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exit from the belowgrade area all the way
out to fresh air.
When descending any interior stair
into heavy fire, but especially an enclosed stair, it is usually best to avoid
using a fog pattern. To do so risks
pressurizing the area ahead of the nozzle
with the entrained air of the fog pattern.
Then, when the nozzle reaches the end of
the enclosure that allowed the pres-
surization, fire will be pushed violently
around the edges of the fog pattern into
the low-pressure space that exists there,
right at the firefighters on the hoseline
and back up the staircase.
In severe situations, however, you may
have to advance partway down the stair
with the fog pattern, providing protec-
tion against the fire coming up the stair
while a second hoseline advances right
alongside with this stream operating on
straight or solid stream, right through the
fog pattern. This stream can be used to
sweep across the ceiling and reach the
seat of the fire. Of course, this is possi-
ble only if the staircase is wide enough
to permit both lines to fit. Ventilation
opposite the hoseline’s advance can
greatly aid this process if it can be done
on the downwind (low-pressure) side.
If the wind would blow back into the
area, withhold ventilation until after
knockdown. Positive-pressure ventilation
behind the hose team could also prove
beneficial if a sufficiently large exhaust
opening can be created opposite the
hoseline. In cellars and sub-cellars, that
may not be possible.
An exterior entrance is a much safer
approach than one that necessitates that
the attack team descend the interior
stair. These entrances can be flush
sidewalk grates or a door that allows
access to the fire area at the same level
as the fire. Ideally, it will allow sufficient
room to stage and enter straight into
the occupancy without having to make
any turns, thus permitting the hose
stream to attack the fire from a distance.
On the other hand, if you encounter an
entryway that makes it necessary for the
nozzle team to make a 90° turn before
entry, someone must be prepared to
remain at the turn to feed hose as the
rest of the team advances so they can
proceed without impediment. You will
not be able to choose the type of entryway you must deal with, but at least you
can recognize what each type means
and prepare to deal with it.
1. “Four Firefighters Die in Seattle Warehouse Fire-Seattle,
Washington,” U. S. Fire Administration Technical Report,
2. “A Career Lieutenant and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Die in
a Hillside Residential House Fire—California,” National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Firefighter
Fatality Report, March 1, 2012.
JOHN NORMAN retired as deputy assistant
chief from the Fire Department of New York
(FDNY), where he served for 27 of his 40-
plus years in the fire service. He attended
Oklahoma State University, majoring in fire
protection technology. He has a bachelor’s
degree in fire service administration from
Empire State College of the State University
of New York. He is a graduate of the
FDNY/Columbia University Fire Officers
Management Institute. He is the author
of The Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics
and Fire Department Special Operations
(Pennwell) and lectures nationally on fire and