The ins and outs of passing fire
Interior fire attack is an operation that must be handled with care. The care element is not about water usage for extinguishment, because it typically doesn’t take that much, or about wetting the pathway; it’s about knowing how to perform interior fire attack. Interior fire attack is vastly different from exterior attack. The reason is when you’re inside, your skill level and knowledge directly impact your safety and that of other firefighters.
Multiroom interior fire attack varies depending on room layout. When we encounter multiple rooms of fire that we are traveling through to get to the next one, that is handled differently from rooms off a hallway. If each room entry is in line with the next, we can often get multiple rooms knocked back just by lowering the stream below the header to hit the room ahead. When the rooms on fire are off a hallway, they must, for the most part, be handled individually. This and any fire extending into the rooms ahead of the nozzle team will cause us to share the stream between two locations.
According to the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, exterior stream entry into a fire room is best accomplished by aiming a narrow stream at the ceiling with a high-entry angle and leaving it in place for a time, allowing for less air entrainment until a change in conditions is noted. This exterior stream is restricted to narrow coverage because of window heights and widths. Regrowth of the fire will often occur if additional water is not applied again to the room.
While this exterior fire attack stream technique has been used to knock back the fire, I would not use it from the interior. When you are attacking a room of fire from the interior and you need to pass that room to hit additional rooms, this exterior technique is not enough.
When you approach the fire room from the hallway, you should first look to keep any distant fire away from your current position, such as when it’s extending into the hallway. You must keep fire in the hallway in check so that you have time to take care of the room closest to you.
To gain a knockdown from your interior position, start with a high-angled stream into the room, keeping it just under the header so that it impacts the ceiling close to the entry wall. When the stream impacts closer to your entry point, more of the ceiling is coated, allowing for more cooling of the hottest surface in the room. This stream placement may also place some water on the “dry wall” entry wall.
If you were to shut the stream down now, your fire attack would result in a knock-back condition. This limited fire attack is similar to the exterior stream. If at this point you moved down the hallway, you would place yourself in a position where fire behind you will exist. The fire in this room would most likely regrow as you continue deeper into the fire area. This partial hit is not suitable by itself on the interior.
After applying water to cool the ceiling and often the opposite wall, you need to lower the stream angle so additional areas and burning items are covered as well. Initial water application can usually be accomplished from the hallway; however, nozzle entry into the room is warranted to gain better coverage. Get the nozzle past the space-restricting doorway to increase your coverage range. Closets and entry door swings often conceal areas of fire that can quickly enter the hallway behind the nozzle team.
To combat those factors, attempt to close the door to the room you just hit. By confining that room, we have added a level of protection for ourselves against fire behind the nozzle team. Even if the door is partially burned through, close what’s left. If you are supporting the line’s advance (door position), this is a good position to move up to so that the room or rooms can be monitored against regrowth.
The use of backup hoseline is recommended any time the first line has a situation where a multiple-room fire has been identified.
Don’t settle for a knock-back condition, which easily leads to regrowth. Instead, attack the fire room aggressively to gain fire knockdown, which is the last stage leading to extinguishment. A second line can now handle any fire that may develop or extend behind the nozzle team. Remember to always stretch another for your brother.