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Move the nozzle: Aggressive fire attack is deliberate, fast and controlled

Video shows FDNY crews employing aggressive water application to get the job done

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Let’s state the obvious: Water is our primary resource to suppress fire. Even with dry chemical extinguishments or inert gases that are sometimes used to assist with the suppression of water, in the end, water is needed to finish the job. How we deliver the water from the nozzle to the fire is not so obvious – but it’s a critical factor of our job.

Once the water travels from the pump through the hose and reaches the nozzle, it must be applied in an efficient and effective manner.

Now we’re not going to start debating whether to use smoothbore or combination nozzles. Instead, we’ll focus on the basic principle that the stream of water being applied must be a straight stream or a solid stream of water. There is no reason for a fog pattern to be used inside a structure for significant fire suppression efforts, even for hydraulic purposes. Bottom line: A straight stream or solid stream of water is the most effective and efficient.

When the water from the nozzle is being applied, it needs to be applied aggressively, not lazily. In basic training, we teach our new recruits to move the nozzle or water stream in a “T,” “Z” or “O” pattern to ensure that we are hitting the ceiling, walls, floor and base of the fire. This action needs to be aggressive, specifically, moving the nozzle in a fast yet deliberate motion.

In our corresponding video, we see an example of this aggressive and controlled water application from the outside of the building.

At around the 2:50 minute mark, you will see a water stream exiting the window multiple times in an aggressive fashion. The interior crews are applying the water in an efficient manner to affect a quick knock down the fire. We can see the effects of this aggressive application by the steam being produced at the window.

If water is applied in a slow application method, the water stream’s effectiveness will not be maximized. You never want to give fire the opportunity to reignite or flare up, putting interior crews in an unsafe position.

And in case you’re wondering, applying water in an aggressive fashion does not create more property damage. The amount of water used to suppress a fire will certainly impact property damage, but that should be the last worry on the list. The top priority is to put the fire out, and this will be achieved by applying the water in an aggressive and deliberate fashion.

Training time

After watching this video with your company, take the following steps to continue your training experience:

  • Practice applying water in an aggressive fashion on the tarmac of the station with one handline. There’s no need for a building; practice first outside in the open space.
  • If access to a building is available, practice applying water in an aggressive fashion inside the building. This will give crews a better chance to step up the training by seeing the effects of water hitting the ceiling, walls, floor and base of fire.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.