Applying the appropriate firefighting media will, in the majority of fires, involve various techniques or combinations of techniques, equipment and activities undertaken by crews, many of which will occur simultaneously.
The most effective means of extinguishing a fire will be a direct attack, using hose lines and branches to apply water or other firefighting media in a jet, spray or other form directly to the seat of fire.
Alternatively, submerging burning materials in water can be effective, particularly when considering disposing of remnants of fire and containing contaminated water. Burning materials can be submersed using a variety of container types, sizes and methods, for example, buckets, large refuse containers and locally improvised methods.
There may be situations where gas cooling may be more conducive to controlling the fire. This technique will normally be most effective in a compartment firefighting situations, where crews can apply the technique to reduce the risk of flashover or fire gas ignition etc., or during the decay phase where the risk of backdraught is more prevalent.
The technique of gas cooling involves crews controlling the flow rates by directing short pulses of water spray toward the ceiling or roof area of a room or compartment. The aim is to remove the heat from the fire gases in the atmosphere, and to delay and prevent any potential reaction flashover and provide safe access and egress for crews to extinguish the seat of fire.
There are many other application techniques that will support in extinguishing the fire using various types of extinguishing media. The advancement and development of new technologies is something that fire and rescue services should consider. For example, water misting or cutting extinguisher systems provide an innovative option in fire attack plans and support improving firefighter safety in dealing with compartment fires.
In addition, media such as foam, dry powder and carbon dioxide (CO2) may have specific techniques of application. Although the production of foam will largely rely on an adequate and secure supply of water, its application may vary depending on the type of foam and how it is provided, whether from dedicated foam systems such as Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) or supplied from drums or bulk foam stocks such as IBC containers.
The application of dry powders and CO2 will generally be provided from some form of 'hard body' extinguisher, which may vary in size and capability depending on the risk.
Fire and rescue service personnel should ensure that appropriate techniques and applications are used, appropriate to the type of media chosen. They will need to monitor the impact of the techniques to ensure the safety of crews and to ensure the fire is brought under control and eventually extinguished.
Ventilation has a key role in the containment, control and extinguishing of any fire. It is important that the incident commander and firefighters take this into account and adopt a co-ordinated approach that complements the various firefighting methods, media and application techniques and supports the overall incident strategy and fire attack plan.
For example, if the type of fire dictates that dry powder or CO2 is the most appropriate extinguishing media, crews will need to be aware of the negative impact that forced ventilation such as the use of Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) may have on dispersing the firefighting media before it has a chance to suppress the seat of fire.
By containing and attempting to control a fire at the earliest opportunity, the incident commander and firefighters minimise the chances of firespread, reduce the level of risk to casualties, members of the public and, to some degree, minimise the exposure to risk for firefighters.
Early, safe intervention at any fire will also help to prevent or limit any potential damage that may occur should the fire continue to develop unchecked.
Likewise, during any firefighting operations, the incident commander and firefighters should consider the impact firefighting operations may have on the building and its contents. They should pay attention to minimise or prevent damage caused by firefighting operations.