DAVID M. McGrail

The Denver Fire Department (DFD), in 1998, implemented a new high-rise firefighting and standpipe equipment package and new methods for assembling, storing, transporting, and stretching the high-rise/standpipe packs. Fire departments across the country have introduced numerous methods for carrying and stretching these hose packs over the past several years. Some have been effective, others were effective in theory only, and others were downright ineffective.

A brief overview of the methods used to assemble, store, transport, and stretch the DFD`s new high-rise/standpipe hose pack is given here. The material was presented at the 1999 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) during a two-day, hands-on standpipe training drill as well as in two separate classroom sessions.


The collective experience of several members of the DFD and firefighters from departments across the country has yielded some very basic, but important, criteria and tactical considerations associated with these hose packs. Three of the most important considerations are the following:

•The hose pack should be as lightweight and as compact as possible.

•The hose pack should be relatively easy and comfortable to carry.

•The hose pack should be able to be stretched and advanced quickly.

To achieve all three of these objectives and standardize the high-rise operation departmentwide, the DFD adopted the following standard high-rise hose pack:

•a split hose pack (50 feet of hose, or one section, carried per firefighter)

•a horseshoe load (carried over the SCBA air cylinder or shoulder).

The split hose pack means that the labor-intensive effort of carrying hose and other associated tools and equipment to a location within a high-rise or standpipe-equipped building is divided among fire company members. Previously, the DFD, like many other departments, had used various methods, including a single hose pack with all of the tools and equipment as part of one unit. Although this method had a few theoretical advantages, the disadvantages far outweighed them.

Many of the methods introduced over the years include Johnny-come-lately gimmicks; items such as metal plates, bags, belts, and various types of straps were used to carry hose at one time or another. In fact, many of these ideas seemed to be good and, in fact, were at one time. However, meeting the three previously mentioned criteria entails avoiding these costly and complicated items. Keep it simple. The new DFD high-rise hose pack is based on several simple and inexpensive concepts. Keeping it simple means ease of use on the fireground and uncomplicated training. Keeping it inexpensive means that the department`s upper echelon would be more likely to buy into the program, literally and figuratively, because it fits well into a limited budget. Everybody wins!


The method for assembling the high-rise hose pack described below will work with any size of attack hoseline. However, I strongly recommend that you use 2 1/2-inch hose for all standpipe and high-rise operations because of the low pressure, minimal friction loss, and high volume associated with it. For example, the Polo Club High-Rise Fire in Denver in October 19911 required the use of three 2 1/2-inch handlines to stop a mere 1,000-square-foot fire–and that was only residential fire loading. The 2 1/2-inch hose is also recommended by many fire service leaders experienced in standpipe and high-rise fire operations. Also, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 14, Standard for Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems–1996, recommends the use of 2 1/2-inch hose for standpipe operations, primarily because most standpipe systems were designed and engineered to support 2 1/2-inch hose. Although this is a larger, heavier, and more challenging line to operate, it can certainly be used successfully and safely. The key to success when using a 2 1/2-inch handline is training, training, and more training!

When assembling the high-rise hose pack, fire departments and individual fire companies should use their very best hose. If your department has the financial means to purchase the newest, lightest, most durable high-tech hose available, by all means do it. However, at the very least, use the best hose on the hose rack for your high-rise hose packs.

Some of our department`s newest sections of 2 1/2-inch hose are as much as 50 percent lighter and fold up much more compactly than some of the older hose sections. Ultimately, most new fire hose is going to be lighter in weight and will fold up much more easily and compactly. These sections are in the best overall condition for attack operations.

Individual fire companies should carry a minimum of three sections of 2 1/2-inch hose for high-rise hose packs. Several of our engine companies located in high-rise districts and first-due at numerous high-rise or standpipe-equipped buildings carry an additional section of 2 1/2-inch hose, for a total of four sections.

The high-rise hose pack should be assembled in the following manner:

Photos 1,2,3. Starting at the male coupling, measure 32 inches from the outside of the male coupling up the hose. With permanent black ink, mark the 32-inch mark (32″H/R) on both sides of the hose for future use. It is preferable that at least three firefighters be used to assemble the hose pack, to keep it as tight and as compact as possible.

Photo 4. At the 32-inch mark, make your first bend in the hose, and return back down to a point just short of the male coupling. Do not go past the coupling; this will keep the hose pack small and compact. (Going past the coupling with the hose will make the hose pack fat and bulky at the ends.)

At this point, make another bend in the hose and return back up to the 32-inch mark, continuing all the way around the top and back down the opposite side to a point just short of the male coupling. Once again, to keep the hose pack as compact as possible, don`t go past the coupling.

Photo 5. Continue to fold the hose in a horseshoe-type configuration, keeping the entire hose pack as tight as possible, with absolutely no slack in the hose at any point.

Photo 6. Each time the hose reaches the point near the male coupling, stagger the folds, one long and one short, similar to an accordion-type hose load in the main hosebed of some pumpers. This keeps it neat and compact and maximizes space.

Photo 7. Continue folding the hose in a horseshoe-type configuration until you reach the female coupling.

Photo 8. Place the female coupling on the side of the horseshoe opposite that of the male coupling and just past the hose folds. This helps to balance the hose pack and distributes the weight more evenly.

Photo 9. Pull any hose slack back around to the male coupling side. Squeeze it together tightly, and tuck it back up in between the first and second folds. Doing this ensures that the hose pack will always come out the same size, approximately three feet by eight inches, depending on the age and type of the hose used. (Because every section of hose on the hose rack and in a fire department`s inventory is generally slightly different from the other, give or take a few inches because of repairs and so on. Assembling the hose pack will rarely work out perfectly.)

Photos 10, 11. To secure the high-rise hose pack, use some sort of lightweight quick-release strap. Our department uses a one-piece, quick-release, self-fastening-type strap with a reflective strip on the open end to identify the release point. This strap can be released with one hand and in dark conditions. Companies should use a minimum of three straps per hose pack.

Attach the straps, one on each side of the open end of the horseshoe and as close to the end of the hose folds as possible (this will keep the couplings tight to the hose and eliminate the chance of their flopping around). Attach the third strap near the top of the hose pack on either side. A fourth strap can be added to the top on the side opposite the third strap, if necessary, but generally is not needed.

On this hose pack, the couplings are left exposed for a variety of reasons. First, rapid and efficient deployment of the hose pack is accomplished with the couplings exposed and easily accessible. Second, tucking the couplings into the hose pack creates fat and bulky areas at the ends of the hose pack, making it less compact and more difficult to store and transport efficiently. That is the reason we stop the hose short of the couplings during the assembling process.

There is no need to be concerned about damage to the couplings. Simply check them during routine apparatus and equipment maintenance checks. Focus on the female coupling swivel, gasket, and threads, as well as the male coupling threads. This routine check takes about one minute per section of hose. Modern fire hose couplings are extremely durable. Unless they are run over by the rig, dropped from a roof, or subjected to any other type of avoidable abuse, they should remain in good, serviceable condition. The day-in, day-out bumps and bruises that may occur to hose couplings probably are not enough to render a coupling useless. If you complete your daily maintenance, you will identify any serious damage and be able to correct it at that time.


Photo 12. Now that three sections of 2 1/2-inch hose have been assembled into high-rise hose packs with a horseshoe-type configuration, it is time to store them properly on the apparatus. That is how firefighters will transport them into buildings; therefore, that`s how they should be stored on the apparatus.

First and foremost, the hose packs should be stored in an easily accessible location on the apparatus. Placing them high in the basket under several other pieces of equipment is not recommended. Find an easily accessible location, or make some new room. In many apparatus, they may be stored in several locations on the outside of the apparatus–under the ground ladders or above compartments, for example. Newer apparatus generally have enough compartment space to place three compact high-rise hose packs in a compartment. Easy accessibility is the key, and it helps to facilitate daily maintenance.

Regardless of where you store the hose packs, place them in the same manner in which they were assembled, in a horseshoe configuration. Keep in mind that they eventually will be pulled off the apparatus and carried into a building. Firefighters may have to travel long distances, including up several flights of stairs. The hose pack is assembled in a horseshoe configuration, stored on the apparatus in a horseshoe configuration, and thus also is easily carried in a horseshoe configuration.


Photo 13. The hose pack should be carried over the SCBA air cylinder. Because it is assembled and stored in a horseshoe configuration, it fits over a typical SCBA air cylinder in a compact and well-balanced fashion.

As an engine company arrives at a high-rise or standpipe-equipped building, members of the crew remove the hose packs from their easily accessible location. Although a physically fit and well-trained firefighter can easily place the hose pack onto his SCBA air cylinder, it is best to use teamwork. Firefighters should rotate positions and assist one another in properly placing the hose pack over the SCBA air cylinder. Having another firefighter do this ensures that the hose pack will be properly positioned, balanced, and compact. This process is repeated until the hose packs have been placed on the SCBA air cylinders of three or four firefighters.

With the hose packs in place, the team of firefighters can now proceed into the building, transporting the high-rise hose pack as a team. Obviously, because the firefighters are going to a fire, they would be in full personal protective equipment (PPE). The horseshoe hose load carried on the SCBA air cylinder has the added advantage of leaving the individual firefighter`s hands free to carry additional tools and equipment. Each firefighter should carry a spare SCBA air cylinder and a forcible entry/exit tool. One firefighter should carry the 2 1/2-inch high-rise equipment tool bag instead of a forcible entry/exit tool.

As an option for short distances only, firefighters may carry the hose pack over a shoulder. If the hose pack has been assembled and stored properly, it will also ride in a compact, well-balanced fashion. However, it will be a little more difficult to carry additional tools because one of the firefighter`s free hands will be required to occasionally push the hose pack back up onto the shoulder to stabilize it and balance the weight.

DAVID M. McGRAIL, a 17-year veteran of the fire service, is a captain with the Denver (CO) Fire Department (DFD) and has been the department`s high-rise instructor since 1993. He instructs on high-rise operations at the local, state, and national levels; has been an instructor with the fire science program at Red Rocks Community College since 1991; and serves as an instructor at the Rocky Mountain Fire Academy and the DFD Officer Training Program and Fire Academy. He has two associate`s of applied science degrees in fire science technology from Red Rocks Community College and a bachelor of science degree in human resource management and in fire service administration from Metropolitan State College of Denver. He has served as a classroom and engine company hands-on training instructor at the Fire Department Instructors Conference and is a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board.

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