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With all of the debate about exterior versus interior, I wanted to share a video that I use in many of the tactical classes that I teach and offer a few observations.  First, this is a video that is used for learning, not to critique the methods or tactics that were or were not deployed during this fire.  Second, we were not there and do not know all of the circumstances surrounding why they made their decisions.

Overall, I think they did a pretty good job in the end.

When I use this in classes I always start out asking the question if the correct sized line was utilized?  The answer is almost always an overwhelming "NO!" as we begin the initial attack from the outside.  Now, understand, I am a supporter of attacking a fire from the outside when necessary.  "When necessary" is up to the department and company officer to determine based on conditions, resources and capabilities, information gathered on the size up and existing SOG's.  And, there is a wrong way and right way to do that.  From what I can see from the video, they do their best to apply water the 'right' way from the position on the exterior.

As the video continues it is clear that they are not making much headway on the fire apartment, but the breezeway is full of gases that ignite when they are not cooling that area.  As they continue to move from the breezeway to the fire apartment, I don't see them 'pushing' fire, but I don't see any substantial knock down of the fire in the apartment either.

The crew eventually makes their way up the non-combustible stairs towards the fire apartment, cooling the ceiling of the breezeway as they "move", making great progress and improving conditions to a point that they can get to the fire apartment.

When they finally make the push, first flowing water from the door threshold, into the apartment, we see the fire darken down quickly.  Something that did not happen from the exterior with the same line.  Again, variables that are out of our control will dictate our success and failure with certain tactics. We have to adapt and have confidence to make a change in our efforts if what we are doing isn't working.  It doesn't always mean to get a larger line.

Was the problem the size of the line or the location from which it was originally being deployed?  In my estimation with the limited information provided by this video, I came to the conclusion that it WAS the right size line once it's stream was directed at the seat of the fire, which was inside the apartment unit.  The crew rightly adjusted their tactics and put a good knock on the fire once they went to the source.

At the end of the video, I again ask the same question, "was the right size line used?"  Many have changed their initial answer and some have not.  What was more important in this case: the size line or the location?

Could a 2 1/2 knocked that fire from the exterior?  Possibly. Would it have been more difficult to re-position to an interior space? Probably.  Both of those questions have variables that would increase their success or failure that depend on training, manpower, etc.

The point here is not that outside fire attack is bad or not necessary.  It's also not that all fires need to be extinguished from the exterior.  The point here is to identify the need to adapt and to trust your training and experience.  Also, don't get boxed into only one way of doing your business.

Whatever your opinion, I hope that you use this as a discussion that can offer some ideas and thoughts for your crew.  Take care and as always, thanks for reading.

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Comment by Mark J. Cotter on September 24, 2015 at 11:25am

Jason,

Great video! Having the entire sequence to watch is really much more informative than the usual "highlight" clips.  One thing I noticed was that the nozzle man did not apply water to the large body of fire coming from the balcony window for more than 3 seconds at a time, and then often just hitting the soffit. (In his defense, there was plenty of fire everywhere calling for attention.)  On the other hand, even with just 8 or 9 seconds of flow into the window to the right, it appeared that room remained darkened down.  The fire dynamics experiments that demonstrated significant fire knockdown from the exterior used straight stream flows lasting 20 to 60 seconds, which is not a long time by any means, but significantly longer than was attempted here.  Aiming a stream into the window to bounce off the ceiling for a longer period may have reduced that fire and the resulting hot gasses spewing into the breezeway.  There is a great shot of the stream cooling the thick smoke that had been igniting overhead, turning it to steam.  Thanks for the excellent discussion piece!

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