Homes built using cedar shake shingles and siding are usually considered flammable enough by firefighters. But the responders using an abandoned house in Hoquiam, WA, for a test of the International Fog, Inc., (IFI) First Attack piercing nozzle guaranteed additional flammability by dousing the interior with kerosene two days earlier.
Black smoke followed by flames filled the front rooms. Wielding the slender four-foot First Attack nozzle, a single firefighter steps forward and rams the pointed tip through a wall. A cloud of water mist quickly replaces the glowing heat visible through a window. In seconds the fire disappears.
"People come out to these old towns like Hoquiam looking for retirement homes," said First Attack inventor Eugene Ivy. "They buy these older homes and fix them up. But in adding a new room they create a bunch of hidden areas. The fire chief in Hoquiam said they had four houses with the roofs burned off."
In each case smoldering embers in those hidden areas had reignited after the firefighters had returned to the station, taking the roofs off before they could return, he said.
IFI designed the First Attack nozzle to deal specifically with this type of problem. It is equipped with a stainless steel tip honed to a 25 degree angle similar to a syringe. Behind this is a rotating sleeve made from Kevlar that creates the desired 30-foot in diameter fog pattern.
"It atomizes the water into a fog pattern of droplets sized anywhere between five and 20 microns," Ivy said.
That mist almost immediately converts to steam, robbing the fire of its heat and effectively smothering it.
"I have put out entire house fires in six to eight seconds, using as little as three to five gallons of water," Ivy said.
The nozzle left Hoquiam Fire Chief Ray Pumphrey impressed.
"What really sold me was watching our fire crews use the nozzle in actual live fire conditions," Pumphrey said. "None of the fog nozzles we currently use could match the fog pattern and protection that this nozzle provides. My guys especially like it for its capability to pierce walls and ceilings to reach the hidden and hard to reach spaces such as attics, knee walls and crawl spaces."
Available in two, three and four foot lengths, the First Attack normally operates in a water pressure range between 50 to 225 psi. However, Ivy has tested it at as much as 400 psi.
"One fireman can hold this nozzle by the butt plate and still move it around," Ivy said. "The spinning mechanism acts almost like a gyroscope. It self-centers once it starts, making it easy to move it where you want."
It also produces a shield that can reduce the amount of heat reaching the firefighter by 80 percent, he said. In industrial fire fighting, that can prove valuable when moving in to block valves.
"I used a thermal camera at one of our training burns," Ivy said. "Directed at the fire at close range the device pegged out at 888 degrees F. Then the firefighter put the piercing nozzle through the side of the house. The
temperature dropped to 128 degrees."
Ivy designed the First Attack nozzle for volunteer fire departments with limited manpower and water resources. But the protection that the First Attack offers from radiant heat suggests other applications. One such application would be flammable fuel fires. That combined with quick deployments makes the First Attack something that industrial chiefs should look at.
"If they had a pump house on fire, the firefighters could go right through the door or through the side," Ivy said. "I've put this through brick, cinder block, aluminum siding and un-reinforced concrete."
It could be used against fires involving boats, cars and even aircraft, he said. The piercing tip can be quickly replaced with a blunt "bull nose" tip that can be used as an effective battering ram when needed.
The nozzle and Ivy have a long history. He first recognized the need for a piercing fog nozzle in 1985 as a firefighter with the Port Arthur (TX) Fire Department.
"We had a supermarket catch fire during a thunderstorm," Ivy said. "The fire got up into the false ceiling of the structure. I was in a snorkel basket spraying water down on top of firemen trying to cut holes in the roof ahead of the fire. All we were doing was feeding it what it wanted - more oxygen. I knew there had to be a way to get a sufficient amount of water into an enclosed area without feeding it oxygen."
Ivy worked on the design for nearly a year before getting a machinist friend to build the first one. As compared to today's largest First Attack nozzle which is 4 feet long and weighs 17 pounds, the first nozzle was 5 ? feet long and weighed 32 pounds. Ivy describes it as a "monster."
"I presented one to the Port Arthur Fire Department," Ivy said. "Unbeknownst to me the Port Arthur mayor put my name in the hat for a national inventor award." In 1989, his nozzle earned him an award as one of the top 20 inventors of the year from the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago.
In the 1990s Ivy put the nozzle aside to concentrate on his personal life, moving to Portland, OR, with his new wife. Then, four years ago, a friend urged Ivy to put his nozzle back on the market. His friend and several others became investors in the new project.
Support came from other quarters as well. A fire department in northern Washington state donated two fully functional fire trucks equipped with 1,000 gpm pumps to Ivy for his live fire demonstrations such as the abandoned house fire in Hoquiam..
"The idea was to pull up in front of the burning house with two guys on the truck," Ivy said. "One guy is on the pump and one guy is on the nozzle. You knock down the house fire and then pull the hose reel off, go through the house and mop up."
At present, fire departments in New Mexico and Washington state are using the nozzle. Hoquiam is only one of 15 departments in the Grays Harbor Fire District. Nine of those departments now have the First Attack nozzle.
"The most difficult thing about getting departments to try the First Attack nozzle is that it's new technology," Ivy said. "Big departments have embraced new technology but a lot of small departments are still training the way they've been training for the last 200 years." This is new technology for an old adversary.
See the International Fog, Inc., First Attack piercing fog nozzle demonstrated at the 21st annual Industrial Fire World Conference & Exposition on Monday evening, March 27, and check it out in the Exhibit Hall at Booth 409 and 410. o