This column consists of two parts. First, let`s take a look at how one volunteer fire department has met the challenge of long, complex handline stretches. In “Observations on the Engine Company” (Fire Engineering, April 1998, pp. 83-96), I differentiated between horizontal and vertical handline stretches. I also discussed two separate five-story apartment building fires that in each case caused extensive fire, smoke, and water damage to the upper floors. Previous experience at these types of fires suggested that a delay in placing handlines into service was largely to blame. Reading this, members of the Dobbs Ferry (NY) Fire Department (one of the departments involved) took exception, since members were well practiced in the vertical handline stretch. The problems they encountered at this fire were not due (as is often the case) to a lack of preparation, training, or sufficient personnel. They had all their “ducks in a row” but were met with exceptionally difficult fire conditions and numerous extenuating circumstances.

The village of Dobbs Ferry is situated along the Hudson River, 12 miles north of New York City. Recognizing the difficulties posed by an upper-floor fire in each one of three five-story non-standpipe-equipped apartment houses located in the village, the department drafted prefire plans that included estimates of how much hose would be needed to reach upper-floor fires. Hose loads were reconfigured accordingly, and each of the department`s three engines incorporates two static or bulk hose loads carried at the rear of the apparatus. One static hose load consists of four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch hose filled out with a minimum of four lengths of 212-inch hose. An adjacent hose compartment contains 10 lengths (500 feet) of 212-inch hose. Both lines are fitted with solid-stream controlling nozzles. If the fire area is beyond the reach of preconnected lines, the needed amount of hose is stretched from the static beds. This hosebed arrangement, coupled with regular practice in stretching handlines upstairs, allows the critical first line to be placed into service quickly and efficiently.


On December 15, 1997, at 1818 hours, the Dobbs Ferry Fire Department was dispatched to a reported explosion in a five-story, 200- 2 75-foot H-type1 apartment building of ordinary construction. Less than 212 minutes after the first 911 call, one of Dobbs Ferry`s chief officers arrived to find heavy fire venting from two top-floor windows in the A wing of the building.2 By the time the first-due engine commenced its 134 handline stretch (four minutes after the first 911 call), fire was already showing from five windows, and it appeared to have extended into the cockloft. Only six minutes and 23 seconds after the first report of an explosion, the first-due engine company was asking for its line to be charged. A 212-inch backup line was being stretched, and mutual aid had already been summoned. A vent hole placed in the roof by the first-arriving ladder company revealed the fire did indeed have a significant foothold in the cockloft.

To complicate the situation, a civilian was trapped on a fifth-floor fire escape, cut off by the rapidly expanding fire. The civilian was safely removed by tower ladder basket, and primary searches in those top-floor apartments that could be entered proved negative. After 20 minutes of arduous handline operations and verification that all occupants had been evacuated, the incident commander switched to exterior master streams. A partial roof collapse had also occurred, and the dangers posed to interior forces were too great. Exterior streams were operated until the cockloft fire was subdued. Final extinguishment was effected using handlines.


Heavy fire damage was incurred to the roof, cockloft, and four top-floor apartments. The remaining top-floor apartments suffered varying degrees of fire damage, with smoke and water damage throughout the building. The fire apparently started when spray paint vapors ignited, causing an explosion. Rapid spread of the fire prior to fire department arrival–particularly the early involvement of the cockloft–presented the Dobbs Ferry Fire Department with a formidable challenge that members met with skill and determination. They are to be commended not only for their efforts at this fire but also because they were prepared for the long and difficult handline stretches to the fifth floor. Lessons learned and reinforced include the following:

When preconnected lines fall short, static hose loads provide the solution. Designed for horizontal and vertical stretches, they allow efficient deployment of long handlines.

Prefire planning is essential. Identify buildings that require long hand stretches, and estimate how much hose is required.

Training saves time. Training in stretching handlines pays off. The first-due engine company at this fire had its line in position on the fifth floor less than 212 minutes after arriving at the scene.

The first handline is critical. It must be stretched and charged as quickly as possible with all necessary resources directed to this task.

The backup line should always be at least the same size (diameter) as the initial line. Remember, the primary reason for stretching the backup line is to protect the firefighters operating the first line.


Now let`s discuss the augmentation of sprinkler systems when siamese connections are vandalized or otherwise unusable. Unlike standpipe systems, there are no lower-floor hose outlets that offer a means of supply or augmentation. There is, however, an alternative, provided the automatic sprinkler system is equipped with a fire pump. In this case, augmentation may be performed using the hose header. Hose headers (otherwise known as test headers, test manifolds, or test connections) are used for testing and certifying fire pump performance as per NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Centrifugal Fire Pumps. Hose headers may be found freestanding outside the building, on an exterior building wall, or inside the building, sometimes in the fire pump room. If the siamese connection(s) cannot be used, augmentation can be performed by pumping into the hose header. This procedure can also be employed if the fire pump is out of service.

I first learned of this technique from an article entitled “Hose Headers … Additional Info” by Battalion Chief Milton Brodey (WNYF, 1st Issue, 1966, pp. 22-23). Brodey describes various uses of the hose header, including as a means of augmenting a sprinkler system. He describes the steps to be followed:

1. Remove caps from 212-inch outlets to be used on hose header, and connect hoselines from pumper.

2. Open 212-inch gate valves. (These valves are the nonrising stem type and open counterclockwise.)

3. Gain access to building, follow the hose header piping to its connection, and open up the OS&Y gate valve controlling the hose header.

4. Operate pumper to supply necessary water and pressure.

I asked Glenn Corbett, P.E., Fire Engineering technical editor and fire protection engineer, if this method is feasible and what concerns might exist. He said that it is indeed feasible, but additional friction losses should be anticipated as water is pumped through the hose header and into the discharge side of the fire pump, depending on the length of that pipe. Reports of sprinkler head performance should be sought from firefighters operating in the building, and the fire department pumper discharge pressure (PDP) should be adjusted as necessary. It is important to trace the pipe between the hose header and fire pump to ensure it is connected. Due to its infrequent use, poor maintenance, and vandalism, a broken or disconnected pipe is a distinct possibility. In addition, an undersized pipe will create more friction loss, further increasing the required PDP. Verify that the correct hose header is being supplied if there are multiple fire pumps and hose headers.

Other concerns during this operation include the following:

Fittings are required to connect the male threads on the supply hose to the male threads on the hose header outlet(s).

Threads on the outlets may not be compatible with the local fire department hose thread, in which case adapters must be used.

Appropriate wrenches should be readily available to handle stuck caps and tight valve stems.

Nonindicating 212-inch gate valves should be opened fully during augmentation operations.

Gate valves may be missing from some hose headers and replaced with blind caps. In this situation, simply remove the needed number of caps (a pipe wrench will be necessary) and attach the hoselines.

Always ensure that the control valve(s) between the fire pump and hose header is fully open. The control valve should be an indicating type, such as an OS&Y, or an indicating butterfly type.

When the hose header is located inside the building, additional hose is needed to reach it. In all cases, access to the pump room is required to monitor pump performance. If keys are not forthcoming, forcible entry will be necessary.

Ensure that the hose header pipe is drained after the operation. This may involve opening a drain on a low point in the piping if an automatic ball drip is not installed.

If the fire pump is out of service, it may be possible to reinforce augmentation by pumping into the hose header in addition to the siamese connections. In this case, the pump can be bypassed by rerouting the water around the pump. Pump bypasses are often installed on fire pumps.

There are two additional points concerning augmentation of automatic sprinkler systems. First, in some instances, pressure-regulating devices–specifically pressure- control valves (PCVs) and pressure-reducing valves (PRVs)–are installed on sprinkler systems to control pressures. Depending on the type of pressure-regulating device employed and its preset pressure, successful augmentation may be difficult, if not impossible, especially if a large number of sprinkler heads have fused and high-pump pressures are required. Attempt to determine the presence of PCVs and PRVs during prefire planning. Be especially alert to the presence of PRVs on combination sprinkler/ standpipe systems in tall buildings.

Second, while we are on the subject of tall buildings, check your department`s SOP regarding the required pump discharge pressure when augmenting sprinkler systems, keeping in mind the pressure limitations of the system`s piping and fittings. In my ex-perience, the figure most often quoted is 150 psi. Although this may be adequate for a one-story building, what about the elevation loss that must be overcome when sprinkler heads fuse on the 22nd floor? Always remember to compensate for elevation losses when augmenting sprinkler systems. Some jurisdictions require that the needed pressure be stamped or printed on a sign near the siamese connection. Another solution is to change your SOP to read “for augmenting sprinkler systems, pump at 150 psi plus five psi for each floor abovegrade level.” The only way to know what floor the fused sprinklers are on is to communicate with firefighters operating in the fire building.

Finally, in “Standpipe System Operations: The Standpipe Kit,” (Fire Engineering, February 1999, pp. 71-86), I discussed the selection of wrenches for inclusion in the standpipe kit. On page 72, I indicated that a 20-inch pipe wrench is better than an 18-inch pipe wrench because the clear jaw opening on the 20-inch wrench is “greater than 212 inches.” Actually, the jaw opening on both wrenches is considerably greater than 212 inches, so the sentence should have read as follows (revised text in italics): “A 20-inch wrench is better and ensures a clear jaw opening sufficient to fit around all types of caps, fittings, pipe nipples, and pressure restricting devices.” Although the 18-inch wrench should be adequate, the 20-inch wrench provides increased versatility and peace of mind. n


1. The term “H-type” refers to the shape of the building when viewed from above. Thousands of apartment houses in New York City and surrounding communities were built in the H-type design or one of its many variations. These variations include the following shapes: “O,” “U,” “V,” and “E.” This list is not all-inclusive, and with many “E”shaped buildings, the “E” itself is often rotated 90 degrees, producing a building with a wide street frontage and three (or more) projecting wings.

2. Appendix C of the Fire Department of New York Communications Manual explains how to identify sections of H-type multiple dwellings and other large buildings for size-up and radio communications purposes. Each wing, beginning at the left-hand side of the building and proceeding left to right, is designated the “A” wing, “B” wing, “C” wing, and so on. Each wing can be further segmented as to front, center, and rear. Sections of the building that connect two wings are called “throats.” As an example, a throat would be identified by saying: “We have fire in the throat between the B wing and C wing.” A more specific fire location (floor, apartment number, cockloft) would also be provided.

Extensive damage is evident in this photo of the large, five-story apartment building located at 269 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Despite prompt handline placement, a rapidly spreading fire fueled by spray paint vapors coupled with early extension into the cockloft and a partial roof collapse necessitated the withdrawal of interior forces. Once the cockloft fire was controlled by exterior master streams, final extinguishment was accomplished using handlines. The top-floor fire escape balcony in the middle of the photo (bordering both the A wing and throat) was the location of the trapped civilian. (Photo by James Walsh.)

Pictured here are two static hose loads carried by engines in Dobbs Ferry. The right-hand bed contains four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch hose filled out with 212-inch hose. There can be either four or six lengths of 212-inch, depending on the engine`s hosebed capacity. The adjacent hose compartment contains 10 lengths (500 feet) of 212-inch hose, which can be stretched independently or be used to extend the 134-inch line as required. Each firefighter is responsible for removing a set number of folds–usually three–to obtain one full length of hose. Additional folds may be removed if staffing is light. Regular training in both estimating the amount of hose required and in stretching handlines over stairways of various configurations is essential for successful use of static hose loads. (Photo by James Walsh.)

This sprinkler siamese is unusable; the female swivels were stolen by vandals hoping to sell them for the few cents worth of brass they represent. Unless another siamese connection is available, the only possible means of augmenting this sprinkler system is to pump into the hose header connected to the discharge side of the fire pump. (Photo by author.)

This is a typical hose header installed on a 1,000-gpm fire pump (each 212-inch outlet represents 250 gpm). If alternative augmentation of the sprinkler system is required, hoselines may be connected to one or more outlets on the hose header. Besides opening individual outlet valves as required, you must ensure that the control valve between the hose header and fire pump is fully open and remains that way for the duration of the operation. (Photo by author.)

This is another style of hose header. Note the missing cap. Before attaching hoselines, inspect the outlet and valve for damage and entrapped debris. Be sure to close any valves not in use. (Photo by author.)

This is a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) installed on a combination/sprinkler standpipe system in a 45-story building located in lower Manhattan. It is found at the point where the sprinkler piping attaches to the combination riser in the stairway. PRVs and pressure-control valves are sometimes installed on sprinkler systems in tall buildings to regulate pressures. They may impede effective augmentation, especially when numerous sprinkler heads have fused and water flow demands require high pressures. Monitoring sprinkler system performance to determine its effectiveness is essential, especially if the PRV has not been properly set. (Photo by author.)

n ANDREW A. FREDERICKS, a 19-year veteran of the fire service, is a firefighter with Squad 18 in the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). He is a New York State-certified fire instructor at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, New York, and an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science. He has two bachelor`s degrees, one in political science and one in public safety, with a specialization in fire science, and a master`s degree in fire protection management from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He developed the Fire Engineering “Bread and Butter” Operations videos Advancing the Initial Attack Handline (1997), Stretching the Initial Attack Handline (1998), and Methods of Structure Fire Attack (1999).

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