for immediate use such as wire cutters, webbing, rope, carabineer’s, additional gloves, pliers and more.

COMPANY OFFICER-The guy (or gal) that the company’s successes and failures fall on. He always carries the TIC. He is the most experienced and is responsible for making VITAL decisions and many of those decisions are based off what he interprets through the TIC. If the company only has one TIC, there should be no reason anyone else carries it other than the officer. Officer tool-usually the choice of the officer. In this case it is a 4 foot hook with a haligan and an aluminum wedge. This allows him to force entry if need be and a hook for other functions.

Operational discipline takes work everyday, every hour. Be diligent, strive for excellence and fight complacency by being Operational Discipline and maintaining a Combat Readiness. Don’t allow anyone, any culture, or any rank keep you from being prepared and ready. I can assure you that your kids, your family and loved ones expect nothing less from you!

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Aggressive Firefighting Saves Lives!!

I will not make excuses for supporting Aggressive Interior Firefighting. I have supported Direct Water Application since the 90s and have been teaching it for nearly 15 years. I supported going through the front door even with fire venting through that same door way before some test burns proved that we don’t PUSH FIRE with straight and SOLID streams. Urban Firefighters have been teaching Direct Water Application/Entry through the front door most of the time regardless of fire location. They taught this based on hundreds of FIRES they had been apart of extinguishing, at all times of the day and night. Fires that were not in a controlled environment in the middle of the day. These fires were in all types of structures with different fuel packages and different tactics. There was a time that the Urban/Fireground Experienced Firefighter was valued. Their time fighting REAL FIRES under emergency conditions were valued as a positive and not as a negative. It seems that some feel just reading books and spending time on social media certifies them to tell others how its done. I realize not all firefighters have the opportunity to get fight fires frequently and that’s ok. I respect the firefighter that continues to read and train so when the do have a fire, they are that much more prepared for BATTLE. Battle is what fighting fires is and always will be. You can not completely replace or reach the same level without the experiences. Its like our USA Women’s Soccer Team. They won not only from skill but the experience of playing in BIG MATCHES. Experience Matters! Take classes, Train in a drill tower, Get Acquired Structures, do whatever you can to prepare yourself for BATTLE. But at the end of the day you cant fully replace time compressed decision making under emergency conditions. The Fireground is a unique place and so many can do a certain tactic on the drill field, but fail to be able at 2am when fire is blowing out multiple windows. Time teaches us all that experience matters in so many parts of life. Kids thin their smarting than mom and dad until they get older. Life teaches us lessons. I wish more were looking to study the Urban Firefighter and working towards making the most with their staffing instead of making up excuses. Time Delayed Tactics is part of limited staffing. Figure out what needs to be done and then prioritize. You may need to delay some tactics until more staffing arises. Stop Making Excuses and figure out how to do the best you can, with what’s provided to you. I realize some do not have the staffing to vertically ventilate. But just because you do not have the staffing does not mean its not needed, just that you can’t do it based on staffing levels. We haven’t been doing it wrong. We have been very successful in the fire service at saving civilian lives and property. We continue to save lives everyday. We must continue to look for the best way in and sometimes/most of the time that’s the FRONT DOOR.

If we do not slow down on this push for exterior fire attack at fires, Civilians Lives will be lost in larger numbers. I have studied a large number of civilian rescues/grabs. The Grabs/Rescues were done on firegrounds were AGGRESSIVE INTERIOR TACTICS were used from the start. Civilians are mostly dying from smoke inhalation and not thermal burns. You can FLOW WATER from the yard all day and COOL the environment. But if FIREFIGHTERS are not getting inside rapidly to locate and remove the trapped civilians, they will die regardless of how COLD your HARD FROM  THE YARD is. This is not a HOT and COLD topic. Its a LIFE and DEATH topic.

Lets get back to putting the CIVILIAN FIRST!!

I am VERY proud to tell my family and neighbors that they come first when I am on-duty ready to SERVE. I am ready to serve them like the Soldier is serving all of us to provide FREEDOM. We are/become so SAFETY CONCIOUS were almost hang cuffing ourselves. Safety is Great until it cost more Lives than its saving.

Let me say that again….. SAFETY is GREAT, Until it Cost More Lives than its SAVING!!

Aggressive Firefighting Saves Lives and Property.

If you want to save firefighter lives than push for better diets, more time getting physically fit, better annual physicals, less stress in the firehouse, and WEARING SEATBELTS..

Wish I had more time to RANT.

I support Transitional Attack when staffing or the Fire Dictates. But I do not respond looking to do that as my first option. I hope that staffing and fire conditions allow an Offensive Interior Attack, utilizing the front door.

Have a Great Day!

Thanks-Curt Isakson