I have covered the major fire suppression agents in previous articles and have tried to be as neutral as possible in those presentations. However, I have to admit that I am quite partial to gel agents (particularly FireIce). Now, what I will not do is tell you that other products are terrible or ineffective. They have purpose and a place/time to be used. There is no disputing that fact. I do believe that there are some rather shoddy products out there that I would prefer not utilize (and frankly would rather use straight water than to waste time on those products). Will I tell you what they are? NO. I’m not here to bash anyone else’s product. What I am here to do is to educate Firefighters on how to properly deploy a gel agent and make it work for you.
Utilizing FireIce as a suppression agent is quite easy. Do you have to change how you fight fire? Absolutely not! Can you change how you fight fire? YES you can! As this article progresses, we will discuss how we can change what we are doing, when utilizing FireIce.
We have all been taught the infamous T, Z and O patterns for nozzle operation. Many have learned how to be effective with a solid stream, while others may not have had that opportunity. These methods do not necessarily have to change when adding FireIce to the operation. However, there are a few nuances that can be employed.
FireIce can be utilized with ANY stream pattern (fog, straight, or solid). We have found, in our own testing, that the straight or solid stream is the stream of choice. Fortunately, the fire service has begun its movement away from wide fog patterns within enclosed areas, opting for the decreased steam production of a tight stream. Wide-angle streams break down very rapidly in high-heat environments and create a LOT of steam (which generally tends to displace firefighters more than anything else). The formulation of FireIce allows us to use a narrow- angle fog pattern without creating the steam-bath that straight water or even foam streams produce. So, no matter what you are used to using (stream-wise), FireIce is just as effective.
How about those flow-rates?
Well, guess what? That doesn’t change either! You can utilize the nozzle, hose, and normal GPM, pump and nozzle pressures that you already utilize. That makes implementation of the product that much easier! We are not re-inventing the wheel. We’re just enhancing its performance!
We discussed in the last article (Changing Gears, part IV), how a gel product works, so I won’t duplicate that information here. What I will attempt to do is introduce you to the tactics of using FireIce gel and help you understand how it is slightly different than the norm.
I know what you are thinking: “You said we don’t have to change anything.” Well, you really
don’t have to. It’s a choice. However, if you want to get the “full” benefit of a gel, your tactics will have to change slightly.
Your stream application will be the same. The difference is…..you won’t have to use as much water to accomplish the same end result.
Now….hold on a minute…don’t get the lynching mob together just yet! I know that you have had EVERY salesman of EVERY new product you have seen tell you the exact same thing. Right? Yeah, I’ve gotten those sales pitches too! Some of them are true…some…..not so much.
You have to remember how a gel works. Rather than the molecules of water being separated, decreasing the surface tension, as with a foam product (which means you will still have water rapidly evaporate into steam or just run off the burning material), FireIce binds the water molecules together into a gel form, making them stick to the burning material and absorb the heat. FireIce will “coat” the burning materials, as well as the other surfaces that are off- gassing and preparing to ignite. This action allows the product to absorb the heat at the source AND prevent further off-gassing of nearby materials (which will eventually lead to flashover). Therefore, once the agent has been applied to the burning area, you can shut off the nozzle!
The application/tactic is very simple. When advancing to the fire, if you encounter rolling flames, at the ceiling, simply coat the ceiling and upper walls. You will prevent them from off- gassing, as well as cool the overhead. Continue advancing to the seat of the fire. Once the seat is in stream-range, utilize whatever pattern you like on the burning materials in short burst. Look at it this way. Do a quick knock-down of the fire, shut off the nozzle, wait a second for your visibility to return and if you see more flames, re-apply the product in another short burst.
This is not an extreme change of tactics, however, it is slightly different than going in and discharging 125-150GPM like a wild-man and hoping for the best. I have seen that tactic used on hundreds of fires. Water will evaporate, run off or just never make it to the actual “seat” of the fire. Foam products will do the same thing (for the most part). Foam is slightly better than straight water but only slightly. FireIce actually enhances the properties that water inherently possesses, rather than break it down.
Generally speaking, we call this tactic “painting”. If you think of it in those terms, it may make more sense. If you are painting something, do you just go crazy with the paint? No. You “coat” the object you are painting with short, sweeping burst! Otherwise, you will have a mess on your hands and paint running everywhere. FireIce is utilized in the same fashion. We want to make short “painting” strokes with the stream and “coat” the materials that are burning. It’s just that simple.
You CAN use FireIce the same way you have always used water/foam but taking a different approach will actually save you time, effort AND water! That is the ultimate goal. This product does not take away the fun of the interior attack (as some folks have worried it will). But let’s face facts. The “fun” at a fire only last for about 10-15minutes. After that….it’s all just plain
WORK! None of us want to spend hours upon hours mopping up after a fire. We are tired, wet, sore and hungry. We want to get back to the house, clean up the rigs and tools, and call it a good day! Right? We can keep doing things the way we always have but…..we will never get more effective than we already are and we will continue to bust our humps doing the laborious task of overhaul for hours after a fire is declared out.
There is an old adage that goes: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got!”
Change is hard to take sometimes but when it makes sense, you have to go with it. Don’t let the future of firefighting pass you buy.
Be safe out there. Till next time………