Ultimate Firefighter

Standpipes 101, Part 3: A Beginner’s Guide to Standpipe Firefighting

By Clay Magee

Photos by author except where noted

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we covered the codes and regulations that govern standpipes. We also looked at the design and construction of them, different types of standpipes, and nozzle and hose selection. Once you’ve picked out or purchased your equipment, based on knowledge of the systems and your jurisdiction, it is important to decide how you are going to carry it.

There are a few attributes to consider when deciding what fold to use. First, it should be lightweight. There is no one-size-fits-all standpipe pack. No one should be carrying 150 feet of hose by him or herself. Whatever pack you choose should be lightweight and carried in 50 feet sections, at max 100 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, with each company member sharing some of the load (including the officer). This helps decrease the physical exertion by all members if you must take the stairs. Another reason to carry in 50-foot sections is due to the codes surrounding standpipes, i.e. distances between standpipe outlets or the maximum allowed distance of travel from an outlet. This varies in sprinklered vs non-sprinklered buildings. You should at a minimum carry 150 feet of hose into the building with you because you will have close to 50 feet in the stairwell alone by hooking into the outlet on the floor below.

Choose a standpipe pack that is easy to build, one that with a little practice all members can remember how to make. It also needs to be easy to flake. When using 50-foot sections, generally if they are easy to fold, then they are easy to flake out on the floor below and in the stairwell. Mark your hose at the 25-foot mark on each section so it’s easy to flake hose out. Avoid gimmicks and sales tactics. Don’t get caught up in high-rise hose bags. These push you toward the heavy load of carrying all hose in one bag. Recall that 150 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose with a gated wye can weigh in excess of 70 pounds. Imagine how that weight increase if your department uses 2 or 2 ½-inch hose.

Cleveland load

(1) Photo by Chad Menard.

If you do use 1 ¾-inch hose, avoid the Cleveland load. The load is designed for small diameter hose with high pressure, developed for the forestry service. Standpipe systems can be operating off as little as 65 psi. The Cleveland load will become a mess of spaghetti if there is not proper pressure and if it is not set up perfectly (Photo 1). Even if it has enough pressure to “pop,” the Cleveland load tends to have a near 180º kink each time you start to pull a part of the coil. Imagine you’ve made the fire room and go to open the nozzle and have decreased flow because of a kink in the stairwell.

A popular load for companies carrying 1 ¾-inch hose is the flat load. Occasionally, you will find these in 2 and 2 ½-inch as well. These most often are seen in 100 to 150 foot sections. A lot of suburban departments also favor this load because it is used as an estate pack or house pack. Estate and house packs are used to place a 1 ¾-inch leader line on a bulk stretch of 2 ½-inch or 3-inch hose. Some departments find that this load is versatile for both standpipe operations and estate lays as well. If your department is using 1 ¾-inch, my recommendation would be to have separate standpipe packs from your house pack. The goal is to keep the weight light and dividable among the men. As always, I recommend 50 foot packs. If you must use a house pack for both, do not go more than 100 feet in the pack, whether 1 ¾-, 2, or 2 ½-inch lines. As mentioned earlier, 150 feet of 1 ¾-inch with a 2 ½- to 1 ½-inch gated wye can weight 70 lbs.

Felts fold

(2) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

A flat load style pack that I was recently introduced to is called the “Felts Fold” (Photo 2). This fold name comes from the Nelms Fire Company, a training organization out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Felts fold deployment

(3) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

Felts fold deployment

(4) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

Felts fold deployment

(5) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

The Felts Fold allows versatility in your stretch. It is a 100-foot bundle that allows you to stretch it in 50 or 25 feet of space. To deploy it in 50 feet of space, you place the nozzle and end coupling off the stack to the side and grab the coupling connection and walk it back (Photos 3, 4,  and 5). To deploy it in 25 feet of space, you grab the nozzle and coupling and place them to the side as earlier and then grab your premarked 25-foot markings on the hose and stretch back, forming the “W” (Photos 6 and 7).

Felts fold deployment

(6) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

Felts fold deployment

(7) Photo by Nelms Fire Company 

RELATED: Dave McGrail on High Rise Ops: The Apartment Stretch | High-Rise Hose Stretch Training Kit | Firefighting Back-to-Basics: Standpipe Systems

Lastly is the New York Fold (FDNY) and the Denver Fold. These two are my favorite folds. They meet all the criteria laid out earlier. They are broken down into 50-foot sections, they fold easy, and they flake easy. The deployment of both is practically the same. If you want to see how to deploy them, and I recommend that, go to YouTube and search for the Denver Fold. There are plenty of videos from different departments, including Chief McGrail of Denver, that show the wet and dry stretch and how to accomplish each.

Denver load

(8) 

Both of these folds have their pros and cons. It’s up to you and your agency to decide what works best for you. What may work for one department may not work for another. The pros of the Denver Fold include that it can easily be carried over your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder, leaving your hands free to carry tools and equipment (Photo 8). This setup is excellent for departments that do not have dedicated truck company operations or do not have enough truck companies to do all the truck work. If you work somewhere that only has an engine company, you may be responsible for doing all your own forcible entry work, and the Denver Fold would be an excellent one to consider.

Birmingham Fire Department Engine 6 at high-rise fire

(9)

Photo 9 shows my past company, Engine 6 of the Birmingham (AL) Fire Department at a high-rise fire in 2016. Our department uses the quint concept. As an engine or quint, you may be assigned engine or truck work. We carried our hose and standpipe bag as well as hooks and irons into the building that day. Our assignment out of lobby control was primary search on the floor above. We climbed the stairs, dropped our hose with fire attack, and forced the door out of the stairwell for our search. Even if you have dedicated truck companies, the Denver Fold is an excellent option as it allows you to carry other things that will be needed, like spare SCBA cylinders. The only con for me with the Denver Fold is that it is a little more complex to fold when you are creating it. Some people seem to have a problem remembering how to fold it, but this is a training issue (Photos 10-13, CLICK TO VIEW). With a little practice, it is easily remembered.

RELATED: Standpipe Operations: Preparation | Standpipe Operations: Stretching and Advancing Hose

The New York or FDNY fold is very easy to fold (Photos14-18, CLICK TO VIEW). It keeps the hose in 50-foot sections. You can easily stretch wet or dry based on conditions, just as you can with the Denver Fold. For me there are two cons for the New York Fold. The first con is that it must be carried on your shoulder and balanced with a hand. If you work for a department that has engine companies that are strictly tasked with engine work, then this fold would be a great option. The second con with this fold is that it does not work as well with 1 ¾-hose. As previously mentioned, both of these folds work great, deploy easily, and keep the weight manageable by using 50-foot sections.  

Some departments find it desirable to have hose bundles that can be deployed from the floor and played off a firefighter’s shoulder or forearm. Such a bundle would be configured with the female coupling on top.

High-rise firefighting is physically taxing and demanding. Firefighters must make sure that we get the proper length of hose in place for the first line, along with all proper equipment. Divide the load between all crew members so as not to overburden one guy.

In Part IV we look at pumping these systems. It’s not as easy as the pump operator handbook led you to believe.

 

Clay Magee is an instructor with Magic City Truck Academy and a Firefighter/Paramedic with Birmingham (AL) Fire and Rescue and Chelsea Fire and Rescue. He is currently assigned to Rescue 20 at Birmingham. Clay began his career with the East Oktibbeha Fire Department in 2004 while attending Mississippi State University. He has been with Birmingham Fire since 2013. He has a passion for forcible entry and high-rise operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mississippi State University, an associate’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University, and multiple certifications from the Alabama Fire College.

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