Wye?

By Michael N. Ciampo

When faced with long driveways where apparatus can’t navigate, a home that sits far back from the road, or a rear tenement with limited access, we should have a plan on how we’re going to lay our attack lines. Many departments have one long preconnect that’s packed and ready to go, but a single firefighter deploying it can make for an interesting stretch. There’s also the plan of pulling both preconnects and then uncoupling one and connecting that to the end of the other line. Sounds good, but now there’s a couple of hundred feet of smaller-diameter hose on the ground, so what’s our friction loss and pump pressure going to be, especially if we’re extending it up a steep hill?

As the engine passed the fire building (a mixed-occupancy structure, with a restaurant on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors) with fire showing from one window, members spotted a hydrant and began hooking up after checking its serviceability. Realizing the building was built into a hill with the front section lower than the back section, a converted two-story balloon-frame dwelling with access to the fire apartment in the rear, they had to perform a modified stretch to reach the fire. A preconnected “extended stretch” was called for, and firefighters began advancing the line off the apparatus and up the hill. In many departments, this hose stretch is made up of a three-inch or 2½-inch supply line with a gated wye (an appliance that divides one hoseline into two with a female threaded inlet coupling and two smaller gated discharge male outlets) attached to the end. This preconnect is often on the outside sections of the hosebed connected to a rear discharge. It may vary in length, depending on the distance of the setback of buildings in each unit’s area.

As this was being stretched, another firefighter from the unit transported a hose pack (roll-ups, standpipe pack, high-rise pack) to the location. Depending on department needs, these packs may vary in length and hose size. Normally, engines carry some type of hose pack with a nozzle preattached so members can extend a line if they stretch short, replace a burst length, attach to a standpipe, or hook into a gated wye.

As the members stretched the hose, they flaked it out completely up the hill before charging the line. Pulling a charged hoseline up a hill is difficult, especially if you’re on scene with limited staffing. It’s always easier to stretch the dry line up the hill, taking a little extra to cover your bases before you call for water. Once you reach the top of the hill, drop the hose pack and attach that to your gated wye. There’s no sense in hooking up the line to the wye below and dragging it all up the hill; it could cause the other male’s threaded coupling to become damaged if it were dragged up a rough surface. If the wye flipped over during the stretch, it could cause one of the ¼ turn handles to open prematurely, get caught on an object, or even bend or snap the handle off.

When the line was in position on top of the hill and flaked out properly, the engine company checked that the wye’s handles were in the closed position so it didn’t inadvertently charge the attack line or spray out the other side’s discharge outlet. Then members called for water.

As this line was beginning to operate, another hoseline was being stretched to back up the first (in case there was too much fire for one line, a burst length occurred from a piece of glass puncturing the line, it burned through during the advance, or it was needed to extinguish extension or to protect members searching above the fire). As the second-due engine arrived on scene, members began to stretch a line to prevent autoexposing into the window directly above because the fire was extending by way of the outside vinyl siding.

While washing down the siding with a coarse stream, they noticed the interior line was knocking down the bulk of the fire and visibility was increasing inside. After a few moments, the fire fiercely reignited; the flames rolling across the ceiling were blue in color, which meant the fire was being gas fed. Realizing this, one member on the line informed the officer, who radioed command to have the gas shut down. The fire self-vented out the window, and the original wood clapboard under the vinyl siding began to ignite again. As the exterior line was opened, it went limp.

Since radio traffic was heavy, it was quicker to send a firefighter back to tell the pump operator to recharge the line, increase the pressure, or spot if the line burst or was kinked. Because of all the “spaghetti” in the area, the firefighter had to walk the line back, following the loops and bends to the engine discharge outlet. After seeing where it was attached, he informed the pump operator that they lost pressure on the line hooked up to the number 4 discharge outlet. The line was recharged.

As crews knocked down the fire and began overhaul, another line was needed to extinguish some fire extension. A crew brought up a few lengths of hose and hooked into the other male outlet on the wye and entered the structure. If you’re hooking into a wye, keep a member nearby so it’s not inadvertently shut down by a passing firefighter’s boot. And try not to pull the lines in totally opposite directions; it will be like pulling on a wishbone!

For related video, go to http://bcove.me/g7vnlylv

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 29-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com.

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