Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Been A Busy Summer For This Ordinary Fireman!

On Valentine's Day, Amy & I announced we were expecting a baby. (Click HERE to see.)  We even posted a picture, to get votes on a boy or girl:

Well, on July 2nd, 2012, at 0610hrs, our daughter Gracie was born! Mom & baby did great! Gracie was nineteen inches long, and weighed in at an even six pounds. After a standard forty-eight hour admit, I had the honor of taking my wife and our baby home on July 4th. Gracie got fireworks! (She slept right through them).

Amy knitted this hat for Gracie! It fit perfectly!

Awesome! It's the only way to describe it!

I took a month off from work (thanks to the FMLA). I would like to say that gave me more time to blog and do recreational activities, but, alas, no, it did not. This being a daddy for a newborn thing... How did I do it with my other two kids??? Oh yeah, I was 23 & 24 when they were born... now I'm 41 (I turned 41 a few weeks after she was born, but what's age at this point anyway?)

She is doing quite well. She can now sit up (sorta) in a seat, and she recognizes things, like the stuff in her room, our dogs, and of course, her mom and I! As of this writing, she is nine weeks old. Today she got her first round of shots. It wasn't pleasant, but we got through it.

So I mentioned that I took a month off work. During that time, I was able to grow a goatee, which is pretty common for me when I take a vacation, but I was off for a total of five weeks, so I was pretty impressed with it myself! Not at all anything like ZZ Top grows, but for me, it's as good as it'll be until I'm retired from firefighting! This shot was taken about two minutes before I shaved it off. Gracie helped me with the photo, but I took care of the actual shaving!

It doesn't even look like me!

Once back at work, well, it was pretty much the same thing, except the secretaries have been hounding me for pictures and chances to hold the baby! I work with a great group of people, and it really is an honor to call them friends.

I did a shift on the ambulance, a shift behind the wheel, even rode backwards for a shift (that's tailboard firefighting for those of you old enough to remember what that is!) and spent the rest of the time riding the seat, as our captain was on vacation. Most of the calls were routine, run of the mill type calls.

We also caught a job at a local care center. The staff there did a GREAT JOB in evacuating the residents. I truely give them a tip o' the ol' leather for their job well done. They saved a lot of lives, and frankly, saved us a lot of work. The system worked. The alarm activated, and the alarm company called us. So did the staff. They evacuated and isolated, as per their training and protocols. They even were able to dump an ABC on the fire, which significantly slowed it down to where we put it out with less than the equivilent of a pan of water. We did have to ventilate, but that comes with it. The sprinkler system didn't activate, but I credit the staff's quick actions in ensuring it did not get hot enough to activate. Again, a job well done!

For those of you who like baby pictures, here's a few more:

Even Gracie likes leather fire helmets!

Too bad there isn't video - for being nine days old when these shots were taken, she was cooing up a storm!

Gracie and her older brother Billy!

Gracie and her older sister Morgan!
Gracie spit up all over Morgan right after this shot was taken (sorry Morgan). #BirthControl!!!



Gracie and I on a walk.

These Bumbo chairs are COOL! I wish we'd had them when Morgan and Billy were babies!

Thanks for stopping by.

Stay safe, and God bless!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fire Inspections - Are They Worthless? Or Is There SOME Value To Them?

What are some of the most worthless mundane things that we do while we're on duty? No, I'm not talking about running calls, even if it's the same place we've been to a thousand times before, and the same patient we've treated a thousand times before. Running calls is our reason for being here. 

If you're thinking fire inspections, well, so am I. When it is announced that inspections is on the list of ta-do's for the shift, there is seemingly always a collective groan amongst the members. I freely admit that I'm one of them. In the towns covered by my FD, there are different building codes, which can  sometimes drive the Prevention Division members mad. As far as the general fire code inspections go, well, they aren't really very enforceable. The courts haven't backed us up, per se. That doesn't mean we can't do them, it just means that staying in violation of the fire code won't result in a legal penalty assessed by the court.

Is there value to fire code enforcement? Absolutely. For starters, since the inception of business fire code inspections in the early 1990s, our commercial fires are down. Dramatically down. When business fires are reduced, companies don't get markedly inconvenienced or put out of business when there is a fire. People keep their jobs. Employeed people can provide for their family's needs and contribute to the local economy. To me, a very good thing.

Another advantage: if/when there is a fire, the business's insurance carrier ALWAYS want to see the latest fire code inspection results. It seems that while the courts may not totally have our backs, the insurance companies have a bigger power of persuasion with businesses. Maybe it's better that way.

So, at least for me, I don't slack off when we go do them. Besides, most business management folks I've talked to almost always thank us for pointing out potential issues that can cause a fire. Business owners and managers who have good heads on their shoulders don't want a fire, and when shown how simply and relatively inexpensively they can remedy an issue, they usually start correction efforts on the spot, if they can.

Ok, so, this week my engine company got started on our annual list of fire inspections. We drew fifty-six businesses to perform fire code inspections on this year. Not bad. We usually start on them in late spring, and get them done before summer is out. We got thirteen done the other day, including a vacant (DONE!) and of the thirteen, six are complete already. The rest really only have minor issues - exit lights not functioning, fire extinguishers needing service, etc. Nothing worth shutting down a business over. I'm confident they will be corrected before we return in three weeks. Easy work.

Now, here is the part of inspections that I do like. (Ken, are you feeling ok? You said that you actually LIKE to do inspections?) No, I said there are parts of inspections that I like. Seeing what is stored, so that if/when we have a response, we know what hazards there are likely to be (Firefighter Safety issues) and to look at how various locks are used in our response area (Forcible Entry issues) for starters.

We rolled up to a gas station and during a walk-around we were surprised to see several barrels with labels on them stating the contents were either "Flammable Liquids" or "Non-Hazardous Waste". Hmmm... So, when we were talking to the manager, we got the scoop on them. Several years ago there was an accident there that resulted in underground pipes breaking, and there was a massive flood of gasoline in that part of town. Thank God it didn't ignite! Anyway, they recovered a lot of the product at an emergency dam built on a creek (it was an underflow dam IIRC). A shipper came and picked up all of the barrels except for what we saw on the visit. We suggested they contact that shipper again, or perhaps another one.

More hmmm...

One thing I've noticed over the past several years is the demographics of my town are changing. Drastically. And not necessarily for the better. Some folks blame the economy. Others blame urban flight. I don't know, or care, what you want to call it. But the marked increase in crimes over the past years isn't due to an increase in population - it's grown, but not as fast as the crime rate. So, why do I mention this? Because with increased crime rates come increased security measures. Increased security measures means we have increased forcible entry challenges.

Drop bar at a local business. Crude? Not really. Effective? Yes! Easy to force? Well, it is if you think it through.

Note the slot on the door that the steel tab drops in to. Pad locks hold it in place when securing the door after hours.

Using a K12-type of power saw can yield fast results. Cutting the heads of the bolts off will allow a traditional force, as the bar will stay in place when we force the door open. Then we can simply remove the bar, once the door is open.
Failing that, we can also cut the hinges, but this will take more time.

So, as you can see, going out and doing fire code inspections isn't always a bad thing. There ARE advantages to it, as boring, pointless, and mundane as they seem.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and God bless.


(NOTE: Before this gets out of hand: Folks, this is NOT an attack on the volunteer sector of firefighting. I have been a volunteer firefighter, and would gladly do it again, if I lived in an area that was served by a volunteer fire department. The intent of this post isn't to slam VFDs, but rather, to point out some of the more mundane things that have to be done in the paid sector. If there are VFDs out there who perform some/all of the same non-emergency duties that are performed in the paid sector, please accept my apologies for my ignorance, and let it lay. My sincere thanks for the services you provide to your community.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All In A Morning's Work

My FD typically does hose testing every May. The weather is mostly nice, and it generally isn't too humid or hot. At my company, we split it amongst the three shifts. This year, A-Shift did everything that was on the hose rack, on the order of a couple thousand feet. B-Shift is doing the main bed, which is 1000 ft of 5" hose and 300 ft of 2.5" hose. C-Shift - my shift - drew all the pre-connects.

Last weekend is when we did it. It started out a nice morning, temps in the 70s, low humidity. However, within an hour of the shift starting, the clouds and humidity moved in, and a storm front started approaching. Ok, at least it wasn't HOT! We did get a little rain, but not a whole lot, while we were working.

Just after charging the lines and tightening the couplings.

All the sections passed. 

In all, we tested 1150 feet of hose, 750 ft of 1.75" and 400 ft of 2.5" line. The ambulance crew caught a long call just as we were starting, so instead of five of us, there were three of us doing the work, but we still got it done in short order. Set up only took about thirty minutes. That entailed pulling the 1.75" pre-connects off and reloading the speed-lay trays with already tested hose. As you can see in the pictures, there is dry 2.5" ready to be loaded (we use the triple-load). We have our 2.5" pre-connects in Mattydale style cross-lays, and pressure tested them from there, while we used a water thief and a gated wye to hook up all the small hose. The test itself was the standard five minutes of pressure. The bulk of the work was in labeling the tested sections, draining, rolling, and putting them in the dryer! Hey, it's gotta be done, so we might as well do it!

During yesterday's shift, we went to our area elementary school for the year end "Water Day". We routinely visit fourth grade classes throughout the year and finish it off at the end of the school year with a "Water Day", where we have them set up bucket brigades and other contests. Let me tell ya, the established contests usually last about 0.5 seconds, then it becomes a water fight. We keep a charged line there to refill the troughs that the kids fill their buckets with, and on occasion (read - when ever we're not filling the troughs) we set it on a medium fog setting and let it rain down. Most of the time, the kids turn on each other, but they also frequently target us with their buckets! That, even when we have a charged line pointing at them! It's a lot of fun!

Sorry folks, I didn't get any pictures while we were there. I was too busy getting soaked by all the 4th graders!

(Don't worry, we don't squirt them directly. We only have 70 psi at the discharge on the panel, so it's not a high pressure or high volume line, but it moves enough water to fill the 150 gallon troughs in about three minutes, and gives them a nice, almost gentle fog pattern soaking when we aim it at their feet!)

This one is short, especially for my usual postings. Thanks for reading!

Stay safe, and God bless!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Treasure Find! A Little Gem Of A Pumper

Recently while I was visiting my kids in Marble Hill, MO, my son and I were goofing off and stopped at the local Ford dealer where, out back, sits a 1974 American La France Pioneer pumper. And, it is for sale, too! (They're asking $5850. Contact info: Call Tee at Lutesville Ford, Marble Hill, MO, (888)419-6762 www.lutesvillemotor.com) The neighboring fire district recently received a newer apparatus, and don't have room to keep this one, so it was sold.

The pumper is a 1974 American La France Pioneer, 1000 GPM dual stage pump, 500 gallon booster tank, a 30 gallon foam tank with a preconnected foam line, Detroit Diesel 6V92, Allison automatic transmission, and a 5kW gasoline powered generator. From my very quick and general look-over, it appears to have been very well maintained and is in decent shape. From talking to Jeff, one of the mechanics at the dealership and a local volunteer firefighter, he has driven and operated this engine and he says it runs like a dream!

I think my son had fun watching me light up as we poked around. He asked if I thought I could operate it. I said I think so, give me a few minutes to look it over. He accompanied me as I was doing a 360, commenting on what I saw. 

1974 American La France Pioneer 1000 GPM, 500 gal booster tank, 30 gal foam tank, 5kW generator.
There is no siren on the pumper, although it appears a mechanical siren was bolted 
at the front of the step under the officer's door. 

Fairly standard cab, but no air ride seats. Behind the transmission shifter in this photo you can see a bit of the light bar.
It's a Federal TwinSonic, but it's shortened with no speaker housing. Yeah, that dates me, I know what a TwinSonic is.

Driver side shot, shows added on high-sides. Room for 3 SCBA in the front high-side, and a shelf in the back one. Dual six inch squirrel suction lines and telescopic quarts lighting are visible. 

1000 GPM two-stage American La France pump. Has a governor vs a relief valve. 
Note the friction loss chart to the left on the door to the transverse compartment.

Close up of the gauges.

Close up of the discharges and inlets.

I tried to get the pump chart, but I think I got more of me!

Jump seat area. There were two SCBA brackets back there, but they've been removed. 
The light chargers appear to still be hooked up. 

Passenger side panel. Note the missing discharge: The #4 discharge has been angled so as to feed a preconnected 2.5" line off the back of the pumper. The only drawback is it is 2" piping with a couple 90o bends, but I think adding a few psi to the discharge pressure would overcome this if one were needing to pump a larger flow. 
The ladders appear to be in decent shape.

In the dunnage area, the booster line has been removed. Sad times, I know. However, you can see the fuel tank for the generator, and a spot to mount a deck gun. I like that the valve to control the deck gun is right there at the discharge.
You can also see the foam system - the foam tank is right behind that bulkhead. When you need foam, simply turn the ball valve to open and re-route the proportioner to activate the venturi. Remember to pump it at 200psi!

Sorry for the shadows - the sun was high, and I had a lot of glare to contend with. At the front of this hose bed is the hook-ups for the 1.5" Right Rear Preconnect and the 2.5" preconnect.

The main hose bed. I believe they had 5" supply hose. 
That's the foam tank up front. Inside those tubes are 3" suction hoses.

Again with the glare! At the front of this hosebed is the outlet for the Left Rear Preconnect, which is the foam line.

Close up of the two 3" suction hoses.

The tailboard. My son was AMAZED that there are two 1-STOP/2-GO buttons. 
"People used to ride the tailboards? WOW!" Yes, son, we did. He laughed at me when I told him in foul weather it wasn't uncommon to climb up under the hose bed cover and ride in there.
The tailboard compartment is quite spacious, and is actually 1/2 transverse - it opens into the passenger side rear compartment. Plenty of room for what ya need! Even a place to transport rookies!

So, to answer my son's question, well, by the time we finished a lap of checking it out, my son restated his question, and answered it for himself. "Yeah, I think you can operate this pumper, Dad." Yeah, I am quite confident I can. And, I'd have a LOT of fun doing it too!

Like I said above, this pumper is for sale. Sighhhh..... I don't have the cash for it right now, and even if I did, I don't have a place to put it. Some day... So, to all of you who are reading this, if you know a collector, or know of a small fire department that needs a pumper, this one wouldn't need too much work to become restored and/or operational. The paint and body is in pretty good shape, only a little bit of rust noted here and there, most notably at the fuel filler. If I had the money, this article would be about how I am embarking on a restoration project rather than just a treasure find.

Thanks for reading. 

Stay safe and God bless!


Friday, May 4, 2012

A Mystery, Even To God

When the Lord was creating Firefighters, he was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And the Lord said, "Have you read the specification on this person?"

Firefighters have to be able to go for hours fighting fires or tending to a person that the usual every day person would never touch, while putting in the back of their mind the circumstances.

They have to be able to move at a second's notice and not think twice of what they are about to do, no matter what danger. They have to be in top physical condition at all times, running on half-eaten meals, and they must have six pair of hands.

"The angel shook her head slowly and said, "Six pairs of hands........no way."

It's not the hands that are causing me problems," said the Lord, it's the three pairs of eyes a Firefighter has to have." That's on the standard model? "asked the angel. The Lord nodded. "One pair that sees through the fire and where they and their fellow Firefighters should fight the fire next. Another pair here in the side of the head to see their fellow Firefighters and keep them safe. And another pair of eyes in the front so that they can look for the victims caught in the fire that need their help."

"Lord said the angel, touching his sleeve, "Rest and work on this tomorrow," I can't said the Lord, I already have a model that can carry a 250 pound man down a flight of stairs and to safety from a burning building, and can feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck."

The angel circled the model of the Firefighter very slowly, "Can it think?" you bet said the Lord. It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires, and can recite procedures in their sleep that are needed to care for a person until they reach the hospital. And all the while they have to keep their wits about themselves. This Firefighter also has a phenomenal personal control. They can deal with a scene full of pain and hurt, coaxing a child's mother into letting go of the child, so they can care for the child in need. And still they rarely get the recognition for a job well done from anybody, other than from fellow Firefighters."

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the Firefighter. "There's a leak, she pronounced." Lord it's a tear, what's the tear for? asked the angel.

"It's a tear from the bottled-up emotions for fallen comrades. A tear for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called the American Flag. It's a tear for all the pain and suffering they have encountered. And it's a tear for their commitment to caring for and saving lives of their fellow man!" "What a wonderful feature Lord, You're a genius said the angel.

The Lord looked somber and said

"I didn't put it there"

Unknown Author

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Is A Firefighter Worth?

I admit, I am somewhat of a geek sometimes. I read newspapers online from all over the place. Not just in America, but mostly. I came across this recently, out of Lincoln, RI. The Valley Breeze to be precise.


It's a letter written to by a firefighter's wife. I think it makes a profound statement. For those of you who follow my posts who are firefighters, well, we already know this. For my non-firefighting followers, well, it gives us something to think about.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe, and God bless.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Firehouse Innovations

So this evening I meandered into the apparatus bay and found FF Nick Beck practicing with the water rescue throw ropes. He is taking an advanced swiftwater rescue course, and is brushing up for an upcoming session.

Recoiling the rope after the first throw, getting ready for the second throw.

Preparing to re-load the bag.

Here is the evolution on video: (the goal is two 50' throws in under 20 seconds)

He had a frustration, however - repacking the ropes was taking longer than he felt it should. What does he do when he is frustrated by a problem? He comes up with a solution! I enjoy having Nick on my company. He's a good man and a good fireman. He a problem solver. AND, he is quite the practical joker!

He took a coffee can - well, as I often refer to them, a coffee plastic. Yeah, that shows my age, as I remember when a coffee can was A CAN! Anyway, he cut down a side and then cut out the bottom. He rolls it around the rope and into the rope bag. Then, he simply hand+over-hands the rope into the bag, using small motions. When the rope clumps in the can, simply push it down into the bag.

Putting the rope in the can...

... putting the can in the bag...

... and loading the rope!

Close up of loading the rope.

After quickly reloading the rope bag, Nick quickly deploys the rope!

We practiced it behind the bay and found it to be quite a time saver. My genuine thanks to FF Nick Beck for: most importantly, showing us this technique, & for allowing me to photograph, video, and write about his little adaptation.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe, and God bless.


Pump Operator Math, Part 2

The other day, I posted a blog about Pump Operator Math. It has occurred to me that I didn't cover as much as I should have, and for that I apologize. I freely admit that I got busy and that I prematurely (keep your mind out of the gutter) posted it before it should have been.

Ok, so the other day I listed several factors:

  • hose size
  • length of hoselay
  • needed fire flow
  • nozzle type
  • nozzle flow rating
  • nozzle operating pressure
  • friction loss
  • elevation pressure loss OR gain
  • appliance loss
  • standpipe friction loss
  • sprinkler connections

  • But I didn't cover them all. I stopped at friction loss.

    Oops. My bad.

    So, let's talk about Elevation Loss (or gain) which in the formulas is represented by EL. Science has proven that for every ten feet of elevation, there is a pressure difference of 4.34#, but in the fire service, we like to try to keep things simpler, so we rounded up to 5#/10ft. If you are pumping up a hill, you will loose five psi for every ten feet of elevation. Conversely, if you are pumping down a hill, you will gain five psi for every ten feet of elevation. Fairly simple, isn't it.

    Now for street applications. For this example we are pumping a 2.5" line that is 200ft flowing 250 GPM through a standard fog nozzle which operates at 100 psi, so the standard pump pressure is 125 psi. The house is on a slight hill, and is about ten feet above the roadway. We'll need to add 5 psi, so we're now pumping at 130psi. Say this fire is on the second floor of the house - we'll need to add another 5 psi, so now we're up to 135 psi.

    What if that house was down the hill? I'd ask how far down. Say, for example, the house is 30 ft below the road we parked our pumper on, but the fire is on the second floor. Ok, 125 psi - 15 psi + 5 psi = 115 psi. Not too confusing, is it.

    Ok. Let's move on to Appliance Loss (AL in the formulas). Appliance losses are caused by using varuios appliances in your set-up. They cause additional turbulence within the appliances themselves that rob flow by increased friction. Wyes, siamese connections, and water thief valves are common examples. Other appliances are master stream devices (deck guns, fly-pipes, and portable monitors).
    • AL for Wyes, Siamese, & Water Thief's: Flow < 350 GPM, AL = 0
    • AL for Wyes, Siamese, & Water Thief's: Flow > 350 GPM, AL = 10 psi
    • Master Stream Applilances: AL = 25 psi
    Ok, so, now we are told we have to pump a fly-pipe. At my FD we have simplified it: for the aerial's water pipe system, the elevation, friction loss, and appliance loss is 80 psi. This was figured at full elevation. We don't reduce it if the aerial is not at full elevation. What's the worst thing that'll happen - with no EL, more GPM will flow and the fire will go out faster - I'm good with that! So, we add the nozzle pressure (80 or 100, depending on the nozzle that is on the pipe) to the 80 and pump it at either 160 or 180 psi. That's not counting the friction loss from the pumper to the inlet; we'll hafta add that in, too.

    For sprinker systems, at my FD, our SOP is we pump them at 150 psi at the panel. Period. We don't have any high-rise buildings, but do have several mid-rises. The prescribed 150 psi will handle anything we have. If any readers out there have experience pumping sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings, please leave a comment on how your FD covers this.

    On standpipe systems, we need to do a little more thinking. For starters, what is the expected flow rate that you'll need to support? You'll need to pump your supply line(s) properly to overcome friction loss for that flow. For the standpipe system itself, at my FD we figure 25 psi for the friction loss. I was told in a class many moons ago that this figure comes from the "propeller-heads" and to accept it. Ok - who am I to argue? ;^) If the crews are operating above ground level, we'll need to remember to add 5 psi for each floor above the ground. (Standpipe PDP = FL (to the connection) + FL (standpipe system) + EL + FL (attack hose) + NP).

    Did I miss anything? Probably. But, I feel better now, having covered more of the basics.

    FWIW, here's are the coefficients for the most common sizes of fire hose:
    • 3/4"   =  1100
    • 1"      =    150
    • 1.5"   =     24
    • 1.75" =     15.5
    • 2"      =       8*
    • 2.5"   =       2
    • 3"      =       0.8**
    • 4"      =       0.2
    • 5"      =       0.08
    (* - 1.5" couplings; ** - 2.5" couplings)

    Remember, we need to know the flow desired before we can figure friction loss. Fog nozzles have their flow ratings stamped on them.

    The formula to figure GPM for solid tip/smooth bore nozzles is GPM = 29.7 x d2 x sqrtNP. The 29.7 is another propeller-head constant; the d2 is the square of the diameter of the nozzle tip; and the sqrtNP is the square root of the nozzle pressure. FWIW, the three common nozzle pressures are 100, 80, and 50 psi. Their square roots are 10, 8.94, and 7.07, respectively.

    While I am practically giving you the answers to a lot of this, I want you to work SOME of it out! At least I'm giving you the tools!

     While it may LOOK intimidating, it really isn't. Remember, these things are built by people. You can do it! I have faith!

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Pump Operator Math

    As is tradition at my FD, we just completed another round of annual promotional exam testing for positions of Captain, Engineer, and Inspector. Every year we study, cram, take classes, what ever, all for the chance at scoring good enough to get on the promotional list.

    This got me to thinking...

    I've been an Engineer at CJC for several years now; six years since being permanently promoted, nearly seven if you count the nine months I was temporarily promoted. I've also had experience operating pumps and aerials at St. Joe Fire and at Camdenton Fire, as well as a few part time fire department jobs I worked at over the years. I think I get the job done - well, at least I haven't had too many complaints for over- or under-pumping a line. (The one under-pumping complaint I can think of as I write this was attributed to a kink in the line, which I handled shortly after the attack began.)

    I actually have been studying pump operations since I was about ten or eleven years old, when my dad was a fireman on the Brookfield Vol. Fire Co. in Brookfield, CT. One Saturday after we got the yard work done I asked him how he knows what to pump the fire hoses at. He asked me if I wanted the short or long answer. I said to hit me with the short answer, and he said, "150 & pump." I guess I looked genuinely confused, cuz he was grinning when I asked exactly what that means. He then said it appears I want the long answer, and for that, perhaps a trip to the firehouse was in order. We spent the afternoon up there, and he taught me the theory of FL and why we need to know what we are going to flow, and even set up some demonstrations for me using one of the pumpers and a pitot gage. I was hooked!

    Over the years, I have had the honor of helping younger members study for the upcoming exam. Lately, the exams cover less of the math and more of the policies and SOGs at our department. I can't complain, although, in my less-than-humble opinion, knowing the math - by this I mean KNOWING IT COLD - is the bread and butter of pump operating. Yes, engineers do other jobs too, like running aerials and other support apparatus, however, this post will be confined to the general topic of pump operating.

    Why is pumping a line at the proper pressure important? The answer seems simple enough - so you can supply the proper flow to the crew and they can then put the fire out in a quick, safe, and orderly manner.

    While that answer is seemingly simple enough, there are several factors a pump operator must consider:
    • hose size
    • length of hoselay
    • needed fire flow
    • nozzle type
    • nozzle flow rating
    • nozzle operating pressure
    • friction loss
    • elevation pressure loss OR gain
    • appliance loss
    • standpipe friction loss
    • sprinkler connections
    • pumping an aerial fly-pipe (at my FD we pump it at either 160# or 180#, depending on which truck we are dealing with, due to their nozzle types)
    Quite a lot to think about, ain't it - especially when you are the driver of a pumper arriving at a well established fire in a large apartment building at double-dark-thirty.

    Hose size - by this I am referring to the internal diameter of the hose. Each size has its own friction loss properties. The length of the hose lay also effects the friction loss. So does the flow of water through the hose.

    What type of nozzle are you pumping to? For handlines, a smooth bore is generally pumped at 50 psi; if pumping a master stream appliance with a smooth bore tip on it, you pump it generally at 80 psi. A standard fog nozzle operates at 100psi. However, there are several models of fog nozzles available now that operate at lower pressures, such as 80 psi, 75 psi, and 50 psi. Confused yet? It's ok, so am I sometimes. Just try to relax, remember to breathe, and think it through, one step at a time.

    Ok, so now let's talk friction loss. The formula is: FL=CxQ2xL. "C" is the hose "Coefficient", also referred to as the "Constant" or the "C-Factor". It doesn't matter really, it is the same thing. It just depends on who is teaching the class you are taking. Basically we have to trust that the taped-glasses wearing, pocket protector using, propeller-head types know what they are doing (they do) and they have spent years coming up with this stuff. "Q2"is the GPM (flow, in gallons per minute) divided by 100. "L" is the length of the hose line divided by 100.

    Wow... if THAT ain't a mouthful...

    Ok. Now we need to know what we are flowing. The fog nozzles on my engine company are rated for 200 GPM @ 100 psi of nozzle pressure (aka: NP). The nozzles on my FD's truck company are rated for 150 GPM @ 50 psi NP. (Frankly, I wish we had those fog nozzles too, along with a good set of smooth bore nozzles, but we don't, not yet.) See what I meant about what type of nozzle and what operating pressure they work at? Just two different companies in the same department with drastically different nozzles. FWIW, there is another engine company at my FD that has the same nozzles my company does. Both pumpers are water pumpers. There are two other engine companies that are CAFS pumpers, and they have TOTALLY different nozzle types. We'll skip that for now.

    Our SOG's call for an initial attack line to be able to flow 160 GPM. This is easily attainable with our 1.75" lines. Now begs the question, But Ken! You just said your engine company's nozzles are rated for 200 GPM @ 100 psi! How do you pump it for 160 GPM?"  I'm glad you asked. I simply figure the friction loss for the length of line for 160 GPM, then add 100 psi to it for the NP.

    (For those of you keeping score, that means for 160 GPM I pump the 150' lines at 160 psi and the 200' lines at 180 psi. For the 200 GPM, I pump the 150' lines at 190-195 psi and the 200' lines at 210-215 psi. Both of my engine's 2.5" preconnects are pumped at 125 psi to start, which is 250 GPM.)

    So, is this exactly 160 GPM? No, it's not. But it's worked for me for years when pumping this style of nozzle. I should note that where obvious larger flows are needed, I pump it at the higher pressure for the 200 GPM. If this doesn't work, then it's time to consider larger lines & master streams. You may ask, Well, Ken, how can you KNOW what you are flowing when you think you're flowing 160 GPM? We can hook up to a calibrated flow meter and then we will KNOW what we are flowing. We don't have one, though, so we're good with shooting from the hip.

    Here is a chart of the FL in 1.75" hose for various flows:
    • 100 GPM = 15.5 PSI/100 FT
    • 125 GPM = 24 PSI/100 FT
    • 150 GPM = 35 PSI/100 FT
    • 160 GPM = 40 PSI/100 FT
    • 170 GPM = 45 PSI/100 FT
    • 180 GPM = 50 PSI/100 FT
    • 185 GPM = 53 PSI/100 FT
    • 200 GPM = 62 PSI/100 FT
    • 210 GPM = 68 PSI/100 FT
    • 250 GPM = 96 PSI/100 FT
    Here is a rule for FL - in any size hose - that I want you to tuck away for potential future use:


    Look at the flows of 100 & 125 GPM, their respective FL #'s are 15.5 & 24 PSI for every 100 ft of hose you are pumping through. Now look at the 200 & 250 GPM - their FL #'s are 62 & 96 PSI for every 100 ft of hose you are pumping through. Why is this important? Well, I have seen some folks out there throughout my career who incorrectly presumed that since a nozzle is stamped for, say, 200 GPM at 100 psi, that you only had to pump the line at 100 PSI, no matter how long the lay was. They were seriously underpumping lines - making it inherently UNSAFE for the crews, and frequently being told to increase the pressure by crews using the lines.

    A little off topic, but still related and very important - the 1.75" hose line, while it is capable of flowing high flows, is a very squirrelly line to handle when you kick up the GPMs and have higher nozzle pressures. We can discuss more on this later. (Or, feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to share my thoughts.) My point is, if you are going to flow higher flows, either use lower pressure nozzles or larger lines, or both.

    Here is a chart of the FL in 2.5" hose for various flows:
    • 200 GPM = 8 PSI/100 FT
    • 210 GPM = 9 PSI/100 FT
    • 225 GPM = 10 PSI/100 FT
    • 250 GPM = 12.5 PSI/100 FT
    • 265 GPM = 14 PSI/100 FT
    • 300 GPM = 18 PSI/100 FT
    • 325 GPM = 21 PSI/100 FT
    • 350 GPM = 25 PSI/100 FT
    • 400 GPM = 32 PSI/100 FT
    • 500 GPM = 50 PSI/100 FT
    • 750 GPM = 113 PSI/100 FT

    Here is a chart of the FL in 5" hose for various flows:
    • 250 GPM = 0.5 PSI/100 FT
    • 500 GPM = 2 PSI/100 FT
    • 600 GPM = 3 PSI/100 FT
    • 700 GPM = 4 PSI/100 FT
    • 750 GPM = 4.5 PSI/100 FT
    • 800 GPM = 5 PSI/100 FT
    • 900 GPM = 7 PSI/100 FT
    • 1000 GPM = 8 PSI/100 FT
    • 1250 GPM = 12.5 PSI/100 FT
    • 1500 GPM = 18 PSI/100 FT
    • 1750 GPM = 25 PSI/100 FT
    • 2000 GPM = 32 PSI/100 FT
    While there are other common sizes of fire hoses within the United States Fire Service, these are the sizes used at my FD, and are what I am familiar with.

    Okay, that's enough for one day. Thanks for reading. Any questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Stay safe, and God bless you.


    Friday, March 30, 2012

    The Raid

    My first fire department was the Camdenton, MO Fire Department, which is on the SW side of Lake of the Ozarks, in Camden County, MO, located in Central Missouri. I started there as a Junior Firefighter, just before my 17th birthday. When I turned 18 in 1989, I became a regular firefighter, meaning I could go inside on the fire attacks instead of doing exterior-only support operations. I learned quite a lot while I was there, from June of 1988 to November of 1995.

    This story is about an event that occured in October of 1995.

    In 1989, Camdenton acquired it's first ladder truck, a 1953 Seagrave. The aerial was 85 feet long, was mid-mounted, the cab was an open top (no roof) and it was fun to drive. It had a Detroit Diesel engine which sounded ABSOLUTELY AWESOME! There was a problem, however, in 1993 Seagrave told us to take it permanently out of service, as they were no longer making parts for it.

    3-17 at a mutual aid fire

    THIS is the fire where it PROVED Camdenton having an aerial is worth the expense...
    O'Brian Lumber Yard, April, 1991. Note the Osage Beach aerial, being used as a LIGHT TOWER!
    Pumping to 3-17's flypipe got the water where it was needed, NOW!
    One more shot of old 3-17


    Ok, so in 1994 its replacement arrived, a 1994 Sutphen mid-mount 75 foot tower. It has a 1500 GPM pump, its own water tank, its own hose, and for a quint (For the record, I generally hate quints.) it was set up pretty ergonomically, so it could be used as an attack engine or an aerial. I liked that truck.

    1994 Sutphen 75ft, 1500GPM/300gal

    Lake Ozark Fire had an earlier model of the same truck we were getting, so in late '93 & early '94, they put us through intense training on their aerial so that we would be already generally familiar with our new truck's capabilities. During this training period with Lake Ozark Fire, we developed quite a commraderie. It was quite an enjoyable experience, and I forever thank them for it.

    Lake Ozark had adopted the Tazmanian Devil as their mascot for their ladder truck. We adopted a bulldog for ours. We even had the phrase "If You Can't Run With The Big Dogs, Stay On The Porch!" put across the front of our truck, under the windshield, in reflective lettering!

    It was fun. We worked a few major fires with Lake Ozark, our trucks side by side. It was enjoyable, seeing them in theirs and us in ours, working together, seamlessly.

    Well, one fine October day in 1995, I was at the station, doing reports for the chief, and decided to stretch my legs. I walked around outside for a few minutes, then back in the station, I went downstairs to the truck bay to shoot some hoops. As I was walking down the stairs, I noticed that "something" wasn't right, but I couldn't put a finger on it...

    I walked around the bay, checked all the apparatus (the truck, both pumpers, and the rescue), did laps around each of them. I just KNEW something was wrong, but I couldn't place it. It was actually pissing me off.

    I went back upstairs and had lunch. When I came back downstairs, walking behind the aerial truck's basket, I finally figured it out. I believe my exact words were "MUTHERF****R!"

    Missing was the following:

    On the back of the bucket, which hung over the back of the truck, was this sign, which was bolted to the door, so that anyone following would see it.

    It was missing!

    Immediately, I called the Chief. He was amazed! He had some suspects in mind, as he owned Precision Fire Apparatus, and some of those who worked for him were also Lake Ozark firemen. He figured, correctly, that our commraderie had elevated to the next level, and one of them took our dog. He told me to call the membership directly, on the phone, instead of paging it out, that there was to be a "Special Meeting" at 1730hrs at the station, and to bring our combat gear. So I did. When they asked why so early and why combat gear, I told them the dog was kidnapped and we were going to get it back. Then they were all in!

    It helped that several of our members were also deputy sheriff's who were also on the tactical teams. We reported in, all dressed out in either camoflauged clothing or all black. The above mentioned deputy's helped us with face paint, so we were looking the part for a raid.

    Intel gathered told us that Lake Ozark was having a meeting at their Station 1, which is where their aerial was housed, and the most likely place we'd find our dog. It also meant access to their station would be easier.

    Our armorments: Each of us had a "Can" (a 2.5 gallon water fire extinguisher that is air pressurized), and one guy had a bag of dog biscuits that were the size of a football (his dog at home weighed in at a mear 155#), and his job was to bust into the meeting room, holler "BIG DOGS!!!" and throw a bucket full of biscuits into the room, at those occupying the seats at the tables. The rest of us divided into two groups, one with our biscuit bomber, the other taking another enterance. Once in, we were to proceed to their aerial truck and get our dog back. We presumed, correctly so, that their Taz (a stuffed animal that is about two feet tall with a fire helmet on its head) would be sitting on the dogs face in the cab of their aerial.

    Ok, it's about 1840hrs, and we're arriving at their station. We drove in with our lights blacked out (it was dark out already at that time of year) to hopefully be stealthy. I was Team 2, and it was to enter via a back door to the truck bay. Team 1, with the biscuit bomber, was going in the main enterance. Our intel wasn't completely accurate, as the supplied combination to the back door was wrong. We didn't waste much time there, instead we ran around to the main enterance to back our brothers up.

    Team 1 did EXACTLY as it was supposed to do. They entered the main door, proceeded down the hallway & busted open the door to the meeting room. The biscuit bomber did exactly as he was supposed to, he hollered out "BIG DOGS!!!" and threw a bucket load of those huge dog biscuits high into the room, and they scattered among the rooms occupants. For added effect, one of the Camdenton firemen accompanying him "opened up" with his can, adding a ten second water blast to the confusion. They then ran to the bay to carry on with the mission.

    We (Team 2) arrived in the truck bay just as they rescued our dog. Simultaneously, some of the Lake Ozark firemen who had run down the back hallway to the bay were arriving, arming themselves with their garden hoses. The water war was on!

    I came around the back corner of an engine to see a rookie struggling with the clamp that holds the can in place. That rookie got a soaking, and when my can ran out, I dropped it, reached up, unclamped their can, then soaked the rookie some more, with their can!

    After a few minutes, it was over. Our dog was secured in Team 1's vehicle, and we were all laughing about it as we helped them clean up their truck bay.

    Well, not everyone was laughing.

    Remember how our intel indicated that a meeting was to take place? Well, there was a meeting alright. However, it was not a fire training meeting. Nope. It was a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Lake Ozark Fire Protection District. Elected officials who oversaw the District's financial operations, so that tax dollars weren't wasted. Also in that room were about thirty-five citizens, most of them were over the age of sixty.

    Suddenly during this meeting, these clowns dressed as special operations troops barge in, hollering, throwing HUGE dog biscuits at them, and soaking them with water from an extinguisher.

    Can you imagine what they were thinking?

    Can you imagine what the Fire Board was thinking?

    Even before our Team 1 members closed the door behind them, Lake Ozark's Fire Chief stood up, facing the Board, and started calmly speaking, saying "I suppose an explanation is in order here..." That was all our guys heard before slamming the door shut. I don't know what was said next, or by whom. What I do know is when their chief came to the truck bay (as we were cleaning up) he looked like a whipped pup. On one hand, he knew our dog was taken, and expected some sort of paybacks, and he saw the humor in the situation. On the other hand, he was the only full time paid employee at the time, and his bosses (the Fire Board) were NOT AT ALL HAPPY. I kinda felt sorry for him.

    Ahhh.... good times!

    So, earlier you'll note that I said the sign with our dog was bolted on to our bucket. It is now rivited in place, as the picture shows. Not that it can't be taken, but it requires more work then simply turning a wrench.

    Thanks for reading.

    Stay safe and God Bless!


    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    On Forcing Entry...

    About a month and a half ago, I posted HERE about a good day at work. Part of that involved forcing entry into a business that had a fire burning inside. I don't want to brag, but we done good. There was almost ZERO time lost for the store and the folks who work there. I was the guy who actually forced the door.
    This morning around 0300 we handled a fire at local business; it was in a big "box store" type building. Came in as an alarm, also as a burglar alarm, police en route.

    As we arrived, police officers on scene walk up to us reporting smoke inside. We drove a 360 and saw smoke through a couple windows, nothing heavy, looked like fog. Stopped at the truck entrance and got out. The captain decided this is where we're making entry.

    The FF grabbed a halligan bar, and I got my Lil' Rex (as found HERE ). Door is a power sliding door, aluminum frame, with glass, typical of many commercial doors. It has a mortise lock, with an extended cylinder that has a protective sleeve. The captain called for a K-Tool, but, as it turns out, that wouldn't have worked, as the cylinder sticks out too far. However, locks like this are exactly what the Lil' Rex is for!

    I used the halligan bar to tamp the Lil' Rex over the lock cylinder. Once it started to bite, I then let go and gave it a few good whacks with the halligan bar. Then, I put the spike in, pried up, and POOF! the cylinder popped out. Then I used the end of the key tool to trip the lock, thus unlocking the door. Total damage caused by entry ops: one mortise lock assembly. Not much compared to a door.

    (Imho, one inherent problem with the Lil' Rex is the adjunct tool design - you insert the spike of a halligan bar to pry. Works great as long as you can pry up (or whatever direction you tamped the tool into the lock), but sometimes a little side to side motion is needed to help loosen the lock cylinder. I have seen pictures and videos of modified Lil' Rex tools where they remove the spike sleeve and weld on a slot for the adze, like what it's on the K-Tool and R-Tool. I have found that if you really whack the Lil' Rex in place, like I did tonight, this helps it get a better, tighter, more secure bite on the lock cylinder, and reduces the need for side to side rocking. However, it means you will likely need another tool to remove the lock cylinder out of the Lil' Rex's teeth!)
    I stopped in to that business a few weeks after the fire to pick up some supplies for a project I'm working on at home. While I don't normally use the contractor's entrance, I chose to, specifically because that is the door we forced. I wanted to see what they had done to fix the door since the fire.

    They did exactly what one would expect, they put a new mortise assembly in the door and went on, business as usual. I, for one, am very glad to hear that they suffered little, in a situation that could have been an economic disaster for hundreds of folks who are employed there, their families, and the trickledown effect to the community in general. The exterior damage done from forcing the lock off was putting those two verticle scratches on the door. Very minor cosmetic damage that most people wouldn't notice, if it wasn't pointed out to them. If someone really cared about it, a sander could easily buff the scratches out.

    Here is a picture of the door that I took when I was there a few weeks ago:

    I think the circular scratches their repairman did while screwing in the new lock cylinder kinda compliment my scratches! ;^)

    What I would like to point out is the total forcible entry operation took less than a minute, closer to 35 seconds. The only other alternative for forcing that door would have been to smash the glass out, which IS 100% effective.

    However, other issues would have been created. When we opened the doors (sliding glass doors in aluminum framework), we had an opening large enough to drive an engine into if we wanted to, and perhaps the tower truck, too, if we could get the angles right. Another benefit - we could close the door in a hurry if needed -- ie: once we opened the doors, the fire suddenly took off, growing larger than our response could presently handle, etc. If we would have smashed the glass out, we wouldn't be able to control the door any longer.

    Another disadvantage, well, take a look at the picture above. Go ahead, I'll wait... did you look? Good. Welcome back.

    Did you see them? I'm refering to the aluminum cross bars that go to the left in the picture. Those are very difficult and time consuming (as well as energy consuming) to remove. Could personnel wiggle through? Absolutely, but why would you want to? It is awkward, and inherently dangerous. If you have to escape in a hurry, they'll do nothing to help your cause. Could you climb over the top bar? Sure, but again, why would you want to? It is at my hip level, and I'm 6' 1". Yes, we could get over it, BUT it would be awkward in full gear and dangerous. No sense injuring your leg for nothing, you know?

    Am I against conventional forcible entry? No, not at all. What I am for is using the right techniques for the situation.

    So anyway, I said what I wanted to say. Keep other methods and back-up plans ready, and work smarter, not harder. Popping the lock itself saved us, the fire companies, valuable time and effort to access the fire. Popping the lock itself saved the business tens of thousands of dollars in damage, damage that in my opinion wouldn't have been totally needed.

    Thanks for reading, and God bless.