John Salka, battalion chief FDNY retired, left, and Derek Alkonis, battalion chief of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department, right, discuss fire ground tactics in a session moderated by Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Tim Sendelbach, center.
Photo credit: Peter Matthews/Firehouse
Four the fourth time, Derek Alkonis, battalion chief of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department, and John Salka, battalion chief FDNY retired, meet for discussions of firefighting tactics. This latest discussion took place at Firehouse Expo in Nashville.
The discussion largely focused on a new tactic which calls for the application of a fire stream through an open window to create a sprinkler-like effect on a fire room. The tactic has been the subject of study by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST).
Alkonis, who is an advisory board member of UL, offers an opinion that the tactic, which is sometimes called “Hit it from the Yard,” works and the science backs it up.
“If you’ve been around 20, 30, 40 years, we’re all trained to never put a hose line in from the exterior to the interior,” Alkonis said. “That was just something you did not do.”
However, research has been done, and Alkonis said it now appears a fire stream through a window into a room of fire actually works in extinguishing blazes.
“It cools the fire and it prevents it from extending into other areas,” Alkonis said. “There are now fire departments that have adopted it into their standard operating procedures. And there are others who have said; ‘you know what, we’re not that interested yet—we want to see more research.’”
Salka is one of those people who would like to see more research. He said the testing that was done was in a very controlled environment, where all the variables are known. He said in most fires he’s ever been on there’s if very little known except that something is burning.
“You don’t know if it’s just a room and contents fire, if it’s extended into another room, and there are sometimes you can’t tell if it’s one or two houses,” Salka said.
Salka said he is certain that the research proved the technique works, but he said he’d like to see variables changed to see if the premise still works.
“There is a time and a place for everything,” Salka said. “Everything works somewhere, but nothing works everywhere,” Salka said. He said he wondered what the testing would prove out after a 1,000 times, or if any of the variables were changed, like in real life.
Salka expressed concern with the delay in stretching a line to the window with fire coming out of it, rather than taking the front door and going for the seat of the fire.
“Firefighting is pretty difficult even when we restrict ourselves to the no’s, the never’s and the always,” Salka said, adding that asking firefighters to put the water through the window too might be more than they can handle.
“There are challenges getting people to know what size hose to stretch, which pre-connect to use, which floor you are on, when do you call for water, who is going to stay at the door, are you going to have two in and two out,” Salka said.
His biggest concerns were related to the extra time it would take to stretch a hose to the window in the involved room and then to redeploy to make an interior attack.
Alkonis agreed that there are circumstances when putting water through a window might not always be the best tactic.
“Sometimes directing the hose stream from the outside is the perfect tactic,” Alkonis said. “Other times, maybe it’s not. Maybe you need to get around and get to the seat of the fire in a more effective manner on the inside.”
Salka said that he has a collection of tools, or tactics, that he has developed from years of experience and, not that he’s against change, he just doesn’t want to lose his tools.
“It’s just another tool in the tool box,” Salka said.
And Alkonis agreed.