By Chris Mc Loone
On June 26, 2012, the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute (MFRI) hosted a demonstration of Elkhart Brass’s HeroPIPE.
Invented by Michael Wielgat, a lieutenant with Truck 6 in the Chicago (IL) Fire Department, the HeroPIPE is intended to be another tool in the toolbox for firefighters to use at a point when an offensive attack on a fire in a high-rise building cannot occur.
During his presentation, before a hands-on evolution deploying the HeroPIPE, Wielgat cited several examples of high-rise fires that resulted in line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) or severe injuries to responding firefighters. A major factor in these injuries and deaths was a rapid rise in temperatures when the windows in the fire room would unexpectedly fail. According to recent research, in a wind-driven fire scenario, unexpected failure of the windows can cause a rapid rise in temperature in the hallways, sometimes reaching 3,500 degrees. Such temperatures make it impossible for firefighters to advance on the fire and they must wait until the contents of the fire apartment have been consumed before making an attack. In one research evolution, an empty floor of an acquired high-rise had fire set in a room using hay and wood pallets. Once wind was introduced, the fire extended through a hallway to a window on the opposite side of the building—with no combustibles in between. The smoke was on fire.
These are the situations Wielgat designed the HeroPIPE for. He noted that an aggressive attack on the fire is effective 95 percent of the time. So, this tool is not meant to replace an aggressive interior attack.
I had a chance to observe the HeroPIPE being assembled for service as well as operate the nozzle via the wireless remote. Some general impressions are:
- The hardest part of placing the HeroPIPE in service is extending the pipe up and out of the window to position it for knockdown. As Wielgat instructed the crew deploying the tool, if it does not go the first time, roll it back down and do it again.
- Assembly seemed pretty easy but, like any piece of equipment, will require repetitive training so putting it together becomes second nature.
- With good water, the HeroPIPE can deliver a high volume of water. When I asked Wielgat if he suggested securing a second water source for the HeroPIPE, like a separat e standpipe supplied by its own pumper, he said no because at the stage you are likely to use the HeroPIPE, a line will not be in use on the fire floor.
- The wireless interface to operate the nozzle was easy to use and very intuitive.
- It makes sense to have this as a tool in the toolbox vs. making it the first line of attack.
- I also asked Wielgat about when to get the HeroPIPE to the floor below the fire, and he said as soon as there is confirmation of smoke or fire, get it to the floor below the fire in case it will be needed.
To date, two departments have purchased HeroPIPEs: the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and the Chicago (IL) Fire Department. Personnel are going through training on the units before they are placed in service.
The HeroPIPE Iteslf
The HeroPIPE is a high-rise exterior master stream system designed to be safe, light, mobile, reliable and simple. It is operational from the floor below, features independent stabilizers, offers flow control at the appliance, and has waterway track safety locks. No tools are required to assemble it, and Wielgat suggests a crew of two to three minimum. It can be operated in sill type construction, curtain wall type construction, and at both residential and commercial ceiling heights. The electronics for the nozzle will operate for 1.5 hours on one battery or three hours with two batteries.
For more information, visit www.theheropipe.com.