Fire Fighting in Canada

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Back to Basics: December 2015

Advancing a preconnect hand line into a structure is a common offensive attack to get water to and on the fire quickly. Another option for engine companies is the blitz attack.

December 7, 2015  By Mark van der Feyst

Essentially, the blitz attack is an offensive manoeuvre that involves sending all available water at once onto the seat of the fire.

Just like in football, the defending team will blitz the offence by sending the linebackers, the cornerbacks and defensive backs in an all-out assault to sack the quarterback.

A blitz attack is an offensive attack that combines exterior-water application and an interior-offensive attack. The blitz attack is transitional because there is initial large-scale water delivery to knock down the fire, followed by the advance of an attack line to complete the rest of the job.

The initial blitz attack uses either the deck gun mounted on top of the engine (photo 1), a 65-millimetre (2 1/2-inch) hand line, or a ground monitor specifically designed for a blitz-type set up and delivery. Photo 2 shows a ground-monitor device that is designed for a single firefighter to easily grab and set up for quick water deployment. While many departments use ground monitors only as defensive weapons, these devices, with proper training, can also be used as fast and easy-to-operate offensive tools.


Blitzing is a great tactic that can be employed with minimal staff or arriving fire trucks. It is designed for both single-truck and multi-truck applications. A single truck arriving on scene can use the blitz attack as an offensive strategy to accomplish a rapid fire knockdown. A multi-truck response can achieve the same thing with one truck focused on the initial water delivery and the second truck pulling off a hand line for an interior attack. (For videos of these strategies, find this column online at

The blitz tactic is ideal for fires that are of significant size and development in residential garages, exterior balconies, front walkways or wrap arounds, commercial fires, strip mall fires, small, low-rise apartment balconies, motels and so on. A large fire at an advanced stage requires a large quantity of water to overcome the heat-release rate, which can be delivered only through large appliances and hoselines.

In order for this tactic to work effectively, the first-arriving truck needs to have a clear shot to the location of the advanced fire, free from obstructions such as trees or parked vehicles. As shown in photo 2, there are no obstructions preventing water streams from reaching if there was fire in the garage or coming out the front door. Remember, the blitz attack is designed for large, advanced fires – not for room-and-contents fires contained to one small portion of the house or for fires that are not self-venting from the structure.

Think about equipment reach and the quantity of water needed before opting for a blitz attack. Determine the average set-backs from the street to the front of the properties in your response area, which will dictate what type of nozzle you will need – smooth-bore or automatic-combination nozzle. Generally speaking, smooth-bore tips achieve a longer reach and larger quantity of water delivery.

In a worst-case scenario, a single truck arrives on scene of a fully involved garage fire with second and third units arriving a short time later. The officer instructs the driver and crew that this will be a blitz attack and communicates this across the radio as part of the initial scene size-up and report. Next, the driver positions the truck for a blitz operation by parking in direct line of sight of the fire.

One crew member exits the truck and climbs on top to ready and man the deck gun. Once readied, the pump operator/driver discharges water to the deck gun. The crew member operates the deck gun by sweeping it back and forth, up and down, to hit the seat of the fire and knock it down.

Meanwhile, another crew member secures the water supply by hitting the hydrant, if one is available, to maintain continuous water delivery to the deck gun until the initial attack line is pulled off and readied. At the same time, the officer completes his 360 walk-around to make sure that they are still in an offensive strategy.

Once the water supply is secure, the hydrant firefighter grabs the preconnect hand line, stretches it out, charges it with water, and then makes entry along with the officer to conduct interior operations.

If there is no hydrant available and rural water operations are needed, one firefighter sets up the porta-tank for the tanker operation instead of the hydrant operation.

The blitz tactic works well for a fire department only if its members have practised it over and over again to understand their water-supply duration from their booster tank in conjunction with establishing a water source. There are many variations of the attack – this is just one option on which to train. Play around with this tactic on the training ground to see which variation will work for you.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a full-time firefighter in Ontario. Mark teaches in Canada, the United States and India. He is also the lead author of Residential Fire Rescue. Email Mark at

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