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In this final installment we will look at the branch piping and sprinkler heads in the wet pipe system. This piping is designed and arranged in a specific pattern, based upon its intended function. For example, a storage facility may have long runs of piping with heads arranged in rows. This design will provide fire control for the area. Think of this as the default design. A large open space could change configurations over the structures lifetime, hopefully, the piping and head configuration will match the needs. Many times these systems are fire suppression systems.

“Fire control is the method of decreasing temperature of fire gases and pre-wetting combustibles, keeping the fire in check.”

“Fire suppression sharply reduces temperature and directs water application onto burning materials which prevents re-growth.”

At a glance these may appear to be the same thing, but when it comes to the design of fire protection systems they are dramatically different. For more details the two types please refer to –

The piping that used is typically the same grade as the riser piping just much smaller in diameter. These lines should also be secured with “bomb proof” hangers. Attached to these lines are the sprinkler heads.

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Sprinkler heads come in a wide variety of types and temperature ratings. Their orientation can be concealed, flush, upright, pendant, recessed, and sidewall. Just a few of the designs include open, early supression-fast repsonse, control mode, spray, and standard. We then get into the method of activation. Common ways are frangile bulb and fusible links. These will break or fuse at their designed temperature to allow the flow of water to occur.

As an engine company your role may be to support the system. Keeping the system filled with water and at the proper pressure can be paramount during a fire. Do not stop supporting the system until directed by Incident Command.

With knowledge and training an operation, that includes an activation of the Fire Protection system, will be mitigated with confidence and rigor. Fire Protection systems will become a powerful allie for those who understand there operation!


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Strategical Guidelines – Department SOGS provide a baseline for operations line personnel will encounter. They are not hard rules that must be followed step by  step for each event. Company Officers and Incident Commanders are well versed in the SOGS, and have the fortitude that allows for deviation when required.

Tactical Patience – Incident Commanders and line personnel exercise tactical reserve, and perform only the tasks needed for the current operation. We stay diligent, maintaining a focus on task completion. Rigid processes of “checkbox firefighting” can set crews up for failure. Our strategical and tactical playbook is well written and versed, with the ability to call an “audible” when the incident dictates. Provide protection for lives in harms way, maintain crew integrity and complete the task in order of priority.

Crew Resource Management – Personnel performing the work will be supplied with all the necessary tools, equipment and support to complete the task. The Command Staff is there to support the work, and the line workers. Additional resources will be available when required for relief. Assignment of crews should only occur when a task is required to be completed. We must understand, “not everyone will get to play.”

Training for Operational Excellence – All members receive appropriate and timely training for the tasks they are expected to perform. Training will also include situations for critical thinking. Our baseline SOGS provide the framework for functional effort, however alert, “heads up firefighting” using critical thinking is required for operational excellence. Training complacency is training for failure.

After the isolation valve and clapper is the Riser pipe. The riser has one purpose, deliver water to the branch lines. A few discussion points can be made about the riser.

The riser makes “the water rise up!’
  • Depending on the pipes diameter it should meet Schedule 5, 10,  30 or 40.
  • Above ground piping should be ANSI, UL and FM approved materials.
  • Piping is hung with approved hangers to what we like to call “bomb proof anchors.”  Meaning if a bomb went off would that still be standing?
  • A visual inspection shall be performed regularly to check for damage including holes, friction damage and other  types of physical damage.

An intergral component of the system.


The riser pipe is a simple yet intergal compenent of the Wet Pipe Fire Protection system. This pipe directs the flow of water up to the ceiling level where it connects with main lines which in turn connect to the branch lines. The next post will focus on these other lines as well as sprinkler heads.

For more on Sprinkler Systems make sure to read NFPA 13.

Fire Protection Systems come in variety of forms depending on the application of how and what they will protect. When focused on water systems, we still have a few options. The most common is the Wet Pipe system, which consists of a water source, valve & associated piping, riser, branch lines and closed sprinkler heads. These systems are very simple and reliable. Today will focus on the valve in the wet pipe system.

Two parts make up this section of a wet system, the isolation valve and the clapper. The isolation valve performs just what the name implies, isolates the associated riser from the water source or header. This may be a Outside, Stem & Yoke (OS&Y) or a butterfly valve. The OS&Y is easily identifiable with its long threaded stem that should be fully visible when the valve is opened. If you do not see the stem, then the valve is closed and during pre-planning ensure to ask why. The butterfly valve will have a smaller handwheel and a “flag” should identify the position of the valve. When the flag is vertical or up & down, the valve is open. When horizontal or “side to side” the valve is closed.

Many shapes and sizes of clapper valves can be found in todays systems. A clapper or check valve controls the flow of water. This ensures that the system main and branch piping maintains water pressure, so that the heads actuate properly when needed. If the pressure below the clapper increases and opens the valve, then excess pressure is realeased through the retard chamber. We will cover that on another day.

Below you will find examples of valves that you may encounter. Remember, there are two main elements to the Wet Pipe System valve, the isolation valve and the clapper.

Clapper or Check Valve access cover plate.

Having access to systems valves is critical.

Over the next several weeks I will be posting about Fire Protection Systems. The hope is we all can gain a better understanding of what is out there, the benefits of and our role in water suppression/control systems.

This picture is of a large commercial building of Non-Combustible construction. As you can see here they have three (3) sprinkler systems, a water flow alarm, fire department connection and a hydrant. What does this picture tell you?


Exterior views can tell you information of the type of system this building has.

If you need to enlarge this image to see the elements please click the image.

The first element we see is the hydrant in the foreground. Based on its proximity to the building, is it part of the public or private system? If it is public, then this is a great hydrant to use when supporting the system. However, if its part of the private ring header, will you only be taking available water away from the risers?

The next element we see are the three Wall Post Indicator Valves (Wall PIV). Each one of these hand wheels controls the main valve for each one of the sprinkler risers. They all protect different areas of the structure, yet are still in close proximity to each other. If more systems are needed they will install them closer to the area they are designed to protect. Only close the valve required and only when directed by the IC. We also see that these are locked with a chain. Do not cut the lock! Cut a link in the chain. Once the key holder arrives we can reuse the chain and secure it with the same lock. Little things like this provide great customer service.

The Fire Department connection also stands out. You will want to investigate this further as not all FDC’s are equal. A FDC may be sprinklers only, standpipes only or both. The cap, a label or another sign should indicate what the connection is for. If no indication exsist, contact the grounds manager ASAP during the pre-planning phase to have this corrected.

The final element we see is the water flow alarm, in this case a bell or gong. If/when the system actuates the flowing water will cause this alarm to sound. Depending on how it is set up, several actions may occur. The alarm may only be local, indicating a system is flowing and will the give the general area. The water flow may initiate a global alarm telling everyone in that building to exit. This may also be tied into a system that initiates a fire department response.

Knowing and understanding fire protection systems enables you to set up, control and manage an operation at an incident with a system. The owner of the building felt that the contents were worthy of installing the system so we should honor that decision by using them. Fire Protection systems do not reduce the need for a fire department response, they only enable us to better serve the public.

For an overview of Fire Protection check out this link –

More information about sprinkler heads –

It takes just one step to gain momentum. That first step when coupled with the right attitude and the end game in mind, can lead to uncompromising results. That first step is difficult and more times than not, a solitary one.

We all go through personal struggle and times when the momentum decreases. What gives us the spirit to regain composure and the strength to pull through? Determination, Pride, Courage, Honor and Always Keeping the Faith.


"I will get back in the seat." Thanks Lloyd! Copyright Lloyd Mitchell Photograpy.

I write this for myself, I need the reminder that I will never stop believing in what I do. If you can relate, or need the encouragement, we can fight together.

I will get back in the seat.

Every day we are bombarded with information. This has never been as true as it is now since the Fire Service has met Social Media. We must maintain a questioning attitude yet, stay open minded so we can take a look at all the angles. You also want to also consider what works best for YOUR area. What works for one, may not be best for another.

Does it serve you or serve the mission?

One old argument the fire service has had, Fog v. Smooth bore. Now it is plain H2O v. Agents. As technology advances, meaning the design and engineering of the tools to prevent, find and destroy fire; we must keep our eyes focused on the end game and not just the means. The protection of the public is why we are here. If tradition, ego or attitude impedes that process then we are failing to honor that oath we chose to take. Seek out pertinent research that will make you successful on and off the fire ground. This video is interesting as it shows the use of CAFS with the new TFT Flip Tip Nozzle. Shan Raffel posted this on his YouTube Channel. For those seeking information on the Modern Fire Environment and Tactics, he is one those leading the way.

Dead last. Ranked higher than those who chose to quit, those who refused to try.

Falling down exposes if we can pick ourselves back up.

The only concern, never disappoint yourself. Set YOUR goals, Raise YOUR bar.


The competition, Yourself.

Always, Keep the Faith.

We are coming to the Great Divide in our sub-culture, the American Fire Service. Many are looking outward to fill our palette with the paramount colors to paint our current and future fire-grounds. As these communities seek beyond our own districts and borders, many seem to build a brick wall stopping all sources of new information.

As with any culture, you will undoubtedly have sub-cultures and even sub-sects of those smaller divides. Even though the “umbrella goal” is still the same, sublte and even obvious difference exist.  You can see this in many aspects of social groups across the states. Politics, Religion, Social and other factions have sub-sects with the main body. Quite a few have differing ideals of how the collective should be ran, stand for and operate. While others simply fit into the mold but deviate just to stand out.

“A barking contest does nothing to improve our fire service. Engage in meaningful debate and conversation.”


The American Fire Service is no different. With about 1.8 million individuals, we will see and will always see differing opinions on how we should operate. Our priority or main intent, Life Safety of the Public we serve will continue to drive our service based industry. What we must do to maintain the integrity of the oath most of us recited, is to work together as best as we can to create, perfect and perform BEST PRACTICES. Whether you are “talking shop” at a conference, getting down and dirty on the drill ground or researching new theories being tested in the lab, keep an open mind- more importantly open ears and eyes. A barking contest does nothing to improve our fire service. Some feel they need to argue, or play “devils advocate” just to to be heard. Their is nothing wrong with engaging in a meaningful debate and conversation. Just do not speak simply to be heard, bring value with you.

This next paragraph may have you stand back a bit and possibly even piss you off. Bare with me and let it digest. Accepting our shortcomings can either destroy all that we have worked for or be rocket fuel to propel us to new heights. Unless you have only two years in the fire service or live under a rock, you have seen changes to some of the ways we conduct business. Buzz words such as “transitional attack”, “victim survivability profiling” and “culture change” have caused more arguments because of a lack of clear understanding than solid point for point debate.  But let us look at this another way. We jump the gun by throwing away tried and true tactics in the trash for new shiny ones, even though they are simply our old tools all shined up. Were they “repackaged” so that some one can make a name for themselves or to maybe put a different spin on something to get those who are not open to change, to see them in a new light? One such argument is the VES vs. VEIS. Same thing, simply added to the I to reinforce the importance of isolating the door. At 2am does it matter? Yes and no. Yes because if you for get to isolate the door, its a problem. No, if you train your ass off on the proper technique and execution. But to argue over a simple vowel- is our shortcomings destroying hard work and really only breaking apart the brotherhood. We should not be fighting ourselves, but the enemy; fire. Which brings me to my next point. Our duty is to provide fire protection to the communities we serve. They expect a level of service, but with any service industry you also get what you pay for(literally and non-literally). When you take away funding and resources from Fire Safety Education and Prevention, the instances of fire will increase. When you take away resources from Code Enforcement the severity of those fires will increase. Where does this extra burden fall? On us, those who respond. When the numbers and availability of those responders decrease, even more burden is rested on those who do. The domino’s start to fall, we are left trying to stop them from falling, while attempting to provide quality services. Where will it end? We can only do so much, we are not all knowing, all powerful.

This leaves us counting on each other more than ever before. We must either strengthen them or accept them (our shortcomings), we can only do so much. Taking the most progressive approach we can, we must take the fight to the fire – “Our most aggressive form of fire attack is FIRE PREVENTION.” We cannot stop all fire emergencies, so do not allow a shortcoming to be fire ground operations. Get out study, learn, train and drill. All while keeping an open, yet cautious mind to new information.

We have so much we can learn from others, while we have so much to share with others. We tend to get ahead of ourselves these days. We can receive and share information before the story is even complete or the research is finalized. We are all guilty, even this author. The only way to close the gap of this great divide is to take the time to let the story play out. Put new information through a review process before into service, and as always be smart about it. Even though we are all on the same team, we do operate differently. Use these best practices in a manner that is best for the citizens YOU SERVE.

Keep the Faith- HUSTON

The road we travel has its ups, downs, good, bad, happy, sad, admiration, intimidation, offensive, the intriguing and the profound. Along the way we have opportunities to acquire or take, bestow, encounter great people, run from others and have life transforming events happen that we discern, create, and have inflicted upon us. As members of a service industry, more so one that deals with people not by choice in their atypical situation, we have increased chances to take and give.

We take, not through greed or theft but through the promise of giving. Each of us need to take everything we can from those disconcerting rendezvous or moments of pure hell that we have during the course of a day, a shift or a tour. Learn lessons from those we work with, work for and even work against. Keep an open eye, open ears and open mind for any caveat and “words to the wise.”

As time passes, I divulge more and more into the fire service and this notion of brotherhood. Round for round we could debate the sentiment. For me it’s not a tee shirt, “high five-ing” on the front lawn or sitting in a meeting for a local chapter of whatever. When I am at my lowest and need someone to turn to, my brothers will be there. Not because of some secret oath taken right after being ‘sworn in’ onto the fire department or with some act of granduer. This unspoken pact we have develops through the triumphs and tragedies we have faced, even if we did not face them together. The common bond of being Firefighters, is the simple catalyst for life long fellowship; brothers.

“Knowing I have the back of a fellow Firefighter is more important to me than knowing they have my back.”

When you realize Brotherhood is about what you do for others while expecting nothing in return, then you are ready for brotherhood. Life takes work, effort, you get what you give. At times you must take from others what you can so that you may give so much more in return.

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