Written by Kevin MacLean, Galt Museum & Archives, Collections Technician
Do you know what this object is and what it was used for?
Is it a:
fire suppression nozzle
toilet shut-off valve
If you guessed a fire suppression nozzle, you’re correct!
Firefighting Tools; Water Curtain Fire Nozzle, 1960–2005
This firefighting nozzle, called a “water curtain,” was formerly used by Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services. Firefighters considered using it when “exposure hazards,” structures, or objects next to an active fire, were at risk of catching fire too. The nozzle had a protective role, propelling a wall of water up into the air between the fire and an identified exposure hazard, thereby stopping the transfer of heat.
While the curtain nozzle worked well in theory, it was not effective in practice. “It didn’t work well when it was windy and it wasn’t very stable,” claimed Lethbridge Fire Lieutenant Trevor Lazenby in 2015. “If you pumped [it up] to more than sixty pounds per square inch, it became unstable and it would flip over.” Its poor performance resulted in its limited familiarity. Most firefighters knew of it only through training drills, not real fire applications.
However, one firefighter, retired Lethbridge Fire Chief Lawrence Dzuren, recalled an instance when it made a difference. “We had a fire downtown. It was the old SAAN store [in 1982], and there was a fire in the upper storey. There were power lines and transformers in the alley, and we set up [the] curtain nozzle. I think [the spray] went twenty-five, thirty feet high… [We were] concerned that [the transformers] would blow up, so [we] put the curtain nozzle up there to protect them.”
Ultimately, the nozzle’s finicky nature led to its demise. It was pulled from service in approximately 2005, replaced by the more advanced “Blitz Fire Nozzle.”