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Video: Speed matters when applying water to flames

How to increase the impact of suppression efforts at structure fires

When responding to structure fires, the faster crews can apply water to flames, the better the outcome for everyone on scene. However, the method or operation by which water is applied varies based on the situation at hand, the number of firefighters and resources available, and the size and location of the fire.

In today’s training video, you can see the immediate impact of water being applied to a fire. The building on fire has significant flames showing from the rear on both sides. The fire is self-venting from both the first and second floor with exposure to the parked vehicles that have also caught fire.

A single hoseline is deployed to the rear and charged, then applied to the fire from the outside. Shortly after, the smoke color changes from black to a greyish-white as the flames disappear and the exposure issue is stopped, all prior to making entry into the building.

As we all know, delays getting water on a fire can create significant problems. Speed is the name of the game; however, in addition to speed, members can increase their effectiveness on scene by:

  • Adding more hoselines. The longer a fire burns without water applied, the more damage it does. Multiple hoselines increase the volume of water being applied and will more quickly extinguish the flames.
  • Applying a straight stream. To have the biggest impact on the flames, water should be applied in a straight stream – and not a fog-like pattern. As water expands to 1,700 times its original volume when applied to a heat source, the straight stream will help to minimize the steam conversion effects on the crew, as well as any occupants inside. In the video, we can see a smoothbore nozzle being used, which greatly reduces this unwanted effect of water on fire application.

Training time

When facing the next structure fire in your response area, quickly apply water to the fire in a manner best suited for the situation, which will increase its impact on the flames.

After watching this video with your company, carve out some training time:

  • Set up a training evolution to practice pulling a hoseline, charging it and applying water in a straight stream.
  • Examine the nozzles that are on your fire truck and hoselines to see how much water the nozzle can flow. Pump the hoselines so that they are flowing the maximum amount of water that the nozzle can deliver to develop familiarity with the flow rate and nozzle reaction produced.

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.