By: Tony Kelleher
The American Fire Service is unique in that nearly every department has a preferred way of 'racking' and deploying attack lines. This usually hinges upon the geographical area that the engine company is responsible for - and the building construction within those limits. The Kentland Volunteer Fire Department, Company 33, in Prince George's County, Maryland is no exception.
"Kentland" is in an urban area bordering Washington, D.C., just three miles from the District of Columbia/Maryland line. Their response area includes everything from detached single-family dwellings and threestory garden style apartment houses to large warehouses and federal government instillations. The engine house responds to approximately 6000 incidents each year - including an average of 100 working structural fires.
Throughout the years, engine company apparatus at Kentland utilized the rear step area for carrying supply and attack lines. In the late 1960's, 200-foot cross-pulls were added to the compliment of apparatus - and were utilized for the contingent of single-family homes that were frequently responded to. During the 1970's, members found that the cross-pull style attack lines were frequently becoming stuck under the tires of parked vehicles on tight streets - and more times than not, the lines were too long for the street-side bungalows in certain neighborhoods.
In 1979, two individuals on the department's apparatus committee recognized the fore-mentioned problems and decided to engineer a change that would mark a significant milestone in Kentland history: The cross-pull attack lines were omitted on the newly speced 1980 Seagrave pumpers - and two front-bumper mounted trays were engineered. The thought behind this change was: to shorten the overall length of the apparatus; allow the Engine Company to always stop short of the reported address; leaving room for the Truck Company and assure that the line could be placed in service as fast as possible. This measure would prove to be both efficient and practical in the three decades that followed.
Today the front-bumper attack line is still utilized on nearly all of the company's first-due single-family dwelling fires. Each tray is designed to hold 150-feet of 1 ½" attack line with a variable combination (straight/ fog) nozzle. The first 50-foot section, containing the nozzle or "pipe," is racked by placing the male coupling back over top of the stretched-out section, just shy of the female coupling. This section is "doughnut" rolled. The next two 50-foot sections are racked in a horseshoe fashion. Both horseshoed sections contain an "ear" after the first fold to allow for an efficient deployment. Once all three 50-foot sections are properly placed into the tray, the sections are then coupled together. Lastly, the remaining female coupling is secured to the front discharge outlet.
Racking the front-bumper line in this fashion allows for a variety of options:
• The line may be broken down in 50-foot increments if it is being utilized for an auto or rubbish fire.
• One firefighter is capable of deploying the line with ease.
• The doughnut roll/horseshoe configuration will "self - flake" once charged, eliminating the chance of losing water and/or nozzle pressure.
• Can be fully-deployed in under 30 seconds.
• 50-foot nozzle section (doughnut roll) allows the nozzle firefighter to maintain control of a third of the lines total length in his hands, eliminating the chance to stretch-short or lose valuable hoseline.
Deploying the Kentland front-bumper line can be a one-person operation and gets easier with the addition of another firefighter. The one-person deployment is completed by the nozzle firefighter grabbing the first 50-foot, doughnut rolled, section and placing it under his arm. With the opposite arm: the nozzle firefighter will put his gloved hand into both horseshoe ears, going from the bumper toward the cab of the apparatus. As the nozzle firefighter turns around, the line will begin to deploy. As the nozzle firefighter proceeds toward the address, each horseshoe ear will pull tight from his hands. This will assure that the two 50-foot, horseshoed sections are fully flaked-out. At the entrance to the address, the nozzle firefighter will release the doughnutrolled, 50-foot, section away from the door. Once this is complete, the doughnut-rolled, 50-foot, section will be flaked-out in-line with the entrance.
Having the assistance of an additional firefighter makes this deployment even more efficient. The steps remain the same; however, the back-up firefighter is responsible for the deployment of the two 50-foot, horseshoed, sections.
Benefits of the Kentland front-bumper line:
• Allows the engine company to leave room for the truck company while placing the initial attack line in-service.
• Easy to rack and allows the Engine Company to be placed back into service quickly.
• Versatile attack line.
• Able to be efficiently deployed in minimum manpower conditions.
Several departments in the Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States have adopted the Kentland front-bumper line concept. With this, those departments have even made modifications to the original design to betterfit their response area. In the world of engine company firefighting, it is imperative that each company be prepared to combat any type of fire - in any given building - to the best of their abilities. Thinking outside the box, as the two originators of the Kentland front-bumper line did, could be the key to accomplishing this feat.