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What is the relation between a transitional attack and a lobster?

Story sent to me from a “friend”




 "Chris, me and the crew were out on a 2nd due fire the other day. The first due pulled off the lines and begin to go to work. While en route we went to the Commander in charge asking for an assignment so we knew what tools we would need once we got there (we like to get off the truck with tools in hand). Never got a reply when we got there our officer went to take in our assignment from the IC and he couldn't get a job for us (from him). The first due officer gave us our job which was to put water thru a window because they lost contact with the interior crew and the fire room was getting worse. When our officer tried to find out what channel we need to be on we were given 4 different answers! So my partner went to take the entire window out because only the top section was out and I was on the line ready to do a transitional attack so as not to steam them. Well my partner was ordered not to by the first due officer still no orders from IC. I was stunned and asked why can’t we take the rest of the window? Their reply was because I said so, and that there men were somewhere in there. At this point the smoke was becoming turbulent and heat driven and so I directed my stream up in the window like I watched on the UL studies. It didn't work so well. I was a tad confused. At this point we were activated as the RIT team to go find the other crew and tell them to back out or get them out and then replace them on the line. So without any TAC channel assigned me and my partner went in where we were met with high heat about 3 feet off the ground. We found the crew relayed the orders and then made the push. Once we made the push to the seat we found a bedroom fire with no extension. But as we made the push into the room we were hit by a wall of never ending steam (see the door was inward swinging and we had to push in turn and then hit the fire simple job really knock it from the door way push in turn slam it). We were being slammed with steam I radioed out to stop flowing thru the window (I stayed on our blue zone which is the dispatch channel for us). Our Captain went and finally got them to stop he saw them with a fog in the window!

What exactly happened it sucked in there and we have done drills on doing these styles of attacks. If I am right would it be safe to say the stream cut the flow path off and that’s why we were steamed and shouldn’t we have taken the entire window?



Well the easy answer was it was a disorganized from the start and that’s not saying it was you all. Here is the deal bud you should have taken the entire window but the fact you were stopped I can understand your position but know this. When you put the straight stream in the window you are likely to shut off the flow path as well and having talked to you, I believe you saw it ( they told me the stream was pulling the smoke back in as the water was being flowed). Now as you got inside you got the steam because you were in the flow path. See when they flowed the fog in thru the window they sealed the window off so the steam that was generated had nowhere to go but thru you. Your attack appeared to be sound but it was disorganized.

I often hear about transitional attacks not pushing fire and while I agree you cannot push fire you can push gases. Think about it ever been steamed? I have, my buddy was shoot I would say many of you have it does happen but there are things we do that we shouldn’t do such as a fog thru a window. Don’t do that! It’s bad. A transitional attack will cool the room down but its temporary, it’s for buying you time to get in there and punch it in the throat.

Not every situation needs a transitional attack we will get to that. But you have to know what your gases are going to do. If you think it sucks being steamed in turnouts imagine what the trapped occupant feels like. So what dictates a transitional attack? Neither I nor anyone else not at your fire can tell you that. See a transitional attack is another tactic in your playbook but just like in football you don’t see a team call a shotgun play every time. Same thing with a transitional attack. There are several things that you or your officer in charge needs to evaluate when considering a transitional attack some of which are

  • Who is in the rig and how far away is my next due?
  • What is on fire? Is it a R&C or 25%+ involved.
  • Any trapped occupants still inside?
  • Departmental standards (no interior attack until a RIT is established).
  • Can we get in there and make the knock or is there going to be a delay such as F/E issues, extremely high heat, or waiting for mutual aid and a water supply


If you decide to do a transitional attack be ready to get in there and finish off the fire, and if you decide to push in and go interior from the start be ready for a possibility of a lack of a RIT team (depends on your staffing)


Transitional attacks do have a place in our toolboxes but like tools it has its time of need. For instance I don’t want to use my drill to drive a nail into a 2x4 and I don’t want my hammer to drive in self tapping sheet metal screws. But what is important with tactics like tools is knowing how to use them tools if you don’t use a chainsaw right you can lose a limb, use a tactic wrong and you can lose a life.

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