A question posted recently on Quora asked, “Does direction of handline rotation matter during interior firefighting?” George Kellerman, a former firefighter, gave his opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.
I would challenge any firefighter or instructor to prove that direction of rotation makes a difference. The real purpose of training people to use a specific direction has more to do with training them to move the hose around and hit everything. If you didn't give people a memorable pattern, then they would just do whatever came naturally to them — which may or may not include hitting everything.
Unfortunately, many fire academies train firefighters like they are in the army — it's not for you to think for yourself, just do as you were trained and you'll do fine. That may work for simple fires, but fires are dynamic and often take on a life of their own. My own personal bias would be to teach them to pick a direction and just stick to it.
That said, however, when I was in the fire academy they did not teach us to move in a circle. In fact, we were taught to focus more on the ceiling where the super-heated gases are. One quick blast at the ceiling will convert the water to steam (and cause one cubic foot of water to expand into 1700 cubic feet of steam), which will fill the entire room with steam and smother the fire. In which case, it doesn't really matter what direction you move the hose. You'll be surrounded by smoke and steam no matter what you do.
I can remember going to one house fire where all I did was blast the ceiling for about 10-15 seconds on a semi-wide pattern and the fire went out. I didn't wave the hose around, but I could tell the room was filling with steam and the fire was going out. Later, crews soaked the area with water as part of mop up. The real fire was basically out in the first 60 seconds, and then we just had to ventilate the smoke and check for hot spots and flare-ups.
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Ric JorgeSunday, August 25, 2013 12:33:56 PMI agree, clockwise or counter is irrelevant.
I disagree with your choice of nozzle and the technique you employed if you or anyone else was in the building.
Dan GearhartSunday, August 25, 2013 12:39:50 PMI was always taught, and then trained others, to rotate the hose / nozzle in a clockwise direction when performing the "combination attack." I guess back in the "day" it was believed this was the most effective technique due to being in the northern hemisphere, the earth's rotation, and the Coriolis Effect. I really believe it doesn't matter. The overall goal with this type of interior attack is to convert the applied water to steam which will then control and extinguish the fire. Any introduction of water in a fog pattern, that includes directing the stream to the upper portion of a well involved compartment, will convert to steam and control a fire.
Pete GravellSunday, August 25, 2013 1:33:59 PMWhere's my Straight Bore and Work the entire thing! Well, we got the TFT Midforce and can eat allot of Fire, I don't just sweep the ceiling, I work in Circles, no general direction, it all seems go die out as you hammer it.
Matt SmithSunday, August 25, 2013 1:46:48 PMBest way I have found is to use a "Z" pattern quick sweep on the ceiling then cross down and back. But more important is to remember that water on smoke doesn't put out fire, water on fire is what puts out fire.
Lars AgerstrandSunday, August 25, 2013 1:53:21 PMIf you do not know the difference on gas cooling and an indirect attack your opinion does not matter in this case, obviously a case for both the author and many comments.
If you do not understand that cooling gases contract and if done properly greatly out way the expansion of water to steam, again you have no opinion in the matter.
If you think that there is a one for all nozzle technique, whether it is pulsing fog, sweeps, straight streams, Z, O or whatever you do not understand the physics behind it and have no opinion in the matter.
You need to take the fire behavior, the geometry of the room, the flow paths and more into account and make an educated guess and look for the effect and correct accordingly.
I see no reason as to why rotation direction would affect anything at all besides what you actually hit with the water.
Jim PankninSunday, August 25, 2013 2:40:31 PMIf you are 'filling the room with smoke and steam' then you are doing it wrong. Proper water application means that a thermal balance maintained and there should be a at least a semi-clear layer at floor level. This provides for both firefighter and civilian safety and survivability. The reason for teaching a direction is two-fold. First, it isn't a matter of pushing the fire (or entrained air), but it has to with maintaining thermal balance. I have personally seen, and done, both right and left attacks. Don't ask me to scientifically explain it, but the balance is disrupted with with a counter-clockwise attack. Second, there is a need to have all personnel trained to a common standard. All personnel ahve the responsibility to follow the training to be a part of the team and not some free-lance yah-hoo. If you wish to maintain that there isn't a difference, fine, but please find something else to do and not put your fellow firefighters and civilians at risk.
If you have a problem with the para-military style of training, incident management, rules, etc. then I suggest that you find another profession to follow. The reason for the para-military culture is the absolute need for teamwork and adherence to standard procedures. This isn't to say that there isn't room for deviation depending on the circumstances, but it is to say that any deviation needs to be a result of more than just a whim, passing thought, or a failure to see the need to conform to standards. If following a standard cause a safety concern which will result in injury or death, then feel free to challenge it at the proper time and in the proper way. But to arbitrarily decide that on one's own to violate a standard is unacceptable behavior and has been the cause for too many firefighter injuries and deaths.
Jim ThornSunday, August 25, 2013 3:52:23 PMWe teach in our academy the art of controlling the thermal layer not disturbing it needlessly, also we teach the same clockwise rotation, I have found that students seem to naturally rotate clockwise, and it is easier to keep all recruits on the same page as well as instructors. Like you said, consideration for FF and civilian survivability.
Matthew ODonnellSunday, August 25, 2013 3:57:30 PMIt must have been a small fire then. Wait untill you start using the new education material to fight fires instead of the 1990's material. The numbers don't even come close! And new attack methods don't put you or your partner under so much heat.
Chuck WeberSunday, August 25, 2013 4:18:58 PMClockwise rotation has a tendency to push the fire away from the hose team; counter-clockwise draws it back to the hose team. Not a pleasant experience - been there, done that.
Tim PillsworthSunday, August 25, 2013 4:22:22 PMWe did tests in Rockland County a number of years ago and found it did not change the amount of air moved within the room. The articles are in Fire Engineering, Nozzle Tests I, II , III, buy Knapp, Pillsworth and Flately.
Larry HessSunday, August 25, 2013 4:34:37 PMits funny how we discover these things through trial and error. If you spin a wire braiding it together clock wise it will break on the inside of the braid counter clockwise it breaks on the outside of the braid.
Mitch SandersSunday, August 25, 2013 4:39:16 PMi seriously doubt if steam conversion depends on a particular direction of nozzle sweep. its either really good or really bad. period...
James MendozaSunday, August 25, 2013 6:49:16 PMHey Lars, Royer and Nelson, who coined the phrase "Combination Attack" and who wrote a fire behavior text called Qualitative Fire Behavior in the 50s noted that when doing their exterior attack through a window a clockwise rotation made the smoke and steam move in a circular pattern in the room and would sheet down at the window, but not come out of the window, they state that when they tried the same attack in a counter clockwise direction, the smoke would come out of the window and hit the nozzle operator in the face. In their movie, The Nozzleman, you can see the clockwise rotation and the sheeting effect with the smoke not coming out the window, but they don't have any examples of doing a counter clockwise rotation, which is a shame. I asked about this phenomenon when I was in Sweden in 2007 but didn't receive a great explanation. Would be fun to try however, in a test setting.
Dusty GaySunday, August 25, 2013 6:59:16 PMOddly, fires were being extinguished in exactly the same way 75 years ago as today. Wet stuff meets hot stuff and leg of triad/triangle is gone. The physics of fire was exactly the same when is was controlled with bucket brigades. You can earn 10 doctorate degrees is physics and fire science and you will still extinguish the fire in the same manor. Stop over thinking what we do.
It matters not what direction or pattern you use.
Dusty GaySunday, August 25, 2013 7:05:25 PMGood post Capt. The difference is being left or right handed as to what comes naturally. Is the attack line on your left side or right side. Is the volume of the room on your left or right. is it ventilated. There is a hundred ways to attack a hundred different fires. If there is a civilian is the room of origin, it is extremely doubtful they can be saved, especially if you cant see them before opening the bail. As for firefighter safety, yes it gets hot in a fire. Washington state fire academy cooks each and every recruit in the burn building. Seems we all survived it.
Lars AgerstrandMonday, August 26, 2013 12:19:02 AMJames Mendoza Yes I have seen it, but I have never heard of or been able to construct a reason for it, nor replicating it myself (not that I really tried...)
But I can construct other reasons as to why it could look like it happens, for instance that you do not perform the exact same motion in the other direction and maybe not replicate a fog cone in the same sense. When not replicating a fog the smoke could come out, when replicating a fog cone you push the smoke in. That is in my mind a more plausible reason than simply the rotation. But I am not sure of course.
Until proven otherwise I stick to - I see no reason as to why it would matter. Especially in relation to how cone angle, flow, direction, time and other factors affect the result much more.
Lars AgerstrandMonday, August 26, 2013 12:20:09 AMDusty Gay I disagree greatly, the reason for many many of the problems we have today in the fire service is lack of thinking and knowledge.
Lars AgerstrandMonday, August 26, 2013 12:22:43 AMUntil you can standardize fires you cannot standardize a fire attack.
Gary EidsmoeMonday, August 26, 2013 7:43:32 AMAlso depends if you are north or south of the Equator.
David J BullardFriday, August 30, 2013 6:43:58 PMAgreed, directions mean nothing...we can't mocer it fast enough to create a vortex. However, the bburst to the ceiling and hold it there is a pretty weak explanation.