If you look for the definition of a water carnival, you most likely won’t find one that says it is a bunch of fireman surrounding a building and pouring water into it for hours.  In the fire service, we sometimes get into a situation where a building is heavily involved in fire, there are no victims inside, and not much of the building that can be saved.  In this situation we bring out our big nozzles and spray water from a safe distance.

Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, and risk nothing to save nothing.  That is a rule we use to help us decide how aggressive we are going to be at a fire.  If there are victims in the building, there is a lot to save so we will make tactical decision that may put our firefighters in more danger.  If a building has been evacuated and is well involved in fire, there isn’t much to save.  Not much to save means we will risk very little.  A water carnival is a safe way to control a fire where there is nothing left to save.

There is a difference of opinion between firefighters when it is time to decide what type of fire attack we would like to engage in.  Almost every firefighter is ready to risk a little more than administrators.  Sitting back and watching a building burn is not what we are supposed to do.  I have been at several fires where the firefighters we ready to go in and battle the fire but management has a more conservative opinion.  It is logical that those people in charge lean toward being conservative.  After all, they are responsible for everyone at that fire scene.

I recently watched one of these water carnivals on television.  Large empty building, all occupants were outside and a large amount of fire in the building which was about 100 feet by 150 feet. There were three streams of water coming from ladder trucks and at least three master streams coming from ground nozzles.  If you add up the flow from those lines, you will come up with about 6000 gallons of water per minute going into that building.  Whenever a speck of flame came through the roof, all three of these ladder streams knocked down that flame.

I guess that’s what fireman are supposed to do, but in this instance, it might have been better to just let the fire burn a while so the roof would not protect hidden fires.  Letting the roof burn off would allow that fire to be extinguished instead of having the fire continue for a few more hours, burning in spaces not accessible by the master streams.

I personally look at most of these fires and wonder why no one is going inside to try and put out the fire.  When I was trained, fireman were brave, proud, and half crazy.  Today firefighters are safety conscious, brave, and proud. As much as it bothers me to see one of these buildings go to the ground, I guess it does make sense to risk nothing to save nothing.

By John Morse

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