Depending on where you work you may or may not have fire hydrants available. There is a lot of importance placed on securing a water supply, and that is for good reason. You never want to get too far inside a burning building without a confirmed water supply.
The water in the tank of your first arriving engine will only last so long and to run out of water puts you in a real bad situation.
There are times though that you can make a big difference by using your tank water to get a knock on that fire. Fire spreads very fast and sometimes using a couple minutes to slow it down is better than watching it grow while you secure a water supply. Probably the most obvious situation to use your tank water is when there is an immediate need for a rescue and you don’t have time to waste establishing a secure water supply. When there are viable victims trapped in a building it may be acceptable to make a quick hit on the fire and try and get the victims out.
In a lot of situations victims are found near doorways and exits of the building. These victims were trying to get out of the building but didn’t quite make the exit. While one crew enters with a handline other crews without a hose line can check the exit ways for victims. Crews entering for a quick search with that handline need to be very careful to not overextend themselves into the structure. Even a small structure can be dangerous if you get too far inside.
Remember you are not inside to extinguish the fire, you are inside with that hose to protect yourself while you make a quick attempt to find victims. A small residence with one or two bedrooms can be searched very quickly. Since your time inside is limited make sure you search the most logical places first.
Information can be quickly gathered from others that might have been in the building regarding victim locations. Time of day will also help you find victims, at night the bedrooms are obvious targets. Since your water supply is limited make sure you don’t waste it. Shorts burst of water can quickly control most fires. Depending on your tank capacity you will have 2 or three minutes of water.
That may sound like a short amount of time but remember you shouldn’t be turning that stream on and leaving it open. Two or three minutes of water can last you five or six minutes if it is applied correctly. Don’t fall into a trap of using your tank water every time.
In some situations the fire will be too large to control or the extent of fire may make the limit the viability of victims. Your department policy will also come into play with your decision to use tank water. Some departments allow using tank water in certain situations and others don’t allow it in any situation.
Be sure and follow your policy, if your policy needs review make sure it is done properly. A lot of policies are in effect for good reason and changing them will not be an option. Even if you can’t change policy you can still take a few of these concepts with you next time you get the chance to go in on a line.