As firefighters, we have been taught in our training not to apply water on smoke during interior structure fires. Or wait until you see flame until you open up to engage your enemy. Why do we wait until the heat is so intolerable through several layers of turnouts and protective hoods to finally open the nozzle?
This practice of what my mentor Joe Starnes would say, ” ducking and diving” into the abyss unaware of the extreme temperatures inches away from our head and facepiece sets the matrix for a potential catastrophic event. Our surroundings are being pre-heated via the flow path through convective, conductive, & radiant currents. The mixture of fire gases over our heads is a well-tuned carburetor waiting for the ignition switch.
Having taken several Urban Search & Rescue structural collapse courses in my 30-year career, we are taught to create an area of refuge every 50′ or so to ensure we have a safe area to seek refuge in the event of aftershocks…
So, I got thinking..why are we not taking the same attitude while making our fire attack? Why do we not ensure the fire corridor we use for the fire attack is rendered safe for a rapid egress for our team if things go bad?
The use of surface cooling is not a new technique by no means. Our brothers over seas have been using it for years with remarkable results. The cooling of gases allows us to reduce temperatures around our team as we tunnel our way towards the source of the fire. Small shorts bursts (no penciling) are used to cool the environment in conjunction whit the Go No Go..TIC thermal and structural assessment.
We are simply reducing the temperatures and cooling the surfaces in an effort to prevent an extreme fire event from overtaking our position in the event of a retreat. It buys us time to escapee as the surface must be reheated in order for off-gasing to occur or until our back-up line can get into position. This may not be the adrenaline rush fire attack you are looking for, but there is no doubt, it is a safer fire attack.