More About Nozzles – By: Mike Kirby

This is a debate that plagues the fire service. Most of the personal "experience" or "knowledge" from this debate stems from lack of knowledge or understanding of the simple principle that GPM (properly applied) puts out fires. Some believe that pressure is what we should be concentrating on. Firefighters start out in their "firefighter" schools, where ever that may be, and learn about the nozzle they have there and then go to work somewhere and only learn about the nozzle they use there or the one that that person tells them is the end-all-be-all of the fire service. Few firefighters are aware of what is available to them, what each one actually flows under live conditions, heat absorption characteristics, etc. If all you have ever used is a combination nozzle, you have probably never flowed a smooth bore hooked to a GPM gauge to see the flow and experience the difference in pull back pressure.
The problems with all new tools / nozzles / methods of going to work is that it is change and fire fighters have to be more resistant to change than any other culture or group of people on this planet.

We need to make sure we educate all of our fire fighters on what they are carrying and how much water it puts out at varying pressures and with various lengths of hose. I'm not a personal fan of the adjustable or combination nozzle whether its a fixed gallonage or automatic. This nozzle has been used in the 5 fire departments I have worked for. Its generally not the tool, but how you use it I always say. Fires still go out in these 5 places. Some maybe not as effectively as others due primarily to GPM delivered. I personally prefer the smooth bore nozzle. It is simple, won't clog and is inexpensive. Next I prefer the vindicator. Both the smooth bore and vindicator can put out a very high GPM flow from an 1-3/4" fire line. One costs about $150 and the other around $800. The CFD recently has started phasing in an Elkhart Chief 250 gpm @ 50 psi to replace the outdated Task Force Tips. The TFT's were automatic type nozzles with a complicated pressure control mechanism. These nozzles just don't work right anymore due to the age, wear and lack of maintenance on the internal pressure control mechanism. The Chief nozzle selected flows comparable to the Vindicator, but gives the "hard head" fire fighter the option to have a fog or straight stream. The reasons the "hard heads" don't like the vindicator ring true for a smooth bore as well. "I need the "fog" stream to ventilate". We made sure we found a combination nozzle that allowed them to have fog for ventilation and other scenarios that also flowed a lot of GPM from a 1-3/4" fire line.
I'm an advocate of I don't care what you or your department uses, just know its limitations, how much water it can put out with it in GPM and how it reacts to line kinks, long lays, reduced pressure situations, etc. You need to do this with a flow meter. If you cant get a flow meter, ask a sales representative to bring a nozzle out for you to demo and flow and while flowing that nozzle, flow your current nozzle alongside of it.
GPM properly and rapidly applied puts out fires. There is no greater live saving action on the fire ground than to put out the fire and stop all the bad things going on inside the building. (sorry truckers….)
Mike Kirby- Cinncinati Fire Department Engine Co. 12


  • Fern says:

    The end all be all line that kills all Engine vs. Truck arguments: "You can smash, chop, cut & force all the stuff you want, but that fire ain't going out until water gets to it."__When I was an explorer, the department I was with used TFT nozzles extensively. Every 1.75" had a TFT. Their 100 ft. standpipe racks had TFTs on them too. (Keep in mind the hose was also 1.75") New firefighters and explorers were and are taught to use the pistol grip on the nozzle itself. When the explorer post was suspended, the department only had 1 1.75" attack line with a smooth bore, and in my personal opinion, it wasn't enough to only have 1 smooth bore out of 4 1.75" pre-connects on that same truck. (Others in the fleet are all TFTs.) But I was only an explorer. (I have the chance to be hired by that same department this fall as a recruit call firefighter.) Their 2.5"s don't really seem much better. They have these old playpipe 1 and an 1/8" nozzles. Don't get me wrong, I like my smooth bores, but is a play pipe really the way to go?

  • Fern says:

    Part 2: (Original was too long to post.)

    Regardless, I don't care what nozzle I use, so long as it can meet 3 requirements:

    A) It's reliable. I can get a great stream with the required GPM on the fire with it. I know with TFTs and other automatics, that it can look like you're getting a good stream out of it, but you're getting crap for GPM.

    B) It's properly maintained. This is easy with the smoot bore nozzles. Just check the threads and the ball valve. But automatics/combinations have all those fancy-smanchy parts on the inside that require lubrication and preventative maintenance. I don't know when the last time my former agency actually did that to their TFTs. I have a good feeling that's prevalent across the US.

    & C) It doesn't throw me for a loop. Sure, there's a few nozzles out there that can flow 300+ GPM through a 1.75," but am I going to have to hold onto a bucking bronco to deliver that GPM due to extremely high pressures?

  • Chris says:

    I will add to mike's comments above about a flow meter. The best investment I have ever made was an FRC portable flow meter with both a 2 1/2" and 4" pipe to do flow. I will never teach another pump class without it, and I will never spend hours trying to calculate pump pressure tables based on some outdated practice.

    My flow meter is a great tool when buying hose, nozzles or anything else. I am a believer in that we are battling CFMs in a fire, the faster we can cool the faster we can get the fire out. The debate between the nozzles can go on, I run combo's on my 1 3/4, smooth on my 2 1/2 and a vindicator on our front mount monitor (which FYI creates an almost CAFS like foam).

    I do run TFT midmatics, and they have been outstanding for us. Of course most of our equipment is very new so I am going to have look into the making sure we are infact doing the right upkeep.

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