By Michael N. Ciampo
As we arrived on the scene, fire was showing out of four windows on the third floor of a wood-frame dwelling. The engine laid a supply line in and pulled past the house, leaving room for the truck to work. When an engine pulls past the occupancy, it also allows the officer to get a three-sided view of the structure on arrival. This greatly enhances the initial size-up process. Quickly, the engine company pulled the 13⁄4-inch preconnect off the rear of the engine, and the nozzle firefighter grabbed the nozzle and premade loop (designating the “lead” length or first 50-foot section used to cover the occupancy) and began to stretch. The chauffeur disconnected the supply line from the rear bed and attached it to the pump’s intake.
The backup firefighter was still at the hydrant waiting to be signaled to charge the supply line; once he did, he would make his way up to the scene to back up the nozzle. Many departments use radio communications or a hand gesture to signal for the supply line to be charged. Adjustments to hand signals will have to be made when the hydrant is out of sight or in darkness. The air horn isn’t commonly used because many departments have adopted “blasts” on it to signal an emergency evacuation alarm.
Remember, always check the hydrant’s serviceability before attaching the supply line. Remove a discharge cap, and turn the hydrant on slowly to flush it before hooking up the supply line. Flushing the hydrant ensures that rust, debris, and rocks don’t block the pump’s intake screen on the engine. In addition, if the hydrant is broken or frozen, you will need to find another hydrant or source of water. (It is common practice to have another engine position at another hydrant and feed the first or pull next to and feed its tank water into the other. A tanker shuttle can be used, and if an adjoining building is equipped with a standpipe system and/or gravity tanks, a supply line can be stretched from inside these buildings to the engine.)
Once the hydrant was charged, the backup firefighter began to move up the block, ensuring the supply line was free of kinks and trying to keep it to one side of the street, allowing other units to have access to the dwelling. On arrival at the building, he began flaking out the attack line and removed kinks to help facilitate an easy advance into the fire building. Crawling into the building using a one knee forward and up and one knee down method, he pulled some of the line in with him as he worked toward the nozzle. This allowed him to use his arm, back, and leg muscles to assist him.
As he proceeded up the stairs, he flaked out the line around the newel post so it wouldn’t get pinched when the line was charged. Then he got into position behind the nozzleman, and they began to advance down the long hallway toward the fire. While the nozzle operated, the backup firefighter supported the nozzleman by leaning into him with his shoulder, keeping forward pressure on the hoseline. Whenever the hoseline is in operation, there is a nozzle reaction, and the hoseline feels like it is being pulled backward and out of your grip. Firefighters must maintain a grip on the hoseline and maintain forward momentum, push, or thrust to prevent this.
The team knocked down the fire as it advanced, using the reach of the stream directed upward and forward, hitting the ceiling, and deflecting the stream for protection. As members came on the first room on the right, they stopped and operated the hoseline into the room so they would not pass any fire as they proceeded. After working this room, they began their advance down the hallway again, intermittently sweeping the floor with the stream to cool down debris and move dangerous objects (glass, needles, and so on) out of the way.
Just as they were coming on another room on the right, the hoseline seemed to come to a sudden stop. The backup firefighter attempted to pull more line up, but nothing was budging.
The nozzle firefighter realized he could not make the next room without more hoseline. Quickly, the backup firefighter left his position directly behind the nozzle and proceeded back to find out what the line was hung up on. Meanwhile, the nozzle firefighter kept operating the line forward and also directed the line off the room’s door to deflect the pattern and achieve some knockdown in this room. Operating the nozzle in a side-to-side motion, he used his boot to pin the hoseline into the opposite baseboard on the wall. This secured it and prevented the backpressure from pulling the line backward.
Prior to the backup firefighter’s proceeding too far down the line, he lifted the hoseline up a foot or two off the floor and attempted to shake the line from side to side and then lifted it up and down quickly to free it from its obstruction. Many times this will free a coupling, which usually has one of its lugs caught on a stair tread or pinched/pinned on a corner of a wall. Unfortunately, this didn’t free the line, and the backup firefighter went to locate the problem. Luckily, as he got back a few more feet, he tried the same maneuver and freed the hoseline, enabling him to pull more line forward. When he got back to the nozzle, he asked the nozzleman if he needed relief and was told no. As they advanced to tackle the last room, the backup firefighter gave words of encouragement as they proceeded.
Backing up the nozzle isn’t the most rewarding job, because it entails a lot of work without a lot of glory and fanfare. However, ask any firefighter who’s had the nozzle at a tough job what was the secret of his success, and he should respond, “A good backup!”
MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 25-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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