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High-Rise Tools of the Trade


Just as we must be prepared for the “usual” or “routine” residential fire, we must also be prepared for fires in standpipe-equipped or high-rise buildings. One major component of preparation is ensuring we have all the proper equipment needed for a safe, successful outcome. Specifically, we must ensure our “toolbox” is adequately stocked to meet the various challenges we may face when getting water to a fire that 1) has poor water pressure or 2) is beyond the reach of apparatus-mounted or elevated master streams for an advanced fire situation.

Are you prepared to respond to a high-rise fire in your area? One major component of preparation is ensuring we have all the proper equipment needed for a safe, successful outcome. Photo Keith Cullom

Hoseline Considerations
As Tom Lakamp and I have discussed in previous Fire Attack columns in FireRescue magazine, firefighters should use a lightweight, 2½” hoseline from the standpipe riser to initially attack a fire from a standpipe. Why? Because several key elements—reflex time, advanced fire situations, large open spaces in office occupancies, heavy fire loads, poor water pressure, pressure-restricting devices, pressure-reducing valves and wind-driven fires—will usually require a greater gpm flow than you can achieve from smaller, common 1½”or 1¾” fire lines.

As you evaluate fire hose to make your standpipe pack, you must take into consideration weight, durability, friction loss and ease of packing. A single-jacket, extremely lightweight hose may not prove to be very durable for repeated uses, but a heavier hose compromises your ability to carry it up multiple flights.

Portable Master Stream Considerations
When the standard 2½” hoseline doesn’t cut it due to advanced fire or low pressure, alternative water delivery methods must be pulled from our toolbox. The ability to deliver an unstaffed, high-gpm, portable master stream from the standpipe is one such alternative that’s essential for high-rise incidents. The three major nozzle manufacturers—Akron Brass, Elkhart Brass and Task Force Tips—all make a lightweight 2½” portable monitor that will allow you to effectively deliver unstaffed, high-gpm fire streams to a fire. You should also be able to deploy your regular master stream in portable mode to the same areas if you need more water, or you don’t have the new “lightweight” 2½” versions.

Additionally, these devices may be used from the standpipe of an adjacent building to apply water to the fire floor, if needed. Tip: In this situation, make sure you use a smooth-bore tip to provide maximum reach, penetration and ability to pass debris through the system.

Specialized Nozzles
Another alternative for delivering a high-gpm fire stream is to attack the fire from the floor below by using a specialized nozzle. The only device that’s currently available on the market for this type of operation is the HERO Pipe from Elkhart Brass.The HERO Pipe is designed to operate off a 2½” supply line that’s connected to a standpipe riser and deliver an unstaffed stream from a window on the floor below to the next floor up. This system is extremely beneficial to firefighters in advanced-fire or wind-driven fire situations.

The KO Fire Curtain
To suppress air flow and help combat a wind-driven fire, you may also want to consider reviewing and utilizing the KO Fire Curtain. Numerous tests have proven the benefits of covering the windows to eliminate air influx and improve control of the fire. Without the KO Fire Curtain, hoselines may not be able to advance or control this type of fire.

A Review of the Basics
When assessing equipment needed for high-rise firefighting, also be sure to review the basic equipment needed, and make sure that you have it with you and it’s in good working order. The basics include:

  • A pressure gauge to obtain flow pressures from the riser
  • A 30-degree elbow to reduce kinks
  • Tools to overcome pressure-releasing devices/valves, such as Allen wrenches and screwdrivers,
  • An 18″ pipe wrench
  • Multiple door chocks—try the Fat Ivan
  • A low-psi, high-flow nozzle that will easily pass debris. The smooth-bore 1¼” or 1 1/8″ tip are the most popular choices and will provide high flow, far reach and good penetration. Another nozzle that will easily pass debris on a 2½” from a standpipe riser is the Vindicator Heavy Attack nozzle. This is very much worth researching and evaluating as an alternative to the smooth-bore.
  • Lastly, ensure you have adapters so you can supply a damaged fire department connection (FDC) or pump into the system from a place other than the FDC. Double males and female adapters, 2½” gated wyes, Storz to 2½” adapters and high-pressure 2½” to 3″ can all supply the FDC.

Are You Ready?
Firefighting is a dynamic job, and becoming more dynamic every day. As a result, we must maintain and carry a multitude of tools and equipment, which means there are just as many tool/equipment considerations we must make when preparing for each response, particularly when dealing with a fire in a high-rise or standpipe-equipped building. Review and maintain your tools and equipment regularly to ensure you have the appropriate equipment in your toolbox. There are some tools you just can’t scramble to obtain, especially when plan A or even plan B doesn’t work. Make sure you’re ready for plans C, D, E, etc.  

Authored By: Mike Kirby

Mike Kirby is a captain with the Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD), assigned to Engine Company 3. He is an 18-year veteran of the fire service with experience in paid and volunteer fire departments