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Posts tagged ‘firefighting’

A to Z: Y is for Wye


The “wye” is a connection that will split one hose into two different lines. These might be needed for long driveways where the fire engine can’t maneuver, houses set far back, or a multi-family structure with limited access. One type of these is referred to as a “water thief”, or a gated wye. This can be used to allow water to only go through one side of the connection or both at the same time. These usually have a 2 1/2 inch inlet and 2 1/2 inch outlets.

There is also the siamese coupling that will turn two smaller lines into one hose line. This is commonly used to avoid the loss of friction in long hose lays. It also adds additional lines on the fireground. These usually have 2 or 3 “female” connections coming into the appliance and one “male” connection for the discharge.

There’s also the Z-adapter, which is for connecting supplemental pumps into long hose lines. These are usually adapted from two gated wyes and a double female connection. Or a siamese may be connected to one outlet of the gated wye.

A to Z: X is for eXtrication


Extrication in the fire service most often means vehicle extrication. This is the means of removing a vehicle or part of a vehicle from around a person when conventional means of exiting are impossible or inadvisable. Or, rather, getting a person out of a vehicle when they can’t or shouldn’t open the door and step out.

‘ Einsatz des Spreizers, Schaffen einer Arbeitsöffnung am Türschloss ”’en:”’ ”’photographer:”’ Magnus Mertens ”’place:”’ Goettingen, Germany ”’date:”’ September 2005

After an accident scene has been marked off and protected from a potential fire situation(shutting off the ignition and such to keep from igniting any possible spilled fuel), the patient will need to be assessed to determine how to get them out. The vehicle needs to be secured as any movement could cause more trauma to a victim, not to mention posing a danger to the rescue workers. A window may be removed to allow a first responder to get inside to better assess the victim and also ease any pressure on the victim. Then, usually, a door or the roof will be cut or pulled away to safely remove the victim, and be able to protect the head, neck, and back.

Road accident in Belgium — casualty extraction with a long spine board Auteur/author : Olivier Goldberg, 24 février 2006 [http://www.anesthe-site.be/b

The main extrication tool used is the Hurst tool, or Jaws of Life. Some departments may only have this on hand, and after popping the door off, the rescue workers can get the patient out. Or they may have a more dedicated heavy rescue team who can come in with more equipment when it is needed. Extrication isn’t just the action of getting the door out, though. It starts with fire protection and isn’t finished until the patient is transferred to an ambulance, or at least away from the scene if they were merely trapped and not injured.


A to Z: W is for Wildfire


I was going to talk about Working fire today, but I already went into that a bit on Friday. So, instead I decided to write about wildfires. A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area with combustible vegetation. There are three types of wildfires: bushfire(in Australia), Forest fire, or a brush fire. Around here, we don’t have many forest fires, although that’s probably what most people think of when they hear wildfire. We do have a lot of calls for brush fires during the summer however. A lot of times, these can be put out quickly, but some departments do have a truck dedicated to these outside fires. These are mostly pickup trucks that may have had the bed refitted to haul hose and other equipment needed.

By Kern County Fire Department [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Forest fires can be the most dangerous. And the wildland firefighters have more to contend with than just the flames. Most of these fires occur during the hotter months, so there’s already heat added to that of the fire. So, they can face heat stress, fatigue(as these fires aren’t easily or quickly put out), and even animal bites. The protective gear is heavy and can lead to heat exhaustion. Also wildfire behavior can be unpredictable. It only takes a shift of wind for  the path of the fire to change. This can end up trapping firefighters who thought they were containing it.

By Bureau of Land Management [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There are some different methods of suppressing these fires. One is by dropping water and fire retardants from planes and helicopters. Also firelines can be made by digging trenches, cutting back trees, and also backburning. This seems counterintuitive, as it means setting fires to suppress a fire. But, these fires are smaller, controlled burns. However, since these are controlled, they can often be extinguished quickly and then there is no more fuel for the main fire to burn. Sometimes the two fires meet, though, but once again with nothing left to fuel it, the main fire can be more easily suppressed.

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Flickr: 20120628-F-JQ435-046) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, once the fire is out, the danger isn’t over. These large fires often leaves areas smoldering, even if there aren’t flames and this poses a risk of re-ignition. So, the burn area needs to be completely cooled. And there’s still more work to be done after that. All the things done to put the fire out, along with the loss of vegetation, can cause soil erosion. Which can lead to more problems. To counteract this, waterbars can be built. Also, new plants and debris can be added to exposed soil to limit the damage.


Charred forest following a fire in the North Cascades, Washington. Ground vegetation is just beginning to return. Originally uploaded to the English Project by Bcasterline



A to Z: U is for Under Control


When a fire is said to be “under control”, it means it’s no longer spreading and is currently contained. It does not mean that the fire is out yet. This is just one evaluation, or size-up, that can be made of a fire. Once it’s under control, that’s when they would move on to overhaul operations.

Some other stages a fire may be in during size-up include:

Incipient Stage: This is the beginning of a fire. It’s still small and may simply be put out with a handheld extinguisher.

“Smoke Showing”: Maybe not an “official” size-up term, but this means smoke can be seen from outside the structure. The fire may still be small, but it’s likely on the way to growing into more.

Working Fire: This has moved past the incipient stage and may be considered a “real fire”. It is considered “working” when it’s in the process of being suppressed. It will probably not be able to be put out by a single fire company. Instead, departments that are usually part of a pre-planned mutual aid may be called in, either to bring more engines or trucks, or to stand by in case they are needed.

Well Involved/Fully Involved: Fire, heat, and smoke are so wide-spread that interior access may be delayed until fire streams can be applied.

A to Z: T is for Turnout Gear


Turnout gear, also referred to as bunker gear, is the protective clothing firefighters wear. These include coats, pants, helmets, gloves, and footwear. This gear must have three components: an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal barrier. Pockets of air between these layers add to the protection from the extreme environments of fires. The materials for these items often use a Nomex(a flame resistant material)/Kevlar combination.

Taken by me

Taken by me

The pants often have suspenders attached. These are typically of a heavy duty construction to stand up against heavy weights and rigorous activity. When removed, the pants are often left around the boots, with the suspenders to the OUTSIDE! Very important, because otherwise they would be between your legs when you step into your boots. This makes it quicker to gear up.

Embed from Getty Images

The coat has oversized pockets in order to carry various tools and equipment and reflective stripes line the coat. These usually have velcro or zippers to quickly don the coat. There’s also a flap that covers the closure area, adding extra protection from fire and heat. They also have wristlets made of Nomex at the end of sleeves to prevent burns between the end of the sleeve and the gloves.

Embed from Getty Images

Boots are often made of rubber or leather with steel toe inserts. The boots are worn inside the pants to offer another layer of protection. They also have a puncture resistant midsole plate as they will come in contact with all sorts of surfaces in emergency situation.

Often a hood is worn under the helmet. This is also made of Nomex. This is for when a helmet does not provide built-in protection around ears and neck. The hood is tucked into the collar, then the SCBA mask is donned, then the hood is pulled up over the head to the seal of the mask to cover any exposed skin.

By Sherurcij at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Attribution or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Originally the fire helmet was meant to shed water. Today, it’s purpose is more to protect the firefighter from falling debris or other injuries to the head. A secondary consideration is protection from heat and burns to the head. The hard shell protects from electrical, heat, and steam burns. There are four basic components to a helmet: the outer shell, impact ring, helmet liner, and chin strap. The shell is lightweight & well-balanced. It is designed to provide maximum protection with a front brim, rear brim, and raised top. The impact ring is a 3/8″ sponge rubber ring that absorbs impact energy. The helmet liner is made of fire retardant cotton and Nomex.

By Bill Koplitz (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are a couple different types of gloves firefighters wear. Mostly work gloves and structural firefighting gloves. The work gloves allow better mobility but are not rated for fire-fighting though. One type of work glove is the extrication glove. These are similar to an auto-mechanic’s glove but are made of a heavier rip-proof and puncture resistant material such as Kevlar. However, they are still lightweight enough to maintain dexterity and operate rescue tools or even take a victim’s pulse. For a working fire, structural firefighting gloves have to be worn. These are designed to protect from extreme heat and penetrating objects and still retain some dexterity, though this may be sacrificed as the heat protection is more important. This is often the last item to be donned when gearing up, as that dexterity is needed to perform other tasks, such as putting on the SCBA and tightening straps, particularly for the helmet. The cuff of the glove sits between the wristlet and the end of the coat to offer the most protection.

By Gila National Forest (DSC_7211 Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A to Z: S is for SCBA


SCBA, or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus is a device worn by rescue workers and firefighters when entering a hazardous environment(or IDLH). This has three main components: a high-pressure air tank, a pressure regulator, and a mouthpiece or face mask(as an inhalation connection). This is all connected together on a carrying frame or harness.

Joshua Sherurcij [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

There are closed and open-circuit SCBAs. However, the closed-circuit ones are mostly used for longer-duration needs, such as a mine rescue. It’s the open-circuit ones most firefighters would use. These have a fullface mask, regulator, air cylinder(with a pressure gauge), and a harness allowing it to be worn on the firefighter’s back.

air tanks(picture taken by me)

air tanks(picture taken by me)

The air cylinders usually come in three sizes: 4 liter, 6 liter, and 6.8 liters. The 6 liter generally has a working duration of just over 35 minutes(subtracting 10 for safety margin). Of course, the relative fitness and exertion of the worker causes this time to vary. So, it’s important to pay attention to how much air is left in it. These also usually have a PASS device incorporated into the design, to alert a RIT crew of a firefighter in distress.

When I first started writing Flames of Redemption, I was a little worried about what terminology I used. Originally I had used ‘SCBA’ but then I worried people wouldn’t know what that meant(and realize not everyone likes looking stuff up as much as I do), as not everyone is involved or knows someone who is in the fire service. I imagine if I wasn’t married to a firefighter, I wouldn’t know it either(and didn’t before I knew him). I believe I did end up going with face mask, as I was sure pretty much everyone would understand what that was.

A to Z: R is for Rapid Intervention


A Rapid Intervention Team or Crew(also referred to as RIT or RIC) is a team of two or more firefighters whose job it is to rescue any firefighters in distress. Some of the standards for the RIT team are that at least two fully equipped firefighters(full turnout gear as well as SCBA and any other tools needed) will be standing by whenever crew members enter a hazardous environment.

This is the basis of the Two In, Two Out policy. Two firefighters should go in together. using a sort of buddy system, they maintain voice or visual contact at all time. if one needs to leave, they both need to. One shouldn’t stay behind. Of the two standing outside, one should be dedicated to accounting for the two firefighters inside and initiate a rescue if one of the interior firefighters is in distress. At times, another two would come on to stand by if these two are required to go in. Of course, not all departments will have enough crew members to make this possible. Sometimes there will be RIT crews at every entry point to a structure, but again, this will depend on staffing among other issues.


A to Z: K is for K-tool


As I mentioned last week, one of the tools used for forcible entry is the K-tool. This is used with a Halligan and ax(this combination is commonly referred to as “irons”) or with a maul(strong irons). The K-tool is a 3 inch square steel block about 1 inch thick with a K-shaped notch on one side.

Dependentarising at the English language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

This tool is used to remove a cylinder lock in a door. The notch is slipped over the lock cylinder. Using the flat side of an ax or the sledgehammer, it’s forced down. The Halligan is inserted into the U-shaped flange on the other side of the K-tool and used to pry the tool off the door. This pulls the key cylinder out, and the bolt can be removed from from the cylinder hole using a screwdriver.

This can be used on most styles of doors, but some have more shields in placethat may make this more difficult and time-consuming. That makes it sometimes faster to use the irons on a solid door. However, the K-tool’s benefit comes in when it would be more impractical or even dangerous to be more aggressive with a door, such as with plate glass windows, where flying shards could injure someone. Or in the case where there is only a suspected fire. A lock can be replaced much easier and cheaper than a whole door.

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