In my opinion the topic of “Pushing fire with water” is the single greatest piece of fire attack research which has been communicated poorly or misunderstood. UL is elaborating greatly and providing much better context/more clearly stated material for us to understand the early studies. If you have heard the phrase “you can’t push fire with water” don’t stop at this result or statement. There is much more to the story.
Do not take a snippet of information and tailor your training programs to provide the “latest fire attack research and recommendations”. Firefighters have a habit of taking research results (from multiple disciplines) and applying them to training exercises without context. That being said UL is also to blame for this miscommunication. Firefighters typically do not separate their discussions of water application and air entrainment during training. For many firefighters these are one in the same. Even though different patterns yield different results, some create more air entrainment and others much mess, there is no on/off switch to turn the air off at the nozzle.
Firefighters need to understand context, they need to understand the background and significance of these research projects. Reading the first and last paragraph of a 100 page research paper doesn’t provide you with a good foundation. It gives you results without context. To communicate as an instructor you need context and to translate that information into training and drills you need to understand the background and significance of these processes. Without context your drill becomes a training exercise prepped to fail. Adult learning typically happens in phases. 1. Rite, 2. Understanding, 3. Application, and 4. Correlation. Students participating in a drill need to get to the application phase and instructors need to live in the correlation phase. At the beginning of basic training we learn through Rite or memorization. We don’t quite grasp where or why and we have a hard time applying the skills during the initial phases of training. Once a student understands the skills we can apply those skills which provides a much better outcome. Skipping steps will only lead to confusion in the training process. Aaron Fields and I had a discussion one time and he provided me with a great teaching tool. He said, “If you have a student that says [I don’t see where this fits] you have missed the application phase of learning.” The student doesn’t understand how to apply the skill.
Lastly, just because you read it, watch it, or listen to it doesn’t mean it isn’t flawed. Research projects are very difficult to construct without some flaws. Most applied research projects literally have a section in the paper which explains the problems or flaws that might’ve occurred during the process. Make your drills purposeful, give them context, and your crews will perform at a much higher level. Follow the link below to understand this topic in much more detail.