Back to Basics: Pulling the Flat Load Off the Rig

By Mark van der Feyst

One of the most important factors of engine company operations is the advancement of the hoseline when a fire attack is required. Whether it is an interior or exterior attack, advancing the hoseline requires finesse and efficiency to ensure that the hose is pulled off the truck quickly, flaked out, and charged for water application. The way you load the hose will dictate how it is pulled off and whether this removal is done efficiently or inefficiently.

One of the more common hose loads found on many fire apparatus is the flat load. When performed properly, the flat load is easy to load and reload and to pull off the truck. Using variations of the flat load, such as the minuteman load, can increase the effectiveness of hose advancement. You can use the flat load for the attack line as well as supply line. Let’s look at the attack lines for 1½-, 1¾-, two-, or 2½-inch hose and the proper way to pull it off when advancing a line for any fire attack.

When I instruct an engine company operation drill, my one “pet peeve” occurs when a firefighter pulls the hoseline off the truck and grabs the nozzle, pulls the nozzle over his shoulder, and walks away from the apparatus with the hose tangled up like a pile of spaghetti. If there is 200 feet of hose on the preconnect bed, it will take a distance of 200 feet to pull off the load in this manner. As a result, the pump operator will stand by the load and help pull off the remaining load layers, which results in a “pile of spaghetti” lying on the ground next to the apparatus (photo 1). The danger of this is that, if we do not flake out and charge the hose correctly, kinks in the hose will occur, the hose will twist itself into knots, or the hose will be pushed under the apparatus and pinched/kinked under the frame; this is the lazy way to advance hose from the hose bed. Most times, the apparatus will be parked close to the fire building and not allow us a great distance to pull the load. There are certainly better, more efficient ways to pull off the flat load using just one firefighter and not the firefighter and pump operator.

(1) Photos by author.


The one common feature of the flat load are the folds that are presented to the firefighter. Photos 2 and 3 show how the folds produce small loops for us to use to pull off the line. These small loops allow us to insert our fingers and grab three to four loops in one hand. By using the fingers on both hands, a firefighter can pull off about eight folds-about 50 to 100 feet-of the hose line at once. 





The member can then drop this bundle of hose on the ground next to him so he can go back to the hose load and grab the remaining loops and empty the hose bed of the rest of the load (photo 4). With two distinct piles of hose on the ground, the firefighter can now grab the nozzle and the middle coupling and walk toward the entrance of the structure. In addition, mark the middle coupling in a manner that will be easily identifiable. Photo 5 shows the middle coupling has been painted orange in color.





By grabbing the nozzle and the middle coupling, you can advance about 100 feet of hose to the front door at once. This allows the advancing hose team to advance the hose 100 feet into the structure. If the middle coupling is not desired, then mark the first coupling after the nozzle; this will give you 50 feet of hose to advance at the door.

Another variation of the flat load features built-in handles or two distinct loops a firefighter can use to pull off the load. Photo 6 shows two loops that were created at the hose load’s midpoint. When the advancing firefighter pulls the load off the truck, he can now pull about 100 feet of hose, flaking off the remaining 100 feet of hose from the hose bed as he walks away (photo 7). Once the bottom 100 feet is completely off the hose bed, it will become taunt (because it is attached to the apparatus), forcing the firefighter to let go of the loops and continue advancing the remaining 100 feet.





Once you deploy and flake out the hose load, it is important to remove any kinks once it has been charged with water. Do this prior to making entry so there is no chance of losing water pressure and flow because of one kink. One hose kink will reduce water pressure and flow by about 50 percent. This loss of pressure and flow is detrimental to the life of the firefighter. It is critical to maintain constant pressure and flow at all times.

The best way to ensure an efficient and effective hose advancement is to practice it time and time again. Conduct this at any call where a hose line is required, during training (day or night) in any type of weather, and when you pull off the hose for cleaning or maintenance.


Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a full-time firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States, and India, and at FDIC. Van der Feyst is a local level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy. He is also the lead author of Residential Fire Rescue (Fire Engineering Books & Video).




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