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Recently there's been a lot of talk about water "pushing" fire. I want to know people's opinions and personal experiences of this phenomena. For instance, consider the following scenario:

-First in engine
-driver/officer on engine only
-Heavy fire showing from side alpha (side c allows access inside)

With a limited crew do you try to knock some of the fire down by stretching to side alpha and hitting it quickly from the exterior until additional crews arrive. Whether you would or not, do you believe that this type of operation can "push" the fire throughout the structure. I've heard several times that "spraying water from the outside into the door way and through windows to attempt to knock the fire before an interior attack" can contribute to fire spread. We're taught fight from unburned to burned but in certain situations can we deviate from standard operating procedures.

If you have an experiences of an incident in which you felt you pushed a fire with your line let me know about it

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Comment by bomberoforever on April 21, 2009 at 10:47pm
Well I just have to ask. How many of these posts really have proof they pushed fire. If I place a 1-3/4" tip into the middle of a propane tree what does it do? If I use a fog nozzle what does it do? If I use two nozzles what does the propane tree do? The answer to these questions can help you a lot to determine when you are really pushing fire. Do I think that a hose line covering the only vent h*** can cause additional damage? Yes. Do I think that using an indirect attack on a fully involved garage with half of the large garage door gone or a direct attack, if possible (always best to try and get the base of the fire) with a tip is going to push fire? No. Some one in the above posts reminded us of using a nozzle to vent a building. Hmmmm great thought! So what does it take to do that? How do we set up a fan for ventilation? These are considerations when fighting fire also as the width of the stream and the h*** we are pushing out of is a big factor. Let me ask this question. Many garages have drywall and a 20 minute door between the garage and the living portion of the house. Why would I open the one thing designed to keep the fire from the rest of the house. If someone knocked the drywall off and the fire kept going I would suggest there was not enough water used properly to overcome the BTUs or the fire had already entered the house.
I prefer to attack from the unburned side BUT never say "never" and never say "always." If I can knock that fire quickly and confidently with the right amount of water and the right tip, my problem goes down very exponentially. The victim suddenly does not have fire beating at their cheap bedroom door or rolling above their head. I've seen fire vent out many a window and I don't think I suddenly saw the fire shoot out farther when the hoseline was used inside. In fact, the first I knew they had hit the fire was a sudden knockdown by enough water in the right place and that clue was water coming out the window.
While I am not fond of heroin or other drugs I think the post above got it right. Slow down, it may save your life and the victims. Using enough water in the right place is probably the problem not pushing the fire.
Comment by Gary Bloomquist on April 21, 2009 at 11:51am
Hi Dave,

Good to hear from you.

Simple answer, Yes, fire can be pushed.

Not so simple answer, it all depends.

Based on you scenario question, first due engine with operator and an officer, heavy fire showing side A, the best thing the officer can do is size up, including assessing life hazards, a good 360 of the fire building (often overlooked when fire is showing), and assess if you have adequate resources coming to safely handle this fire.

We often feel compelled to do something right away. So in this case, one might think, a blitz with a deluge off tank water, or a quick exterior attack via handline would be better than nothing? Best stated earlier, slow down. We did not create the problem, we are only here to solve it, and as your title page says in Latin, everyone goes home.

Here’s what you do first! A good 360 and size up. This will show the fuel load, building layout & construction, best access, fire involvement, potential victims, and from there you develop your strategy and resource allocation. Is this doing nothing? Hell no, it is laying a good foundation for the whole job!

What if you decided to blitz this fire and in doing so forced heat, steam, smoke and fire up stairs onto the victim that is waiting to be rescued at the second story window on the C side? You never saw them because you chose the moth to flame attack.

Obviously we need additional info to best come up with the strategy for this fire. But in most cases, I would prefer to attack from the C side with an adequately sized line to extinguish the fire and ensure adequate ventilation on the A side to…push the fire, smoke, heat, and steam out of the building. Our first line would be a 1 ¾” with a 15/16” tip for most room and content fires.

Anyway, there’s my 2 cents for what it is worth. Keep up the good work and stay safe!
Comment by Patrick Hultman on March 30, 2009 at 8:08am
I would completely agree that fire can be pushed by your hose stream. In my opinion it is more of the air flow that is created that pushes the fire rather than the water. Think about Hydraulic Ventilation and how we use it to vent a room. I feel that with an adequate flow volume any fire can be extinguished, however this is commonly a huge hurdle due to limited staffing, limited pumps, etc. If you can adequately steam convert and absorb the BTUs the fire will go out no matter how much air is entrained into the hose stream.

Out of curiosity, my mind tells me that this would be an increased issue when using CAFS. Has anyone had experience with this?
Comment by Thomas M. Smith on March 22, 2009 at 11:09pm
The key here is GPM do you have enough water to sucessfully extinguish the fire, or areo you using just enough to shove it around. Any given attack mode or attack sequence will work if the proper amounts of water are availabe and utilized. If you have moderate fire showing from the front living area and yuo make an attack from the front doorway the first line should have the capability to flow big water, after all thats what puts the fire out! Along with big water comes the problem of property conservation, did you use the most expedient, prudent and safest way to extinguish the fire given the personnel, and water availabe?
Comment by Charlie Maroney on March 22, 2009 at 8:49pm
What goes in must also be able to come the right location. That how I think of your question. You are applying water indirectly on the fire unless the seat of the fire is attainable from the Alpha side of the building. That water expands exponetially creating more matter that is filling that space. Eventually it runs out of space to fill and find the easiest place to escape from, which is not always the best way. That is why fire attack and ventilation must be coordinated and deployed effectively in order to minimize property loss due to fire spread. Just as Jason said there is a place for the blitz attack when it is appropriate. Remember folks we have the tools to do our job it is up to us to use the appropriate tool at the right time in the most effective manner. I will quote Gordon Graham, from his risk management seminar,"SSSSSSSSLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOWWWWW DDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWNNNNNNNNN". "Firefighters should quite doing Meth and switch to Heroin, then maybe they will SSSSLLLLOOOOWWWW DDDDOOOWWWNNN"
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on March 20, 2009 at 4:04pm
All of the posts are correct. If done wrong, you will push fire through a building, especially with a fog pattern or combination nozzle. However, the objective is to put enough water (cooling agent) to reduce the BTU's enough to minimize the amount of fire initially. If the correct line is used at the right time a "blitz" attack can be effective and is appropriate. The key element here is experience, knowing approx. how much fire you have in regards to BTU's and having enough water to knock down the bulk of fire. But, don't forget, after the initial knock down, an aggressive interior attack will likely be needed to get to the seat of the fire. Hope this helps.
Comment by Jeff Clayton on March 19, 2009 at 7:23am
Dave, lets also remember that every situation will differ, and the length of your lay will have a lot to do with your decision. As will the staffing that you mentioned. Lets concentrate on safely and effectively applying GPM to the seat of the fire.

As well, right or wrong, my department uses fog nozzles, so pushing the fire is of great concern to me and some of my coworkers. There's a PowerPoint/video presentation that I've seen which gives measurements of air movement from different nozzles and application methods, I'll try to find it again and send it to you.
Comment by Jeff Clayton on March 19, 2009 at 7:03am

I'll give you a few short answers, then explain. Can fire be "pushed"? Yes, I try to do it every opportunity I get. Have I done it wrong? Yes! Should you attack from the unburned side? Of course.

The two previous posts indicate just how easily fire can be pushed.

Now, It's not always a bad thing, just think of where you're nozzle team is and where the fire is. Think about room size, fire load, BTU's produced, and GPM you can effectively deliver to the seat of the fire. Wind speed can also play a factor in deciding how you're going to attack a given fire along with many other variables. However, If you have the GPM to knock the fire down, and the structure is still safe to operate in, attack from the unburned side and push the fire out a window or exterior doorway.

We often think of pushing the fire to be a bad thing, well it is, if we do it wrong!

Now Dave, I am by far an expert in this grand job that we do, and I have entered from the wrong side and pushed the fire where it shouldn't have been, and caused needless property damage. The important thing is that myself and the officer in charge that day learned from our mistakes.

Don mentions being 'overwhelmed', this is always an issue. In his case it was another company pushing the fire, but an unexpected window blowing out or shift in the wind (for those coastal communities with tide changes) can also cause you to be overwhelmed by heat and fire. Take a line that you know will do the job, you need the GPM when things start to go bad.

As I mentioned, I'm not an expert, hopefully some others will post and we can all learn more from this discussion.

Stay Safe,
Comment by Don Huneke on March 18, 2009 at 7:43pm
Just a few incidents that make me feel that "pushing" the fire is bad.

1. As a fire investigator I responded to a fire in a garage. First units arrived and hit the fire from the open garage door with a hand line 2 1/2. The crews never made entry to the structure until the fire began to show from a window in the kitchen. The kitchen was the room attached to the interior garage door. The fire eventually spread to the second floor and about 3/4 of the first floor. The investigation showed the one of two vehicles was the origin of the fire. The crew who put the first line into the open garage pushed the fire into the house causing the fire spread. You could see where the line knocked holes in the sheet rock which caused the fire to spread. It is better to fight the fire in to out not out to in.

2. As a second due Engine Acting Officer. Fire in a closed garage. Crew went to an exterior window to knock the fire down. They knoced alot of fire down. My crew was ordered to take the 2nd line into the front doot to the garage. What the exterior crew did not know was that the fire had taken the top of the garage door to the interior of the house. The line in use by the first due Engine pushed the fire into the hall. As my crew went down the hall and the fire was pushed onto us. We opened up our line and knocked the fire back and continued to make our push. The problem was we were fighting the first line until they shut down. If a second line was not in place the fire would have taken the interior of the house too. If the line on the exterior was a 2 1/2 my crew could have been hurt and our line would have been overwhelmed.

3. As a witness I arrived at a one story single family CBS home. Fire was venting from one window. The first in engine was ordered by the BC to open its deck gun into the window. The front door was open and no fire was visible in the interior but the involved room. The deck gun was opened and with in a short time the fire was seen being pushed into the rest of the home. The deck gun dumped the tank water and no supply line was set up. The fire over took the interior and within short time the home was lost.

I learned up North that fighting a fire is best when it starts in and the fire is pushed out. With Vent and hose work you keep the damage to a mininum. If you only have a two person crew try to hit the fire from inside but as close to the point of eagress as you can.
Comment by Jim Caton on March 18, 2009 at 1:41pm
There is a common myth among rural fire departments that a quick knock down on the area with the most fire is a valid tactic. This can in fact result in hot fire debris being force into unburned fuel packages. It is sometimes called pushing the fire. Last year I investigated a fire that started outside on the front porch area of the home. The only part of the home left standing was the rear wall of the home. I was puzzled a first by how the fire had traveled through the home. Then I read the fire report. "Upon arrival observed moderate fire near the front door. Deployed master stream for quick knock down. Second engine arrived deployed second master stream." The fire department burn this families house down using improper fire suppression tactics. They blew "pushed" burning fire debris under the home and threw the home.
I find that a lack of understand of ventilation to be a major factor in spreading fire. I have a video of a very large strip mall (several 100,000 sq ft building) fire in Canada. Around noontime the fire department arrives find white smoke venting from one of the store fronts. When the sun came up the next morning they had burned the whole building to the ground.

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