Pasadena Working: Transitional Attack

Brief knockdown of visible fire comes from the outside.

Transitional attack is seen in this Pasadena, California fire video. See the earlier posts where we’ve asked how you define transitional attack and look further into what the attention it gained (?) was all about.

John Salka and the Transitional Attack

Reader Definitions of Transitional Attack

Denver Working: Apartment Fire, Transitional Attack?

If the first line can't make it past the foyer (low staffing; clutter, debris; floor burned away; stairs burned away) what do you do?

For the record, we're not trying to beat up on Salka's statement and article, but looking instead at how you interpreted what he said and how you defined the tactic; curiousity about your interpretations and affects.




Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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  • Kinda suprised no noe's bitten on this yet Bill so I guess I'll open myself up. 
    By me I think we'd call this a "craftsman" style house. Occupiable space in the attic area that is usually a bedroom, rec room or office. May have a bathroom up there as well. The major construction features are low ceiling height, knee-walls and large void spaces. The low ceilings and knee-walls give a relatively small fire a small container to build some big btu's, whic i probably why the window failed relatively earl in the fire giving it someplace to vent.
    It appears as though we are seeing the initial Engine prepare for their attack. Line is stretched, crew is masking up, hopefully the officer has done his 360 and interior recon. The fire is still contained to the room of origin given the absence of smoke from the roof structure itself, eaves or anywhere else on the structure. Given my own definition of the transitional attack in your last post I don't think I would have chosen the tactic in this particular situation. However, that is not to say that I think Pasadena made the wrong call either. They employed the tactic, it worked, they saved the bulk of the structure, good job.
    Two other observations. Once the initial Engine darkened the fire and went interior I really don't like the other exterior line being opened up. Don't think there's too much argument there. And the other would be about the fire-spreading fan on the front porch. Thank goodness it wouldn't start, but, again, that's my personal opinion.

  • Art Zern says:

    First to answer your question..yes, yes, yes. You have posted several good examples where a "transitional attack" could be used to great effect. 
    In an effort to provide some additional history and for the information of all, what is now being called the 'transitional attack" is not, by any means, a new tool or tactic. In fact, it has been in use for at least 32 years that I'm aware of and with great success when used appropriately. In Chicago in the early 1980’s it was initially called "quick water” and later the "quick hit”. It has been studied (informally) during training fires in burn towers and acquired structures and actual field application for all of these years and the myth of pushing fire was cast aside many years ago.  The tactic was employed, repeatedly, with firefighters stationed just outside of the fire room on many training fires and we found that the proper application of a straight/solid stream into the fire compartment for a limited time did not “push” fire.
    This is not a “one size fits all” tool and was never intended to be used on all fires. Further, it is not a defensive attack, it is indeed an offensive attack intended to quickly apply water to the fire in order to reduce temperatures in the fire compartment and therefore, slow the fire’s progression.  The “quick hit” or transitional attack was always intended to be followed immediately by an aggressive interior attack. The reasons for using this tactic then and now are to improve the chances of survival for building occupants that still have a chance if we can get to them in time if they are not in the immediate fire area or rather, they are remote from the fire and especially if they are behind a closed door. Additionally, the proper use of the transitional attack will improve firefighter safety for the same reasons. It can be used when a fire has self-vented and when, for any number of reasons (manpower, difficult stretch, upper floor, etc), there will be a time delay getting water directly on the fire from the interior.
    The reason this has come to the front of the line for discussion is that the “anecdotal” evidence gained over the past 30 plus years in Chicago, the Chicago Metro region and many other
    places across the country, has now been validated by science. The recent publication of the results of the work UL and NIST have done in an effort to improve firefighter safety, has brought this tactic to a wider audience.  Do yourself a favor and take the time to review the research and make an informed decision and please, try it under controlled conditions first.
    For those of you who think that this information is new, even to the FDNY, the following is a direct quote from the latest edition (4th/2011) of the WNYF (With New York Firefighters) magazine. This excerpt is taken from the second article with the first part appearing in the 2nd/2011 edition of WNYF. By the way, “WNYF is an official training publication of the New York Fire Department.” The article is titled “Mastering Ventilation to Decrease Firefighter Injuries and Deaths at Private Dwellings” and it reviews the results of the UL study “Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction”.
    From the section “pushing fire”:
    “Another area of interest studied during the 15 tests was to determine if an operating hand-line was capable of pushing fire. In each of the tests, data were analyzed, looking specifically at conditions throughout the structure’s post water application, to see from the video and temperature data if there was any indication of pushing fire”.
    “There were no temperature spikes in any of the rooms, especially the rooms adjacent to the fire room, when water was applied from the outside at the ceiling with a straight stream. In most cases, it appears that the fire was slowed down by the water application, which had no negative impact on occupant survivability”.
    “Conditions on arrival shall be evaluated and the attack strategy of a transitional attack from the exterior needs to be carefully coordinated with and communicated to all units. If visible fire is evident on arrival and the line still can be rapidly advanced into the interior, water should be applied on the fire momentarily to reduce heat production and burning. The stream shall be directed at the ceiling of the involved room flowing water for approximately 10 seconds to control the main body and reduce temperatures. If the visible fire is knocked down in fewer than 10 seconds, the nozzle should be shut and the line repositioned to the interior of the fire building. This tactic will increase civilian and firefighter safety".
    Here is a link to the UL study:
    Hope this helps.

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