Mostly thought of as a piece of equipment that the truck company utilizes, “The Can” is a formidable piece of equipment in the hands of a well-trained firefighter. Every engine I have ever come across has one tucked away in a cabinet somewhere. Sadly, it rarely comes off the rig and is rarely ever put to work to its full potential.
But why would I use an extinguisher when I could just stretch a line?
I’m glad you asked; now let’s take a look at some answers.
You are dispatched to an automatic alarm at the local library on a Thursday evening just after closing time. The truck company is tied up on another alarm or, if you’re a volunteer department, you are the only engine on the road for what seems like a “routine investigation.”
Dispatch advises you that you will have a building rep on scene in two minutes since they just left. You have been here roughly a dozen times yourself and are already convinced the alarm activation is “nonsense.” You make entry, check the panel and find that the alarm is coming from a smoke detector in the basement. You make your way downstairs and through the second door you begin to pick up the smell of smoke. Your entire crew is committed within the building.
The water can is a tool that in itself can put out an impressive amount of fire. But unless we have been trained in its proper use we will not be using the tool to its full capability. We will examine two ways we can use the can: to properly knock down and extinguish a small fire, and to “confine” a fire.
Now back to the library scenario. This can easily go two ways. We could have a small trash can fire or a free burning fire in a small storeroom.
If we were to just take the can and discharge it into a small trash can fire, we run the risk of blowing the contents all over and technically spreading the fire out of its original area. Instead we can simply place a gloved finger over the nozzle of the can to break up the stream and create a spray. This will in itself knock the fire down to the point that we can extinguish it fully.
Simple enough, right?
In the case of a room that may be involved in fire, we need to hold the fire to that room. Yes, we could simply close the door to confine it; however, if fire is lapping out of the upper portion of the doorway we will need to first “push it back” with the can in order for us to do so. If there happens to be no door on the fire area, we can also effectively hold the fire to that room until the engine has a line in place to extinguish the fire fully using this technique.
Operating from the floor, we will aim the stream to the upper portion of the doorway and discharge the extinguisher in short bursts, preferably rotating the nozzle in a clockwise manner like it was a hose line. This will push the fire back into the room of origin allowing another member to close the door. A six-foot hook or Halligan would be preferred here to grab the door to get it closed.
If there was no door, the extinguisher would be operated in the same manner. Once the fire makes its way back out of the door we would use the same technique to hold it to that door until the engine came in to complete the job.
In a future article, we will take a look at a few modifications we can make to a basic water extinguisher to further increase its capabilities and its ease of use.
Please leave any further tricks or experiences you have with any of these techniques for discussion in the comments section below.
Photos courtesy of Courtney Fling.
Read additional articles on the can here!
The 2-1/2 Gallon Water Extinguisher – Uses
Taking Care Of The Can – Part 1 – Recharging
Taking Care Of The Can – Part 2 – Inspection and Maintenance
Taking Care Of The Can – Part 3 – Carrying and Modifications
Additives For The Can