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More Thoughts on the Deck Gun

Top-Side Discharge

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By Ricky Riley

Usually not much thought is given to the deck gun as an offensive tool. It is more or less always classified as a defensive part of our fire attack. With fires seeming to be gaining a head start on fire departments today combined with the lightweight and alternative building materials, fires today grow faster and more spectacular each and every day.

Having the ability to provide a solid and sustained large volume of water on these fires to knock them down to make them more manageable is right where large-caliber streams comes into play. On our engine companies, this large-caliber stream is mostly the deck gun. The thought process in placing this on our rigs is usually a quick discussion with the salesperson. We just ask for a discharge up top and put a deck gun on top of the pipe. But, I am asking you to put a little more thought into this process.

The operational decision to use the deck gun on these fires can be a smooth operation or a cumbersome task depending on the thought put into how you plan to operate it. If you just slapped the deck gun up top with a discharge pipe, your operational ability will be greatly diminished. Some of the options to make this an efficient tool in our fire attack involves a few really simple decisions and options:

  • Make sure the deck gun can completely rotate 360 degrees. Be sure to account for if your engine has a raised cab. Guns that have extenders built in or rotate up are manufactured by a number of different vendors.
  • Place the gun close to the operators’ side of the apparatus to make it easy for them to reach.
  • Ensure a safe climbing design for firefighters in PPE and the driver.
  • Place the actual discharge handle up beside the deck gun so the person flowing it has control of the on and off. This option will also save water when the rig is operating off tank water.
  • Make sure to properly maintain the deck gun so it can operate in the designed positions and levels when called upon.

As stated in a previous Rig article, I am a proponent of leaving the deck gun in place on top of the engine. Taking this bulky and heavy item off the top of the apparatus is dangerous to those assigned this task, and units are usually not well designed to allow this to happen.

In a well-advanced fire, the ability of the deck gun to flow the large water and put it in the right place is all a matter of control. The firefighter assigned to this operation should be able to control the water flowing to the deck gun, as stated above, but also be able to almost use the deck gun like he is operating at the end of an attack line. The ability to rapidly move the stream side to side and up and down can have a substantial benefit when trying to knock down a large volume of fire and to properly reach all those areas needing water application.

Selecting the proper deck gun to perform this operation without a large number of handles/knobs or gears is purely a department choice. One preference would be to have a manual Stang gun mounted on top of the apparatus that will give you all the control and volume for the fires we have been referencing and then have a small portable monitor mounted in a compartment or lower part of the apparatus, which could be easily deployed without climbing on top of the apparatus.

As always, these are just my observations and thoughts on this particular apparatus design feature and equipment. If you think they can work for your geographic area and building stock, then we hope that you can use the ideas for your next rig.

RICKY RILEY is the president of Traditions Training, LLC. He previously served as the Operations Chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also currently serves as the rescue engine captain at the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He also is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.


  1. Ricky,
    If I can offer one comment, I see stacked tips on just about every engine today and on working fires the firefighter never removes the tips to use a larger diameter to flow more water, I think that would be notable to share as well.

  2. Hi Rick
    My dept has had some really good knock downs using a deck gun especially when you pull and have a fully involved structure fire and no man power to attack it with. It so much safer to knock down a raging structure from the outside instead of placing our personel at risk. We fortunate to have a good water system and LDH to supply the volume.
    suggestion ! how about having a deck gun mounted on a 1 ton pick up chassis with 600 or more supply hose and couple of cross lays (a manifold) . it can be placed in some really adventagous positions to knock down or contain a fire .cover an exposure or lay down a driveway/path to advance a line with little effort saving your crew for actually fighting the fire .


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