Handline selection for single family dwelling fires
In this edition of “KTW” Captains Yslas, Ferrari and Espinosa offer their thoughts on the deployment of 1½” vs 1¾” handlines, as well as how to maintain credibility when one does not possess a wide array of operational experience. Each of their responses are based on a wealth of knowledge and experience, and can serve as a primer in discussing similar issues within your respective fire stations.
Operational Question: The 1¾” handline has become the automatic line of choice for most companies on nearly all structure fires. With respect to SFD’s, do you agree with this line of thinking or is a 1½” handline still a practical option?
CII Randy Yslas, FS48-B: The advantage of a 1¾” over that of a 1½” is primarily due to the added gpm. This increased volume is a safety factor that cannot be denied. If nozzle reaction from the 1¾” becomes too difficult, “gating it down” or adjusting the stream pattern can help minimize it. Benefits such as tighter bends without kinking, less friction when pulling, and withstanding higher temperatures are design features built into the 1¾” hose.
One benefit of the 125 gpm nozzle is that it does not incorporate a cumbersome pistol grip. The 1¾” pistol grip can, however, be used as a handle or a hook when pulling. To me, SAFETY is the determining factor. If a member selects a 1½” thinking the 125 gpm nozzle will provide adequate volume and he/she is wrong, they would have little recourse – either retreat or become overwhelmed. For this reason alone I choose the 1¾” over a 1½”.
CI Nick Ferrari, FS47-A: The 1½” is a viable option when battling fires in SFD’s. If properly managed, the 1½” handline will provide adequate volume to suppress fires in most small to medium size SFD’s.
Equally important as HL selection is a member’s knowledge and manipulative skill of the various HL themselves. Every member is responsible for identifying the appropriate HL based principally on fire load, involvement and potential. It does not matter which HL is chosen if the selection criteria is flawed and/or you cannot manipulate it effectively.
Bottom line – there is no “one size fits all” solution. Members defaulting to a 1¾” who then become ineffective because of the increased nozzle reaction must realize the added volume is now pointless. The 1½” has historically been used on one-roomers and attic fires with great success. With small to medium size SFD’s the 1½” HL will provide sufficient volume, is easily maneuvered and will afford ample firepower if used properly.
CI Frank Espinosa, FS16- A: In my opinion a 1½” is an option at some SFD fires. I feel there are too many variables to dictate absolutes with respect to HL selection such as: building size and height, distance from apparatus, involvement, fire loads, etc. Most often, I want my FF’s to assess and decide when they arrive on-scene.
A critical component in remaining flexible is an ongoing assessment of the fireground. My crew may initially consider deploying a 1½” and by the time they don their BA’s and run to the transverse bed, conditions have changed that now dictate a 1¾”. FF’s must be able to think on their feet to be most effective.
In many instances it’s not the volume difference of the two HL’s, but rather a member’s ability to safely and effectively ID, locate and define the fire area that determines success. While for many small to medium SFD’s a 1½” is practical, its overall effectiveness is dependent on a FF’s ability to deploy and operate the handline and NOT the line itself.
Leadership Question: As an officer, how do I stay credible and legitimate with my command when I don’t have the operational experience and general knowledge as many of our seasoned officer?
Ferrari: In the absence of experience and with a diminishing pool of seasoned officers to learn from, it is incumbent upon all of us to seek out training and take advantage of every opportunity to apply what is learned. You must immerse yourself into every aspect of your position while also identifying the capabilities of your members.
Early on I learned a valuable lesson when supervising engineers, as I was not a rated member myself. Just as they must trust me as their officer, I too must trust their judgment in a position I never held. This is NOT a blind trust, but rather a mutual trust founded in a solid working relationship.
Many of the traits we need to succeed are no different than those we look for in recruits. You must work hard while demonstrating integrity, consistency and passion. It’s imperative you lead by example and instill department value standards onto your commands. Lastly, continue learning your craft and strive to become a credible source and mentor to all members.
Yslas: Credibility and legitimacy are not synonymous with operational experience and knowledge. There is only one way to gain experience and knowledge and that is self-explanatory in the words themselves.
The way to gain credibility and legitimacy is through hard work, humility and honesty. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Instead, grow with your crew through training on basics and performing the basics you’ve trained on. Be consistent in managing your crew so they know what to expect.
Finally, be courageous and lead from the front. Do not be afraid to make unpopular decisions as long as they are in the best interest of your crew, and NOT yourself. Credibility and legitimacy are character traits not obtained through experience and knowledge – they are earned through dedication, determination and diligence.
Espinosa: Maintaining credibility boils down to being honest – both with my command and myself. I never want to paint a “false picture” in regards to my knowledge, as my crew will see right through that façade. You must strive to be in a constant state of learning in an effort to improve so you may best safeguard those around you.
Truthfully assess your personal qualifications and focus on improving in areas you are most deficient. Do not be afraid to critique yourself, and more importantly share those lessons with your crew. This is something I constantly try to do as it strengthens my skills and builds trust with my command.
Your stated expectations mean NOTHING if you do not abide by them. Always place the needs of your crew before yours, even when it’s inconvenient for you to do so. Remember; your crew is constantly evaluating you, so lead by example and strive to always do the right thing.
Next month in KTW: Captains Eric Thompson, Mark Martinez and Ken Willahan will discuss (1) how to redirect a multi-truck ventilation operation when the actions of two teams differ, and (2) how to address members looking to promote prior to being ready to take on that particular position.
Facilitated by Jerry Bedoya, Captain II, FS 10