The first couple decisions you make after you arrive on scene will determine how your incident will run. Everything from apparatus placement to ventilation, will play an important role in how that scenario will end.
One of the most important decisions is the placement of that first attack line.
One of the golden rules of firefighting used to be that we NEVER direct a hoseline into a window. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that when I was the new guy. “Don’t ever let me see you put that stream in a window, we don’t do that here, we go inside and push that fire out.”
For my first couple years that was drilled into my head so much there was never any question. When that stream goes in the window we push the fire and smoke to the unburned areas of the house.
A bunch of us new guys sat inside a burning building and watched as a hose stream came in a window and sure enough that smoke and fire spread through the house when it was pushed by the stream. That was all I needed, it made perfect sense to me.
It made sense until one day one of the guys that drilled that into my head, popped out a window and gave a couple short bursts from a 1 ¾ line into a basement window where a couch was burning. I asked him what the heck he was doing and he said he learned it a class.
He said “you can give a couple shots just to slow down the fire.” I told him that must have been a stupid class. That debate still goes on all over the country.
I for one will never direct a hose stream into a window. I have seen fire spread that way, and no one is ever going to convince otherwise. There is no way I am going to believe that fire is different and that a hose stream won’t spread it anymore. No hose streams in the window for this guy.
The second most important rule is that we attack inside fire, from the unburned side of the building. That goes along with the same window theory, you get inside and extinguish the fire as you push it outside. It makes sense and it works. If the fire is in the front, the line goes in the back door.
Two attack lines at the same time can be tricky, if the attack isn’t coordinated. Battling smoke and fire can be a tough job but you have never seen tough until you are inside working a fire and another crew comes from another direction and pushes the fire towards you. Maybe we should have those guys that say you can’t push fire see what it feels like to have that smoke, heat and fire pushed at you.
I’m sure there are more than a handful of firefighters out there that will disagree with me on this topic. I have seen a lot of fire pushed through buildings with a hose stream, I have even seen fire pushed from a burning building to an adjacent building with nothing but the hose stream to blame. You may not agree, but it sure is worth some discussion.