Ever since the advent of the pistol-grip nozzles, almost all firefighters, from new recruits or seasoned veterans, have been found holding the nozzle like cowboys or pistol shooters holding the gun while directing the stream of water. Anyone holding a pistol-grip nozzle in this fashion is in fact considered having poor and sloppy nozzle handling skills.
Non-pistol-grip nozzles, however, offer similar water delivery as the pistol-grip ones, which were originally designed for one person to hold the nozzle more easily. But the fact is that the nozzle should never be operated by one person by design. Anyway, the pistol-grip nozzles do have their advantages and are considered one of the best nozzles currently used by the fire departments.
It is the operators that instinctively hold the pistol-grip handle like shooters ready to pull the trigger at the shooting range, having completely forgotten how to handle a nozzle by the book due to the convenience offered by the pistol-grip handle. Such an incorrect yet convenient way of holding a nozzle fails to maximize the efficacy of fire suppression.
It takes at least two people to handle a hose line. The movement of water coming out of the nozzle creates a reaction force as stipulated by Newton’s Third Law of Movement: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This explains why we always need more than one person to hold a hose line and withstand the backward force while fighting a fire. The reality is that one tends to hold the nozzle by having a grip on its pistol-grip handle naturally so that the nozzle is too close to his body, thus preventing it from moving around freely and effectively.
Worse still, the nozzle man needs to move his whole body to move the nozzle from one side to the other (up, down, left, or right). What happens is that the nozzle man who holds the pistol-grip handle is talking all the reaction force with his assistant, the backup man, having not much to do or help. All this certainly makes controlling the nozzle less effective and eventually wears the nozzle operator out before the fire can be extinguished.
Rather than the pistol-holding position, if the hose is held in a firefighter’s right hand and under his armpit, he can largely reduce the burden of the reaction force by resting his right arm on his right leg, thus maximizing the controllability and efficiency.
Meanwhile, this less appealing position enables the firefighter to direct water and advance it in the desired direction freely. On the contrary, if the nozzle is held on its pistol-grip handle by the nozzle man, the hose line will have to be pulled out by his assistant. Chances are that the nozzle man might drop the nozzle while his assisting crew (the backup man) is anxious to pull the hose line out.
This is unlikely to happen when the nozzle man holds the nozzle in his hand not in a cowboy shooting fashion. No matter how vehemently the anxious assisting crew is pulling the hose line out, the nozzle man can firmly hold the nozzle without losing or dropping it. In other words, it is safer, easier, and more efficient for firefighters to hold the nozzle and hose line in this position.
Speaking of the backup man whose job is to support the nozzle man, they are trained as recruits to do their important support job in an ineffective way. As per the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Essentials book, the backup man will support the nozzle man by putting one arm and one foot on the nozzle man’s back and behind his foot, respectively. This only makes them look good while posing for pictures but won’t do them any good at the fire scene.
Let’s forget about the beautiful poses printed on the textbooks and face the reality. What should be the backup man’s position corresponding to the nozzle man? He must support the nozzle man with his whole body and hold the hose with both hands, ensuring the hose kept in a straight line so that the reaction force stays with him. Failure to do so will cause the reaction force to be transferred back to the nozzle man, minimizes his ability to direct the nozzle.
In a nutshell, the backup man must move in synch with the nozzle man to keep the hose line straight no matter where the nozzle man decides to move the nozzle and direct the steam.