The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Firefighting & The Fire Service – Part 18

December 13, 2018 12:16 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others involved in building design, we have been looking at firefighting. In part 17, we began to look at how firefighting is undertaken by the Fire Service and their objectives and modes of operation when arriving at a fire. In part 19, tactical firefighting is discussed.


While the general objectives of tactical firefighting were given in the last blog, there are various methods used by firefighters to achieve their objectives. These include:


Obtaining water supplies

Searching in smoke

Protecting the search team or teams

Maintaining a line of retreat

Protecting the route

Establishing defensive bridgeheads

Determining which firefighting medium to use


Advancing hose lines

Turning over/cutting back


Firefighting’s modes – defensive and offensive – refer to the aim of the firefighters upon assessing the fire. If the fire can be extinguished and the building (or indeed its occupants if these have not been able to evacuate) can be saved the mode is offensive. If the fire is too well established and the building and contents are lost, the mode of operation will be defensive, in order to stop it spreading further and to subdue the fire as much as possible.


In offensive mode, jets and monitors should never be positioned so they are directing the water jet through doors and windows or roofs from outside the building. Where offensive mode firefighting is possible, it should always be the case that jets are positioned so that the fire is contained, and this means working from the inside towards the outside of the building to contain the fire.


Upon arrival at the fire, the officer in charge will assess whether the current attendance will be sufficient to put out the fire. If not, while further resources are travelling to the scene, the officer will prioritise the positioning of the stopping jets and place them on any breaches in structure providing separation between the fire and the interior of the building. Smoke, heat and flames may pass through penetrations in walls, doorways, ceiling voids, ducts, shafts and roof voids and so jets will be concentrated in those areas.


Where possible, if part of a floor is on fire or where there is a choice of routes to the fire, the rule is to keep the largest area of the building which is not on fire to the rear of the firefighters, so they are able to set up and retreat safely.


In part 19 of this series, LWF will continue to look at firefighting methods undertaken by the Fire Service. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.


Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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