Instructor Discusses Importance of Volunteer Firefighter Tools and Hydraulic Ventilation Firefighting

Central Alabama Training Solutions instructor Shaun McAteer demonstrates how hydraulic ventilation firefighting can aid small, understaffed volunteer fire departments.


This is a very helpful tool. It has a very good purpose. You might be low on manpower while you’re out in the county because you’re volunteers. I commend you for that. I’m a volunteer as well where I live. I’ve only been doing it for the last eight months. It really opened my eyes as a career guy because when we show up to a fire scene in Tuscaloosa, we have enough people to stomp it down.

You pull up to the fire scene and do your 360. Maybe the fire is vented, maybe it’s not. This firefighting tool allows you to do a lot of things on the fire scene while you’re waiting for the calvary to come.

You’ll first notice that this tool is long and has an S in it, but I’ll get to that in a minute. One thing firefighters do well is tear stuff up. If you give us a steel ball for five minutes, we’ll tear it up.

This tool has a point that allows you to ventilate a window. This part hangs on the windowsill. When you open that nozzle, it is going to slide up against it and stay there. One person, especially if it’s pre-connected to your rig, can set it in the window. You can open the nozzle to start hydraulic ventilation firefighting and walk away.

You’ll see that this would be toward the fire and this other part is aiming toward the ceiling. It’s shooting water at the ceiling, just like a sprinkler, but with a lot more GPMs than a sprinkler head. What it is doing when it’s hitting the ceiling, is making tiny droplets of water.

It is doing some suppression. At the same time, you have a fog hose. This is kind of like having a smooth bore and a fog going at the same time. When you opened the nozzle, you introduced two things, water, and air. We’re suppressing and ventilating with one person. This tool is helpful for people that may be on the inside. We may not know they are in there. We don’t really know until there’s a search.

You pull up and you see a lady standing there. You ask, “Hey, is everybody out of that structure?” She replies, “Yeah, I got me and my three were good.” Then you go in and start using that wonderful power cone because you think nobody’s in there. However, she forgot about the neighbor’s kids that spent the night. When people panic, that happens. What I am relaying to you is a real story. It is not clear until we say it’s clear.

What we do and how we act on a structure fire should resemble our strategy and our tactics, which is always life safety.

We got this in the window, and we open it up. We put the truck in pump gear before we left, and we get some pressure on it. We’re doing what we can. We’re ventilating and we’re suppressing. We’re getting some of the smoke out while putting some of the water in.

Where there’s light gray smoke, there will eventually be dark gray smoke. In today’s modern homes and furnishings, you will have black pressurized smoke.

The fog nozzle has 95 GPM. The smooth bore’s GPM depends on how much you’re pumping it at, how much load is on the ground and how much friction loss you have.

Let’s say I was a good firefighter, and I didn’t open the front door yet. What do you think I’m doing as I go back to the truck and more people come onto the scene? I’m pulling up the primary line. That’s better for us because we’re giving the smoke a place to go now. It is not sucking all of it out, but it is a lot better than it was.

If I don’t see any more black smoke, then we can go get a primary line in place and get our gear on. I did not need an SCBA when I did that. It was safe. It can sit there because we’re actually doing a lot.

You have all of these tools, but I’m going to go to this one every time. I worked as a two-man crew at a smaller department before I was at Tuscaloosa. I wish we would have had one of these tools because we had to wait until everybody got to the fire scene to do something.

This is not the right thing to do every time. It depends on a lot of factors. Let’s say I pull up to the fire scene, and it’s a two-story fire with a person hanging out through a window. I’m going to pull a ladder.

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