Nozzles Fit To Regional Preferences

The Task Force Tips Phoenix nozzle.
The Task Force Tips Phoenix nozzle.
The Elkhart Brass Solid Strike nozzle
The Elkhart Brass Solid Strike nozzle.
The Akron Brass Turbojet nozzle
The Akron Brass Turbojet nozzle.

Many years have passed since an unnamed inventor – most probably a firefighter – realized the need for a firefighting nozzle and put a prototype together out of bits and pieces.

While pumping devices were available in the late 1600s, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that lengths of copper-riveted leather hose, fitted with brass couplings and nozzles, allowed firefighters to make attacks inside structures. The fire service has progressed light years beyond that point, and today fire departments are confronted with nozzles available for virtually every conceivable application.

There are smoothbore and fog nozzles; fixed, dual and selectable gallonage nozzles; single pressure and dual pressure nozzles; break-apart nozzles; specialty nozzles such as chimney snuffers, cellar nozzles, water curtains and piercing applicators; high and low pressure nozzles; and foam nozzles.

Some of the earliest nozzles were smoothbores, which shoot a solid stream of water. Combination nozzles allow the option of either a fog stream or straight stream, while broken stream nozzles produce smaller water droplets useful in specialized applications, such as cellar nozzles and piercing nozzles.

Combination nozzles are available in several forms: constant gallonage; adjustable, where the firefighter controls the gallons flowed; and automatic, which are adjusted mechanically to maintain a specific pressure.

Don Sjolin, vice president of marketing and strategic development for Elkhart Brass in Elkhart, Ind., said its newest nozzles – the Flex Attack and Solid Strike – operate on different principles than more common nozzles to address trends the company has identified.

Flex Attack produces a variable solid stream through a compressible bore so the nozzle uses hydraulic pressure at its base to operate a chamber that compresses the bore to enlarge or reduce the size of the opening, he said.

“It’s much the way a car’s automatic transmission transfers gears,” he noted.

The Flex Attack’s variable orifice has settings for 15/16-inch, 1 1/8-inch and 1 3/8-inch streams.

The nozzle is valuable in the CAFS arena, he said, where firefighters desire a completely open waterway that doesn’t disrupt the bubble structure.

“In fighting fires with foam aerated in the apparatus’s hose lines, breaking down the bubble structure detracts from the performance of the compressed air foam,” he said. “The more evenly and homogenously the bubble structure is, the better it will perform.”

The Solid Strike nozzle was produced to address another trend in North American firefighting, Sjolin said.

“There’s a group of aggressive, knowledgeable firefighters who have developed interior attack operating procedures based around the solid stream nozzle,” he said. “There are pockets of departments around the country adopting smoothbore or modified smoothbore as SOP in fire attack. The Northeast is huge in this area, and a lot of that has to do with FDNY, which continues to rely on a smoothbore nozzle.”

Solid Strike is designed to produce an infinitely variable solid stream from zero to the equivalent of a one-inch tip, Sjolin noted. It has detents at one inch, seven-eights and three-quarter inch settings, but can open to any size in between. It also has the ability to have an attachment mounted at its tip, so additional hose could be attached, or even a fog nozzle.

David Durstine, vice president of marketing at Akron Brass in Wooster, Ohio, said his firm makes four basic kinds of nozzles ­– multi-gallonage, fixed orifice assault, standard smoothbore and combined smoothbore and fog.

Calling Akron’s TurboJet multi-gallonage nozzle “the most popular in the world,” Durstine said a firefighter can dial in any given flow rate at a given pressure, from 30 gpm to upward of 250 gpm.

Actual Control

“The big advantage of this particular style is that it gives the nozzleman actual control of what he sees and what the applications are,” Durstine noted. “If he needs more water, he can dial up the flow setting at the same psi, and no adjustment is needed at the pump.”

Akron’s Assault nozzle is a fixed orifice model designed for a given pressure at a given flow rate. With the Assault, adjustments must be made at the pump to change the amount of water coming out of the nozzle.

“This is for those who might not do a lot of training and don’t want to worry about settings on the nozzle,” Durstine said. “It’s simple from a design standpoint, without a lot of moving components and easy to maintain.”

Akron also makes a standard smoothbore nozzle that allows a tight impacting water stream, depending on the size of the orifice of the discharging tip. It’s a very simple design that goes back to the early days of firefighting, he noted.

Two In One

Akron Brass also combines two nozzles in one with its patented SaberJet. The nozzle takes a smoothbore with its unobstructed stream and combines it with a fog nozzle in a single package. The SaberJet is made in both single and dual shutoff styles.

At Task Force Tips in Valparaiso, Ind., Rod Carringer, the vice president of sales and marketing, said meeting the needs of fire departments across the country has led to a lot of customization of nozzles.

“For a long time, the only nozzle accepted under the [National Fire Protection Association] standard had to operate at 100 psi,” he said, “and anything less couldn’t meet the criteria.”

However, once the NFPA standard changed in 1998, he said Task Force Tips began producing low and dual pressure nozzles that operated at 75 psi and even 55 psi.

Bringing Down RPMs

“This is a demand of the fire service where in many cases they are looking for ways to reduce nozzle reaction, reduce crews, looking at ways of lowering the pump discharge pressure and bringing down engine rpms,” Carringer said.

Task Force Tips makes a series of nozzles in various categories, including smoothbore; fixed, dual and selectable gallonage at different pressures; and automatic single and dual pressure at three different gallonage rates.

“The automatic nozzles are our most popular models, especially in the Northeast, because the automatic nozzle was accepted early there,” Carringer said. “In the Southeast, we see departments using more selectable gallonage nozzles.”

He noted a trend in metropolitan departments toward a fixed gallonage nozzle of a single flow and pressure in an effort to simplify fireground operations and training.

“For instance, a smoothbore is a fixed gallonage nozzle designed to operate at one flow and one pressure,” he said. “Of course, if you over-pressurize or under-pressurize the nozzle, it will have a negative effect on stream quality in some manner.”

Many Choices Regional

Many nozzle choices are regional, Carringer said. “West of the Rockies they like the two-piece break-apart nozzle,” he noted, “because they do a lot of break and extend in fighting wildland fires. They’ll lead in 150 to 200 feet, stop and close the valve, add another couple hundred feet of hose and open up again with that tip.”

Carringer said Task Force Tips just developed a nozzle for the Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department that can be used in as many of its operations as possible.

“It’s a two-piece nozzle,” he said, “where the back end integrates a smoothbore as part of the ball shutoff and the front end is designed to operate at very low pressures, 45 psi with their CAFS or at 75 psi for water.”

The challenge for Task Force Tips, he said, was to satisfy a number of criteria with the new nozzle. It had to be lightweight, and fit in hose bundles, cross lays and preconnects, as well as all the other places the department uses nozzles. The entire department has now been standardized with the new nozzle.

Kirk Allen, president of First Strike Technologies Inc. in Kansas, Ill., said although his firm’s Vindicator nozzles are relatively new to the fire service, they are proving to be valuable tools. The Vindicator was designed, he said, to address the two most important factors in fire suppression with water – application rate and type of stream – plus a third element, reducing flame temperature by modifying the air.

“When we developed the Vindicator, we knew we had to focus on the primary objective of suppression,” Allen said.

With a standard combination nozzle, he said, the water hits a stem that causes it to do two directional changes 90 degrees in pattern, which creates a great deal of friction loss.

Inadequate Flows

“We use a needle in the Vindicator, similar to an ice cream cone, set at 17 degrees,” he said. “It goes from an inch-and-a-half waterway orifice into a barrel with atmospheric air holes that creates a venturi to pull in air, shaping the stream so we can flow more water. It’s not a deflective principle nozzle because the air shapes the stream.”

Allen maintained that many firefighters aren’t aware that their flows are considerably less than they think.

“Some of the information out there is inadequate about flows,” he said. “The problem is two-fold: the preconnect plumbing in apparatus uses multiple elbows, each of which causes friction loss. The second problem is the hose, because due to internal dynamics of different brands, you might have higher friction loss inside.”

Allen recommended that when writing specs for apparatus, departments should go with high-pressure Teflon line hose and get rid of all the hard plumbing and elbows. He also suggested putting the pressure sensor as close to the discharge as possible.

“Most nozzles do what they’re supposed to do,” Allen said, “but with the hose and elbow issues, they’re not flowing what firefighters think they are.”

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