What a great group - some pretty lively discussions, great interaction, and some compelling suggestions. I sure appreciate your classroom contributions and thanks for facilitating the after-class "debriefing" - your young up-and-coming firefighters have officer written all over them! Keep up the good work.
Good day Scott…sorry for the delay in responding back to you. My wife and I are currently in Mexico. I have limited Internet and email where we are staying in Mazatlan.
First, I would like to preface my responses with CAFS is only another tool for firefighting. It’s not for every department and it is certainly is not for every situation.
A little history and background:
Our department covers a mixed rural and urban area with a population of about 65,000 citizens. Today, we have 7 staffed stations protecting about 60 sq. miles. Our call volume is low at around 5,500 – mostly EMS like everyone else. We don’t see a lot of fire.
When our department started with CAFS, we only had 4 stations. Our training budget was almost non-existent. We only did basic drills. No one was really ever allowed to attend outside training other than chiefs. Going to CAFS was a big deal for our department.
Our Training Division has changed a lot since then. We have almost three officers working in the Division. The department has a training committee (representing each of the four platoons) that is responsible for conducting and developing training that is relative to what is going on at the company level. All personnel (with exception of probies) are given $600 yearly for outside training (college is separate from this bank) for what ever they wish.
We started using CAFS about 10 years ago with the purchase of three new engines that had CAFS on them. We spec’d them with the intentions of being a CAFS firefighting department. Over the 10 years, though, things have changed and we have become more balanced in our operations involving CAFS – and, what I mean by that is that we don’t use it at every fire like we use to.
When our department decided to spec out new engines with CAFS, I was in the Training Division. Our Operations Chief had already decided we as a department were going to head down this road. The Training Chief supported the idea (actually, he instigated it) and he and I had to come up with a plan on training everyone.
I had read an article written in Fire Chief magazine on the benefits of CAFS. I made contact with the individuals who wrote the article to discuss having them come up to our department to conduct the initial training. This was a big step for our department as we barely had a training budget and we didn’t do any type of outside training…in or out.
The firefighters were from LA County Fire. They all worked on CAFS engines and had developed most of the training used for their department on this subject. To add…the article I had read was specific to using CAFS for interior operations at structure fires. And, at the time LA County had implemented CAFS into their interior firefighting operations. They have since discontinued using CAFS for interior operations, though. Not sure as to why.
Even though LA County has stopped using CAFS for interior operations, many departments have started and continue to use it in this fashion.
I hope the responses below help you and your department in some way or another.
1)Do you use CAFS lines for supported interior attacks? Meaning that station can arrive and begin an interior attack without the need to wait for additional units to arrive on scene. I have heard a lot of reports of the use at stations that will perform a transitional (defensive to offensive) knock down from the outside. We are facing implementation of CAFS Engines into our fleet.
Our company officers will typically use a transitional attack with or without CAFS if we know there is no one inside and are waiting for additional resources to arrive. Only three of the six engines and one quint have CAFS. For us, a transitional attack is not based off having CAFS.
2)What are your flows for: 1 3/4, 2 1/2 interior lines?
If we are flowing water only, the flows for 1-3/4” is 200 gpm on a 15/16 smooth-bore nozzle. If they are using the combination tip on the line, it’s 195 gpm. We say that our flow is 200 gpm for our 1-3/4” lines.
The flow on our 2-1/2” line is 290 gpm from a 1-1/8” smooth-bore tip. If the remove the tip there is a 1-1/4” slug tip inside that flows 350 gpm. If the company uses the combination tip, the flow is 270 gpm. This is only for our 2-1/2” handline. We also have a rapid attack monitor that flows 500 gpm with one firefighter operating it.
Now, if we are talking CAFS things change a little.
We have found that the GPM from our CAFS is almost equal to the CFM from the compressor used for its operations. This was discovered while conducting several days / months of flow test with digital meters and inline pressure gauges. So, if we are flowing CAFS on our 1-3/4” attack line it is pressured at 120 psi, which basically gives us 120 gpm of water with foam and air.
This pressure has gone up since we first started using CAFS. Initially, we used 90 psi on the CAFS lines. I have seen other departments use 130-140 psi. We tested the flows, nozzle reaction, and checked the consistency of the CAFS at many different pressures and found 120 psi worked well. The increase helps prevent kinking (a huge killer for CAFS) and also increased the gpms we were using.
As for CAFS on our 2-1/2” lines…this is not a normal operation for us. We have used it in training. This year, we had a large arson fire that received some national attention. We were fighting multiple involved structures next to each other, with each house being about 5,000 sq. ft. At this fire, we were using 2-1/2” with CAFS. This is the only fire that I know we have used CAFS threw 2-1/2” lines, though.
3)Do you use CAFS for interior attacks in structures that do not have carpet or other absorbant materials for flooring? Do you have any concerns in this scenario with appying CAFS on a surface that will not abosrb and could potentially lead to a slippery surface to walk on.
Yes…we will use CAFS for interior operations even if the flooring does not have some type of material to absorb the foam with. I’ll tell you this…it can be very slippery. We have never really given it much thought. No one has been injured to my recollection from this.
4)Regarding use of CAFS on Interior attacks: Are there any "go, no go" indicators that fall into your decision making prior to use?
Not really…like I said at the beginning, we are using CAFS differently than how we initially started. We use to fight all of our fires with CAFS (those engines that had CAFS naturally). Now, it is kind of left up to the officer as to if they want to use it or not. Many times, the system is out of service (another problem with CAFS) and we don’t have a choice. There are some officers who really like CAFS and others who think it is voodoo firefighting.
We have had good luck with CAFS, when the system is working.
Most recently, we have been sending our newly promoted officers to the state fire academy to instruct for the firefighter academy. While they are there, the new lieutenants are receiving newer training on fire behavior and water application. They are coming back from the academy with a different opinion about firefighting…they are the ones who see it as voodoo firefighting. No smooth-bore attacks and no CAFS for interior firefighting…ok for wildland and exposure protection.
The training our officers and new recruits are getting while at the academy is top notch. I wouldn’t want to see it changed. They are coming back with more knowledge and experience than when I did in 1989.
Our department is looking at purchasing 3-4 new engines this coming year. One of the big topics they are wrestling with is if we will have CAFS on the new engines. I wouldn’t be surprised if we go away from CAFS with this new purchase.
Hey brother…if there is anything else you need, please let Chad or I know. I can also have you talk with Chris Edmundson, who is our lead instructor for our pump operator class, and is one of our department’s CAFS gurus. The other is Lt. Christian DiMonda. He works on one of our CAFS engines and likes using CAFS. I think he has the most practical experience in our department with CAFS. He has worked on a CAFS engine most of his career. Currently, he is working at our busiest station and sees more fire than the other engine companies.
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