We were doing truck checks this past Tuesday like we always do. This is the day that we do the bay floors, check our saws, tune everything up, run all fans, extrication tools, and all that good stuff. I was on Engine 1 for the tour and we had already ran all of our equipment and before I went over to ask the Heavy Rescue or Ladder dudes what they had left to run I checked my nozzles. It’s not uncommon for me to walk around each shift and check the nozzles and hose loads from previous shifts to make sure they’re correct and ready to go. I also harp on the importance of checking the loads and nozzles at my volunteer department quite a bit and I’m sure they all get tired of the emails when I send something out about them, but it’s all for good reason.
It’s all for good reason because the nozzle is the single most important piece of equipment on the fire ground. We cannot put the fire out, protect lives, and protect unburned property without it. The nozzle has changed some over the past couple decades but the function of the nozzle remains the same. It disperses water in a desired pattern determined by nozzle type or user’s choice with a combination nozzle. When we arrive on scene this tool has to work every single time, and because that is so, we should be checking them every single day as we do the rest of the equipment. Just remove them, operate the bail, check the spinning teeth for any breaks, operate the bumper from fog to straight, and look inside for anything that may be clogging the nozzle and would hinder full flows. This takes just a couple of minutes each day.
We had finished running the equipment on Engine 1 and I began to walk to each hose load to check them and operate the nozzles to make sure they were good to go. We currently run the Elkhart Brass Chief 150/75 nozzles. They’re great nozzles and require very low maintenance overall. I checked each hand line and then moved on to the front bumper load. This front bumper load is 100 foot of 1.5” rubber hose and mainly used for small rubbish fires, dumpster fires, and most car fires. I opened the compartment lid, picked the nozzle up, and removed it from the hose. I moved the bail, made sure everything was tight, looked inside, and then looked at the spinner to make sure all the teeth were there as I do. As I looked at the spinning teeth I realized there was a rock wedged in the nozzle orifice. I then reminded myself right then that that’s why I do what I do. It’s “just” a bumper line right? I mean, what could a rock hurt? It’s not just a bumper line, and one day, that rock(s) could be on your primary attack line. That attack line is your lifeline, the citizen’s life line, and it’s your nozzle. I don’t know of a single solider that would want to go to combat with a rock in the barrel of their weapon. So no firefighters should would want to go to combat with a rock in the barrel of their weapon; the nozzle.
I feel it’s very important that you check your nozzles. You should take them off, soak them in warm water with a mild soap, and clean them up after tough dirty fires and occasionally just to do it for general maintenance. If it’s been awhile since one of your nozzles has been used then take it off the hose load and attach it to a discharge on the side of the truck and just let it flow for a while. If you run automatic nozzles check your manufacture’s recommended maintenance on the spring inside and make sure it’s actuating and flowing the desired amount it should at the various pump discharge pressures for your target flow.
I say all that to say this. We are humans and humans make mistakes. I come to work all the time to see nozzles crammed in loads that are loaded in a less than desirable and deployable state. I know about six months ago I was heading up a Monday night drill and we were going to do hose load deployments. We deployed and loaded hose probably fifty times for a few hours working on various things, but before that training began, I had to hook two nozzles up to the pre-connects that were just up there laying down. The person who loaded the hose last after a structure fire a couple days before that drill simply forgot to attach them. I was shocked but glad we caught it in training before another alarm came out. I took pictures of course and emailed them out as a simple reminder to check your hose loads and nozzles. It was just two weeks ago that my volunteer department ran a structure fire. I got off shift that morning and went by to see the work they had done. It was a tough fire but a good stop was made. I left the scene and went by the station to talk shop and get the scoop on what all happened. When I got there I immediately walked over to the hose loads and checked them. They were flat loaded versus our adopted modified minute man load and one of the gallonage select nozzles was set to 60 GPM and not the desired 150 GPM. So, I took pictures and sent another friendly reminder out; then I removed that gallonage select nozzle and put a Chief 200/75 on there so that mistake couldn’t be made again. If your department runs a quick attack RAM nozzle that stays pre-connected on the outside of your apparatus then I highly recommend you check it every single shift. The dirt, debris, and road grime gets all over those nozzles and down in there. It can feel like someone poured sand in there when you go to adjust the stream pattern and there’s plenty of dirt down in the threads of the nozzle connections.
THINGS TO CHECK:
I know the future will hold more pictures and more emails, but I rather continue to harp on loads and nozzles with those emails versus sending one e-mail to firefighter close calls because someone didn’t check their equipment. It’s your life. It’s your brother’s life. It’s the citizen’s life and property you protect down the block. So, DO YOUR JOB and CHECK YOUR NOZZLES!