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MFA #14: That Won’t Work Here - And other lame excuses

The “C” in SLICE-RS, representing the tactic of “Cooling from a safe location”, seems to remain the primary stumbling block for many current firefighters when presented with this practical application of the fire dynamics research findings.  Every other step in this “new” strategy, from Size-Up to Salvage, was already standard practice for most of us, with much of the innovation being how they were emphasized (see MFA #11:SLICE-RS and Flow Paths and Change, Oh My! at  For sure, many are also still upset about the order of the letters, or even that letters are being used; and the methods of controlling flow paths, such as delaying ventilation or applying smoke curtains, remain controversial, even as the science proving their importance seems to be earning a grudging acceptance as fact (just like climate change).  More than any other feature, though, that pesky middle letter in this new-fangled acronym is the hardest to adopt. 

Imagine you're standing in front of a burning building with a charged hoseline in your hands, flames are coming out of the window of a room well-involved with fire directly in front of you, and entry to the structure by other firefighters has not yet occurred.  Should you flow water into the window?  The MFA-compliant answer would be "Yes".  When performed properly (straight stream from a handline, angled upward into the window in order to bounce off the ceiling, and without significant stream movement in order to avoid blocking the exit of products of combustion), this tactic has been shown to significantly reduce the temperature in the fire compartment, as well as any other communicating compartments, with no ill effects.  Interior conditions improve for victims and firefighters, and deterioration of the structure is delayed.

So much for my justification of a “Yes” response; how about the remaining two choices: “No” or “Maybe/It Depends”?  I realize that there are firefighters reading this whose officers/chief do not yet appreciate the benefits of this tactic, so I get their “No” answer.  How about those who have both the bail and the decision whether or not to open it in their hands?  Are there any reasons to wait?  Are there any downsides to decreasing the ferocity of combustion occurring in the structure?  We need to hear them.

SLICE-RS has been described by some as a great method for departments with limited personnel, which is not inaccurate, but certainly inadequate.  While its combination of tactics are easy for small departments to implement, it also works just as well for medium and large departments.  Given the scenario described above - facing a burning room with a charged hoseline in your hand - does it matter whether the only thing behind you is a brush truck with a 150 gallon water tank, or dozens of other firefighters and a street filled with apparatus?  Opening the nozzle will make things better, regardless of the amount of personnel or resources available for subsequent actions.

Pete Van Dorpe, Assistant Chief, Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire District, and member, Advisory Board, UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, narrated the fourth of the newer Principles of Modern Fire Attack video series “SLICE-RS: Cool from a Safe Location” (, and touted the improvements provided by this tactic for victims, the structure, and firefighters.  He summarized his review of the fire dynamics research with this powerful statement: 

“You now have permission to use the reach of your stream from whatever position is most advantageous for a fast knockdown of the fire. It also means you have an obligation to do so.  If you are standing with a charged line in your hand, waiting for the front door to be forced, and you choose not to knock down the fire showing from the second floor window, you are deliberately exposing the victims, the building, and your fellow firefighters to an unnecessary threat. Do the right thing!” 

Now, unless you work for Chief Van Dorpe or someone similarly enlightened, you may not feel you actually have that permission, but you certainly have the justification, based on the results of live fire experiments performed by respected researchers and fire departments.  Cooling fire from a safe location (more accurately, a safer location, because it can be also be performed while in a structure, directing water flow into an involved room) is a tactical choice with strong scientific backing and proven benefits.  You may have your reasons for not wanting to do it, but anybody can do it.


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