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If you can remember from what you were taught or if you currently instruct in engine operations how do you handle the question of opening the line in smoke. I say you do not open the line in smoke, however when the smoke is extremly hot you must open the nozzle. Other options include leaving the area (fallback position) and increasing ventilation of the area. What do you say?

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Thanks again for stating this fact. This penciling trend is beginning to scare me! Add wind to the mix. Now you just penciled your way down the hallway. Someone opens up a door, or a window somewhere else distant of you, and the hot smoke you just penciled behind you now becomes a full blown fire. This penciling stuff has got to stop. You have heat, you put water on it till there is no more heat. One thing that I took from a class you and Tim Klett taught was the control an Engine Officer must have on the nozzle FF. I bet a weeks paycheck that there are not many FDs that make the Engine Officer decide when the nozzle is opened a shut. Nor the discipline of that nozzle FF to wait till the officer taps him on the back to open or close the nozzle. The officer has the best view of the fire, (if manpower allows him to be an officer and not a backup ff). Any thoughts on this?
Talking about the penciling in flash over chambers. I am a little taken back that FFs are being taught to use penciling as a way to control heat or fire. I have been in several evolutions here and have never heard that taught. It was explained to me that penciling was a last ditch technique to stay off a flashover, on the way out. Emphasis on leaving the structure. What are your thoughts on that? I have never used it in a real fire. We tend to use a more direct control technique, utilizing the OVM. I guess I am a little old in my thinking, but I feel we must get FFs back to putting wet stuff on red stuff. When we do that conditions always seem to improve. So like I said, I guess I am surprised that FFs have been instructed in other ways.

Russ, right on Brother! The engine company officer has to be very involved in the fire attack. That is his job. He/she must have a firm working plan, just like an IC. Once inside the structure the company officer has a responsibility to control and ext. the fire. I have never heard my Chief hold anyone else responsible for what did or did not go right. Staffing aside, an officer must accept the role or stay FF. I look forward to your thoughts.

We have made our way back to instruction. Many firefighters recieve bad information, either from a poorly informed instructor at the academy or from something they read or hear about. It is fine for a non fire experienced instructor to teach certain subjects to student firefighters. The subjects taught should not put a firefighter in danger. However all of us have read articles and seen instructors who never answered a call teaching fire tactics. This is wrong! These are the same people who take a bit from here and there and mix it all together and tell you they have a new "Safer" approach. Penciling has left the flashover chamber and made its way to main street thanks to the misinformed.
Only you can prevent penciling!
Russ, I'm involved with my nozzleman on a fire. They get a tap on the lid when to open up the line, and the quick discussion is had at the front door, to leave the nozzle on a straight stream, because the pre-connects have fog nozzles. I like the comment about heat, put water on it until no more heat. I've said that to some of ours, nice to hear it said again. The 2.5 in the hosebed, to some folks is only there for show, go figure.

Stay Safe
Ray,speak the truth brother. Only experienced instructors should teach these subjects. I find some fault in the Pro Board type certs that are out there. In the right hands, a useful and needed cert. But I have seen my share of guys with paper only teaching skills. I have been trying to evangelize a return to natural instinct based fire fighting. Meaning a skill set that is passed from one to another, the senior to the junior. All of our modern tools are great, don't get me wrong.They have certainly improved many aspects of the fire service. But when you break the job down to it's base, it is a unsophisticated process. It is a force of nature, simple energy delivery. Force overcomes energy when delivered in the correct amount. Fall short and energy wins. It is a complicated training process to keep the tactics simple. Can I get an Amen?!

Ray McCormack said:
We have made our way back to instruction. Many firefighters recieve bad information, either from a poorly informed instructor at the academy or from something they read or hear about. It is fine for a non fire experienced instructor to teach certain subjects to student firefighters. The subjects taught should not put a firefighter in danger. However all of us have read articles and seen instructors who never answered a call teaching fire tactics. This is wrong! These are the same people who take a bit from here and there and mix it all together and tell you they have a new "Safer" approach. Penciling has left the flashover chamber and made its way to main street thanks to the misinformed.
Only you can prevent penciling!
As always, Ray makes some very good points; I help teach in Flashover simulators and I think its a good labratory for fire behavior. I don't, however, think it is a fire suppression labratory. Instructors should emphasis this. If someone feels the need to pencil the upper atmosphere once they've found the seat of the fire, it usually won't hurt; To me, it's no more then lazy nozzle techniques. We've taught to hit the upper atmosphere prior to hitting the seat to prevent rollover. If the nozzleman will work the line like it is supposed to be, we're preventing rollover and hitting the fire seat. Ofcourse, many have never understood why we emphasis working the line, in a circular, or z, or T or B or Y or M (you get the point), patterns. But that is why. Locate, Confine, Extinguish... I think I read that somewhere...

Penciling into "smoke" without fire location isn't going accomplish the intended result. If the point is to cool the atmosphere, penciling will do that, for a few nano seconds but until you kill the main BTU producer, atmosphere heating will continue.

This would likely be a different thread, but I believe many don't work the line correctly is because they use a pistol grip for line operations which places the nozzle too close to them, preventing adequate nozzle rotation. If you use pistol grips, fine, their purpose is to advance the line, but don't use it when its time to open the nozzle. Get the (*&*%$# nozzle out in front of you. One last point, when you work the line, it really doesn't matter if it is done clockwise or counter clockwise, just work the line where your hitting the walls, ceiling floor and fire, then zero in on the fire. (Believe it or not, I read in a book published by Fire Engineering last week that the line must be rotated clockwise to be effective. )
I am with you, and I believe everyone here also believes that pistol grips should be outlawed! Now you have nozzle manufacturers adding on to this madness, like a manufacturers "Zero Torque" nozzle. How much does that thing weigh? Anyway, you said it, this is for a different thread.
As always Lt, you start the BEST topics!!!

There have been a lot of great posts on this topic already. I’m sure I haven’t seen a fraction of the fire duty that many of you in the group have, so I will humbly take a stab at what I believe to be true.

The lesson of “Don’t open the line on smoke” has been around for years. New recruits entering the fire service have always had that crusty first whip yelling this in their ear on their first fire fight for many generations. My question is, Does it still apply in today’s fires?

Let me be the absolute first to say that I DO NOT think a nozzle FF should be opening the line on smoke just because they feel like it. But I do think there is some merit to doing it for certain reasons.

When the Brothers before us were taught not to do it, they were having fires that involved wood, cotton and paper. The fires burnt much cooler than fires today, the smoke was not as easily ignitable, and Firemen saw far more Backdrafts in their career than Flashovers. You could make a fire room a little easier than today.

Now you look at today’s fires and more importantly today’s PPE. We are offered far superior protection in the way of turnouts and SCBA. We are going deeper into these rooms/buildings possibly without a true knowledge of the atmosphere. The fires burn much, much hotter (sorry I’m not a propeller head and my BTU numbers never sound right) and the by-products of combustion (smoke) are much more flammable. So our risk of getting caught in a flashover is much higher today than years back.

Ok so much for my justification, here’s what I teach to newer members. Of course as you gain more experience, the less often you have to do this.

When you make a fire building, hallway, room, or occupancy and you have a heavy smoke condition but you’re really not sure about the heat, open the line directly above you (with a SS or SB) and test the atmosphere for a second or two. If you get cold/cool water coming down on you, you are good to go. If you get hot water raining down, you should be more cautious about advancing any further without some sort of support functions going on, i.e. ventilation. If nothing comes back down than you have problems. Things are going to get real ugly real soon. The nozzle needs to be opened until conditions change. If conditions do not begin to improve soon, then thought should be given to back-up to a safer spot.

I totally agree that “penciling” is a joke. Short burst down the hallway are only going to get you into trouble. I believe the method that I was taught, and subsequently teach, is a much safer method. If you keep that upper atmosphere, or smoke, cool then you have a much smaller chance of getting caught in a flashover.

I have had the (mis)fortune of being on a hose team that was caught in a flashover at a training burn many years ago. Among other factors, I, to this day, believe that if the nozzle person would have simply opened the nozzle and cooled the atmosphere, the room never would have flashed on us, and we would not have gotten into trouble.

So that is my .02 cents worth. Hopefully I didn’t just ruin any thoughts you all had of me… 

Be safe Brothers!
Ray, thnks for the reply about penciling. When i was in the class and i seen it performed i couldnt understand why the nozzleman didnt open the line all the way and knock the fire out. I attended the class with another brother from my company and we both were talking about what we seen when we got out. We came to the conclusion that it was being done to keep the class and fire going. The sad thing is most of the guys who were there with us were amazed by how the penciling technique was pushing the fire back. The sad thing is I truly beleive these guys may have tried to use there new found phenomenon the next time they had a chance to.

I too do not believe in pistol grips. To say they should be outlawed is pretty harsh. Pistol grips have their uses they are good for pulling a charged line out of a fire building and are even better for securing the nozzle in the crosslay to prevent it from falling off the rig,lol j/k

With regards to the engine officer taking up position next to the nozzle firefighter i couldnt agree more. In relation to all the other points everyone gave with this topic i truly believe the officer postioned next to the nozzleman helps relax younger or less experienced members.Plus its an extra set of eyes looking foward in relation to the backup looking in the reverse direction. We all know most members at the nozzle postion ,especially ones that havent seen work for awhile, or the ones who are new, get that old condition that no one likes to talk about(Tunnel Vision). The experienced officer sees what they dont and keeps the nozzleman and the team going in the right direction and hopefully out of trouble. stay safe guys it truly is an honor chatting with you all!
I did not want to post this video but it must be seen. Draw your own conclusions. I have mine. AMEN!
I think fhe video clearly makes our points, thanks for posting it Ray
Hey Ray,
I think you said it best when you said a little experience in an engine helps. Also the words in your post about the extreme heat is the key to opening the nozzle. Yea i agree, no water on smoke, UNLESS, it is the "black fire" with extreme heat that should be cooled in efforts to complete the push into the fire area/room or to hold up for ventilation. The penciling deal is crap. I am a Swede instructor for flashover in the can and we stress "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NOZZLE TECHNIQUES USED IN THE SIMULATOR"!!!!!!!!! I was taught to pencil the hallway when trying to make the fire room, but if you are close enough and encountering enough heat to open the nozzle then keep it open, work it properly and you just might be close enough to make the knock!!!! I feel the penciling deal causes the line to stop a lot of times. As you say Ray, "if the line isn't moving its losing". I feel we don't stress the importance of moving a line while flowing water. Obviously if you are encountering justifiable heat to open the line, but you are not seeing the flame this is not where the push stops. So in efforts to be successful and make the room, flow the line, move in, and put the water on the fuel. Penciling in my opinion is slowing the push and allowing conditions to worsen. Watch the video, as they are penciling there are no affects on the seated fire.

Oh yea, I forgot the foggies, if you like the fog why is stream set to straight??



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