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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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Replies to This Discussion

John,
Allow me to offer some clarification. We cannot say that "without exception" we do not open into smoke. As I cited, Ray had a very good example of one reason why we would "when the smoke is extremely hot". Another example is if you can hear crackling and popping in the smoke, but it is too dense and dark to see through. The heat and the sound is telling you that you must act, even though you can't see what you are doing. I asked all of my guys and they came up with the same reasons, even without prompting them.
As a general rule and I stress the word "general", no, we don't open into smoke since it can be nothing more than a waste of resources. However it is my and all of my guys opinion that in the cases where we must open into smoke, as mentioned above, we continue to flow water, push forward and get at the seat. Hope this helps, but the debate will probably go on long after you and I retire.
On a side note, I would be interested to know why the FDNY Engine companies don't also have TIC's, jsut my opinion, and absolutely not being critical of FDNY, they seem like a natural fit for Engine companies.

John Ceriello said:
Your statement that "MAY not be right" about never opening on smoke, is a not clear to me, is it right or not? I'm asking his question about a fire that you do not have a shot at the seat of the fire and no TIC. The engine co.'s in NYC do not have TICs, ladders, squads and rescues do, but not the engines. I'm asking the same question to my job, and the answers are all over the place. If you can ask all your firefighters and officers and see what you get. Do we open up on smoke? thanks.

Joe Campbell said:
Brothers,

Sometimes its funny to see how far we have advanced in the fire service only to return to where we were. How many of us have the antique brass nozzles on our desk or shelf? Were they adjustable?
To say in a blanket statement, "don't open the line into smoke", like most blanket statements, may not be right. As Ray stated in the discussion statement, extremely hot smoke needs some attention.
Two things I have not seen commented on in this discussion are; the advantages of reach that we have with our SB nozzles; and the ability to "see" through the smoke with our TIC. Reach gives us the ability to be in a position of relative safety and still attack the seat of the fire (interior configuration allowing), and the TIC gives the officer, or user, the ability to identify where the extreme heat is. Proper attack is the key as so many have mentioned. If we teach anything to the next generation of firefighters, it should be those things that will save their lives. Time and millions of fires tested methods, that have proven over and over to work....coordinated fire attack, proper application of water, situational awareness and of course outstanding leadership. Its not news to most of us, but this job is HARD and DANGEROUS. Very few things have come along that make it any safer. Let us not be taken in by the latest fad, lets make sure we train to be good at what we know works. Thanks for letting me bend your ear.

Russ Chapman said:
Guys
If you are penciling a smoke condition to advance into a fire, you are asking for a boat load of problems. Penciling started in the early 70s...AS AN INSTRUCTIONAL TOOL! I know it was said in this post before. If you guys even think of putting water on smoke, it must be hot enough to do so, as no one here are idiots and want to make a lights out scenerio. When you do, open up all the way, advance down the hall, and put the fire out! With the fuels of today, the smoke is the fire! God I will be happy when someone finally puts this penciling thing to bed!
It sounds like there are a lot of great ideas and feedback. However, Ray's statement and question is to vague to comment on completely. I would love to narrow the focus to single family dwelling, 1 or 2 stories. Than discuss fires in large commercial occupancies. What say you?
Heavy, black, supper heated smoke, hot enough to push you down usually indicates impending flashover. It contains high concentrations of combustible particulate matter and is commonly referred to as black fire. Offensive interior attack with a well coordinated ventilation operation would (in my opinion) be a great place to start.
John
I should explain. If anyone is even thinking of penciling a fire, then it is hot enough to burn you, or at a minimum feel it. You are not going to see it, as many people think. That is reserved for a flashover can. So, with that being said, as you crawl and pencil your way down the hallway, so you can "delay" flashover, if the smoke is hot enough to burn you, it will be hot enough for it to light up, penciling or not. Yes, I will flow the nozzle up and into the smoke, to cool it, and knock the fire back into the room. More than likely I will be doing this in a retrograde movement with the nozzle flowing until we can regroup and continue the push. Say you pencil the first portion of the hall, and now you crawl further. What happens when the original smoke that is behind you finds an ignition source. Benzine, the #1 fuel in the smoke due to plastics, has a very low ignition temp (see Dobsons "The Art of Reading Smoke") You may pencil the fire down enough for you to be comfortable 2 feet above the floor, but the ceiling temps are right up there. Your little minnie fog that you will use will not penatrate the heat. A smoothbore nozzle, or a straight stream will hit the ceiling and knock the heat out of it. As the majority of the fire services fires are room and contents, we forgot the art of pushing down a hallway, and when to recognize when we have to. Using stream reach instead of putting ones self into these positions is again a lost technique. Why do you have to get into the room, when you can cover the whole room with the stream reach? Sometimes from down the hallway! Again, we need to put this one to bed. Just the other day, a FF penciled the room in a 1403 burn. He was not happy after the fact.

John Ceriello said:
From what I've learned from firefighters in Europe, penciling is no longer used, but it was not a instructional tool, it was used to delay rollover/flashover enabling the nozzle team to get to the seat of the fire and extinguish it. I believe it started in the 80's. Over here in the states it may have been an instructional tool, however that was not its intent. If I have this right then if its hot enough you would open the line on smoke? On what you described about opening fully the line and moving in, won't that cause a lights out scenerio, driving heat down onto the advancing line overwhelming them?

Russ Chapman said:
Guys
If you are penciling a smoke condition to advance into a fire, you are asking for a boat load of problems. Penciling started in the early 70s...AS AN INSTRUCTIONAL TOOL! I know it was said in this post before. If you guys even think of putting water on smoke, it must be hot enough to do so, as no one here are idiots and want to make a lights out scenerio. When you do, open up all the way, advance down the hall, and put the fire out! With the fuels of today, the smoke is the fire! God I will be happy when someone finally puts this penciling thing to bed!
Interesting comments and thoughts. I'm a little disappointed in that it seems like some of you are looking for a hard and fast rule: yes or no to water on smoke. Like anything else in this business the fact that we never know all the variable on the scientific side, make us fight fire like it is an artform. Unlike the science world, we can't stop and think and cipher our the answers to all the questions before proceeding, so we fall back what we've learned, either in training or more likely in actual situations.

We teach that blatant putting water on smoke is a waste and has many negative results. We also teach that heavy dark pushing smoke with mass and velocity is "black fire". This smoke must be treated like fire and ventilated and extinguished. This is where we do advocate putting water into smoke. I'll admit by very limited knowledge of 'penciling' or 3-D fog tactics, but I've never thought it was a good idea to use a small amount of water to change a room condition and progress under the same smoke? If the smoke is hot enough to warrant penciling, it will come back, the deeper you are the further behind you it could get. We're talking about high heat causing deteriorating conditions. What happens when you're now halfway down the hall and the window in a fire room fails? When things start lighting up, you'll which everything behind you was "clear" and not just kept just below ignition.

Without a doubt, Ray's right on stating there are other options. Why take such a beating if ventilation can be increased easily? Or maybe send some GPM down range and try to make a little progress on the actual seat or fire room before committing ourselves below the smoke? Maybe you throw some water in the smoke and seriously cool the area down? But one rule for ever and always? No way, not in this business. Next you'll say we should always go in the front door! Wait, okay, maybe this should be a rule, remember there must be exceptions to prove every rule.
I have always been taught and practiced that you never waist resources on smoke, however the only exception to that rule would be If your environment is super heated then you have to either move to a safe area or cool your atmosphere by cooling it down. Unless your cooling the room resolves your super heated issues then this would be a fast fix so you could back up and regroup. be safe
The point I was trying to make was,no one wants to say that they would open up on smoke because that is what we were all taught,and to say yes I would makes you sound weak or some other nonsense, the bottom line is we all would open up if the heat conditions warrant it. We need to reevaluate why this concept of not opening up came from and why it does not apply today. By the way why do you use the word superheated? all fires are hot, they always have been. Super heated makes it sound like there is something happening that is unusual when it's a fire, hot like it always has been.

Dan Rice said:
I have always been taught and practiced that you never waist resources on smoke, however the only exception to that rule would be If your environment is super heated then you have to either move to a safe area or cool your atmosphere by cooling it down. Unless your cooling the room resolves your super heated issues then this would be a fast fix so you could back up and regroup. be safe
Brother John,
I guess there is really no special reasoning behind my terminology. I know our fires are hot, I guess I was trying to differentiate between a general "Hot" fire and a fire where you need to cool your environment to protect yourself from a potentially deadly situation. Sorry if I caused any confusion. In the short of it we are all, for the most part saying the same thing and voicing the same opinion towards this topic. Thanks and be safe
Brothers:

I think the issue is really that we don't have a lot of time in the middle of the dark hallway to analyze exactly what is taking place scientifically and even though we have all been taught not to open up on smoke, we inherently (with experience) know that what is meant is "don't waste your water on smoke when you haven't reached the seat of the fire". That being said, I open on smoke when I am having trouble making the seat, due to whatever factors, and the heat is threatening to become a problem. Its buys a little time and prevents unnecessary searing of flesh. Will it put out the fire? No. Is it the "proper method" when searching for the seat of a fire? No. Does it keep the attack team from being incinerated prior to arriving at the seat? Yes, when appropriate. Do I get pissed when my nozzleman opens up on smoke for no good reason......Yes.

Dan Rice said:
Brother John,
I guess there is really no special reasoning behind my terminology. I know our fires are hot, I guess I was trying to differentiate between a general "Hot" fire and a fire where you need to cool your environment to protect yourself from a potentially deadly situation. Sorry if I caused any confusion. In the short of it we are all, for the most part saying the same thing and voicing the same opinion towards this topic. Thanks and be safe
Bro, there is hot, then there is HOT!

John Ceriello said:
The point I was trying to make was,no one wants to say that they would open up on smoke because that is what we were all taught,and to say yes I would makes you sound weak or some other nonsense, the bottom line is we all would open up if the heat conditions warrant it. We need to reevaluate why this concept of not opening up came from and why it does not apply today. By the way why do you use the word superheated? all fires are hot, they always have been. Super heated makes it sound like there is something happening that is unusual when it's a fire, hot like it always has been.

Dan Rice said:
I have always been taught and practiced that you never waist resources on smoke, however the only exception to that rule would be If your environment is super heated then you have to either move to a safe area or cool your atmosphere by cooling it down. Unless your cooling the room resolves your super heated issues then this would be a fast fix so you could back up and regroup. be safe
Amen to that!

Russ Chapman said:
Bro, there is hot, then there is HOT!

John Ceriello said:
The point I was trying to make was,no one wants to say that they would open up on smoke because that is what we were all taught,and to say yes I would makes you sound weak or some other nonsense, the bottom line is we all would open up if the heat conditions warrant it. We need to reevaluate why this concept of not opening up came from and why it does not apply today. By the way why do you use the word superheated? all fires are hot, they always have been. Super heated makes it sound like there is something happening that is unusual when it's a fire, hot like it always has been.

Dan Rice said:
I have always been taught and practiced that you never waist resources on smoke, however the only exception to that rule would be If your environment is super heated then you have to either move to a safe area or cool your atmosphere by cooling it down. Unless your cooling the room resolves your super heated issues then this would be a fast fix so you could back up and regroup. be safe
The best explanation I have heard is to regard the smoke as a separate fuel package. Combine that with the theory of rate of heat release and it is pretty plain that there are circumstances which will warrant putting water into "just" smoke. When its black, hot and rolling - its not "just" smoke anymore. As far as penciling - its taught here as an escape technique. Its certainly not a fire suppression technique. I always took it with a grain of salt anyway considering it was developed in a country with a lot of masonry structures whose fire service uses high pressure fogs. Love the feedback on the smoothbores - I am a distinct minority in my department - everyone else loves them some fogs!
I am of the smoothbore camp, but do not find so much fault with fog nozzles as long as they are not set on "fog". I was taught to use a 30 deg. fog for attack, but with the arrival of the nozzle debate into the Internet arena I began to see the sense in not doing that. So along with many others in our area, I stress simply that the nozzle in use is fine, as long as you know what setting you want and why. I think what gets me ticked off about all of this is that most everything in the fire department inventory has a purpose. That doesn't mean it applies to every situation. My attitude is to size up what you got, act accordingly. If the smoke is burning you and you have a ways to go, ...hit it. I'd rather do that and take a beating than to be incinerated. Great topic!

Alan Butsch said:
The best explanation I have heard is to regard the smoke as a separate fuel package. Combine that with the theory of rate of heat release and it is pretty plain that there are circumstances which will warrant putting water into "just" smoke. When its black, hot and rolling - its not "just" smoke anymore. As far as penciling - its taught here as an escape technique. Its certainly not a fire suppression technique. I always took it with a grain of salt anyway considering it was developed in a country with a lot of masonry structures whose fire service uses high pressure fogs. Love the feedback on the smoothbores - I am a distinct minority in my department - everyone else loves them some fogs!

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