DAVID M. McGrail

Part 1 appeared in the July 1999 issue.

Stretching is the most important com-ponent associated with the high-rise hose pack. Properly following the preceding steps regarding assembling and storage will make stretching the hose pack much easier and more efficient; rapid stretch of the hose pack is a very important advantage of using this method.

The first step in effecting a proper hose pack stretch is beginning the stretch from the proper location, which generally is the floor below the fire floor. However, numerous standpipe-equipped buildings in many jurisdictions are not multistory structures–shopping malls and large warehouses, for example. Ultimately, firefighters must exercise discipline and initiate the hoseline stretch from a safe position where control of the standpipe outlet valve can be maintained. At a Denver high-rise fire, even though a standpipe cabinet/outlet was close to the fire apartment, the engine company exercised discipline and hooked up on the floor below. This made for a safer and much more effective advancement down what soon became a heavily involved hall wall.

The safe position obviously is going to be at least one floor below the fire floor in multistory buildings. In fact, it is critical for firefighters to follow this recommendation even when the area near the standpipe outlet valve on the fire floor is clear of smoke and fire, such as might be the case in a compartmentalized residential high-rise fire. Keep in mind that once the door to the fire apartment or area is opened and advancement begins, the hall or corridor usually will fill up with smoke, and heat conditions could quickly become significant. Under heavy fire conditions, a burst section of hose or a stalled attack, which could be caused by a variety of factors, can allow the fire to spread and extend out into the hallway or corridor. In either case, control of the standpipe outlet valve may be lost if conditions be-come untenable. This practice also gives the attack team a safe place to retreat to while maintaining water flow. Therefore, it is critical to make every attempt to always hook up at least one floor below, even if this requires a longer hose stretch. Once again, the longer hose stretch is facilitated by the use of a 2 1/2-inch handline because of the minimal friction loss associated with this size handline.

In non-multistory buildings, hookup should be accomplished as close to the fire area as possible while still maintaining a safe enough distance to establish and keep control of the standpipe outlet valve. In most cases, this will probably have to be on the same level but could also be some distance from the actual fire area. Don`t overlook the fact that in some cases it may be easier and safer to hand-stretch an attack line from a pumper located outside the building. Fires close to the entrance in a building with one level, such as malls, and fires on the lower levels, especially the subfloor, of high-rise buildings are good candidates for hand-stretching lines from the pumper.

When at the outlet valve, the firefighters should once again use teamwork and assist one another. First, remove the self-adhering straps or whatever type of devices are used to hold the hose packs together, and then remove the hose from each firefighter`s respective SCBA air cylinder and place the hose on each firefighter`s right shoulder to prepare for the hoseline stretch.

To effectively, efficiently, and safely stretch and advance the 2 1/2-inch handline, at least six firefighters are recommended. In most departments, this would necessitate that at least two engine companies form into one attack team. However, this evolution can be completed with as few as three firefighters, but additional time and a lot more work will be needed. Most fire departments, even the smallest, can come up with four to six firefighters on an initial response assignment. Using your limited number of firefighters to place one large, high-caliber handline in service as opposed to one or two smaller handlines will have a much more significant impact on any fire.

In the examples to follow, two Denver Fire Department (DFD) engine companies are used to complete the hose stretch and advancement. Minimum staffing for the DFD consists of four personnel per company, including the company officer. In this example, there are six personnel. The pump operators of the first- and second-arriving engine companies would be outside at the fire department connection supplying the standpipe system with water.

On arrival at the floor below the fire, one of the company officers should evaluate conditions on the floor below as well as the floor layout in relation to the fire floor. Since our example uses two engine companies, I recommend that the other company officer proceed up to the fire-floor landing and evaluate conditions at that location. If heavy fire or smoke conditions are suspected, the door to the fire floor should obviously not be opened until the handline is stretched and charged. However, this company officer can check the door for heat and determine if master keys will work on the lock. If forcible entry will be required to gain access to the fire floor, the officer can begin sizing up to determine which tools will be needed and which type of forcible entry methods will be necessary. It is critical to maintain the integrity of this door once forcible entry begins.

Also, if possible, determine the fire`s exact location. With this information, select an attack stairwell based on accessibility to the fire area, the location of the evacuation stairwell, as well as on overall attack strategy. Consider also whether the attack stairwell can be ventilated. If possible, use a stairwell with roof access. However, ventilation of the attack stairwell must be carefully thought out and thoroughly coordinated. Improper ventilation at the wrong time could greatly endanger firefighters on the fire floor.

While the company officers are completing necessary reconnaissance, and after the attack stairwell has been established, the four firefighters can complete the hose stretch. In this example, we will stretch 150 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose from the standpipe outlet on the floor below the fire floor. The four firefighters will be positioned as follows:

•Firefighter 1: remains at the standpipe outlet valve.

•Firefighter 2, closest to firefighter 1: lays out the first section of hose.

•Firefighter 3, next in line: lays out the second section of hose.

•Firefighter 4, last in line: lays out the last section of hose, which is also the nozzle section.

Once all the firefighters are in their proper positions, they proceed as follows.

Firefighter 1, positioned at the standpipe outlet valve, does the following:

•Firefighter 1 removes the female coupling off the shoulder of the closest firefighter, firefighter 2. (This coupling will eventually be attached to the standpipe outlet valve.) He stands on a few feet of extra hose with one foot to keep the hose from being pulled out of his hand when the firefighter carrying the hose starts to walk away and lay out the hose.

•He signals firefighter 2 to begin stretching the hoseline. The firefighter carrying the hose begins to walk away from the standpipe outlet valve location, thus beginning to lay the hose.

•He flushes the standpipe outlet to clear debris and sediment. This can generally be completed while the other firefighters are stretching the line. To flush the valve, open the standpipe outlet valve a couple of turns and watch for the water color to turn from dark to clear, at which time the valve can be closed. Watch for flying debris such as rust, scale, and so on, when flushing the outlet, especially when the outlet is located inside a cabinet. The speed at which this debris is moving can cause serious injuries, especially to the eyes, as it bounces off the corners of a cabinet.

•After the standpipe outlet valve has been closed, he (1) attaches the inline pressure gauge; (2) attaches one or two 60-degree-angle elbows, if necessary–to prevent kinks when the standpipe outlet is in tight quarters, such as when facing straight up in the cabinet; and (3) attaches the female coupling of the first section of hose to the inline pressure gauge, or 60-degree elbow(s), if used (see photo 5).

•Once the standpipe outlet valve has been properly flushed and the proper appliances and hose have been securely attached, firefighter 1 assists the other three firefighters in stretching the hose, if necessary. Flushing the standpipe outlet is critical to clear debris and sediment typically encountered during standpipe operations. This becomes even more important if your department uses combination fog nozzles for standpipe operations, which are much more likely to clog than smooth bore/solid-stream nozzles.

•Once the hoseline has been properly stretched, he returns to the standpipe outlet valve, stands by to open the valve, and charges the line when the company officer calls for water.

•When water is called for, he makes certain that the standpipe outlet valve is fully opened to achieve maximum flow.

•He stands by at the outlet valve to read the pressure gauge and makes adjustments as necessary after the attack team initiates the attack and the nozzle is fully opened.

(Prior to the nozzle`s being fully opened, the pressure reading on the pressure gauge will be static. Adjustments should be made based on the residual pressure readings after the nozzle has been fully opened.)

The remaining three firefighters should be positioned in line starting at the standpipe outlet valve and proceeding up the stairs a short distance, approximately two to three feet, from each other. These firefighters complete the following items:

•Each has one section (50 feet) of 2 1/2-inch hose on his respective right shoulder with the male coupling in front. The firefighter (firefighter 1) at the standpipe outlet removes the female coupling from the shoulder of the closest firefighter (firefighter 2) and then signals the three firefighters to proceed away from the standpipe outlet valve and begin laying the hose.

•The firefighters will have to estimate the distance from the standpipe outlet valve to the fire floor landing and lay out the hose accordingly. Generally, approximately 50 feet of hose, or one section, will be needed to reach from floor to floor. Therefore, in this scenario, the first section of hose (50 feet) should be laid from the standpipe outlet valve onto the floor below and back to the stairwell.

Firefighter 2, positioned closest to firefighter 1, completes the following:

•Proceeds out onto the floor below approximately 20 to 25 feet, turns around, and walks back to the stair landing.

•Having laid out his section of hose on the floor below, he works with firefighter 3 to attach their respective sections of hose.

Firefighter 3, positioned next in line, completes the following:

•Proceeds up the stairs toward the fire floor landing. As he walks, he lays the hose off his shoulder. Firefighter 2, who already laid his section of hose, assists firefighters 3 and 4 by pushing the hose close to the wall as it is laid out and ensures that the hose is laid out as tightly as possible with little or no slack. This will reduce the chance of kinks when the hoseline is charged.

•When firefighter 3 completes laying out his section, he calls for firefighter 4 to stop. At this point, firefighters 3 and 4 connect their respective sections of hose. Firefighters 3 and 4 proceed up the stairs, with firefighter 3 laying out his section of hose.

Firefighter 4, positioned last in line, completes the following:

•Firefighter 4 continues to lay out the hose by walking up to and past the fire-floor landing to the next landing above the fire floor. This will generally be a half landing in U-return-type stairs and the floor-above landing in scissors-type stairs.

•Firefighter 4 ensures that the nozzle ends up and is placed in a location approximately four to five steps above the fire-floor landing prior to charging the line. This keeps the hoseline from crowding the fire-floor landing when it is charged.

After the layout has been completed, any adjustments can be made at this point to ensure that the entire 150 feet of hose has been properly laid. To complete any adjustments, the firefighters should be positioned as follows:

•Firefighter 1: inside the floor below at the first section of hose.

•Firefighter 2: inside the stairwell on the floor below landing at or near the coupling connections of the first and second sections of hose.

•Firefighter 3: in the stairwell on the fire floor landing at or near the coupling connection of the second and third sections of hose, as well as the nozzle.

•Firefighter 4: in the stairwell on the landing above the fire floor landing with the third section of hose, which is also the nozzle section.

The hose should be made as tight as possible with little or no slack in the line. It should also be placed against the stairwell wall–generally on the inside going up the stairs from the floor below and on the outside coming down from the landing above the fire floor. (Place the hose on the outside or inside wall, whichever works best for the particular building and situation.) Regardless, make sure the hose is against the wall, is as tight as possible, and has little or no slack. There should be absolutely no piles of hose at any location prior to charging the line. One small pile of hose on the fire-floor landing actually represents numerous kinks and will ultimately impede effectively advancing the handline onto the fire floor.

It is important to note that stairwells in some buildings have a gap between the stairs and the wall. This gap can create some problems if the hoseline falls into the gap during the hose stretch. If the hoseline is charged with the hose in the gap, the line could become wedged in this position, eliminating the firefighter`s ability to move the line forward and out onto the fire floor.

This process for properly stretching the handline may appear to be time consuming. However, a well-trained group of firefighters can effectively complete this hose layout in less than two minutes. Although the fire will grow in even a short period of time, it is absolutely critical for firefighters to be disciplined and take the extra couple of minutes to properly lay the hoseline. The two minutes spent properly completing this critical task will pay off big time once the door to the fire floor, apartment, or fire area is opened and advancement begins. Hose laid out above the fire-floor landing with no piles and no kinks will equal a smooth and steady advancement onto the fire floor or fire area with a constant flow of water.

After the line has been properly laid, the company officer at the fire-floor landing will call for water. It is critical that firefighters 3 and 4 remain in their respective positions and hold onto the hoseline as it is charged. This is due to the fact that the weight of the water will pull much of the dry line down the stairs if it is not held securely in place while charging the line. Remember to have firefighters on the fire-floor landing and above hold the hoseline in place prior to charging. If you fail to do this, all the hard work and time spent properly laying the hose out will have been in vain.

Once the line has been charged and any kinks or potential kinks have been removed, the firefighter should get prepared for the attack. All firefighters should be positioned at or below the fire-floor landing before the door to the fire floor is opened. The firefighters at or near the fire-floor landing (at least two with a company officer), who will be the first to advance onto the fire floor, should go “on air” and prepare for the fire attack. The remaining firefighters (at least two) positioned well below the fire-floor landing should prepare to go on air when necessary and be ready to assist with the advancement of the handline onto the fire floor. Depending on fire conditions and the team`s ability or inability to advance onto the fire floor, the firefighters below the fire-floor landing may be called on to assist immediately, or they may be needed to relieve nozzle team members as the team`s air supply is depleted.2

The methods discussed here will help a fire department place a large-caliber handline in service quickly and efficiently in a high-rise or standpipe-equipped building. However, the hose could be stretched down a hallway to a fire apartment if it is safe to do so and conditions warrant this method. The hose pack can also be flipped over on the firefighter`s shoulder to lay out the hose, male coupling/nozzle first, from a fire apartment to the standpipe outlet–similar to a reverse lay. This evolution may be applicable in situations where no smoke or fire is visible in the main hallway but a hot door or smoke odor is discovered during investigation. With the proper training, the hose pack can be laid and used in a variety of different situations.

Once again, the keys to success include the proper assembling, storing, transporting, and stretching of the handline. However, the most critical components associated with this or any other evolution are proper training and development. The type of training referred to is not a one-time event; it must be established and continued on a regular basis if a department is to attain and maintain maximum preparation. When standing on the street in front of a high-rise building that has fire on the upper floor(s) is a very bad time to be fumbling around at the rear of a pumper attempting to assemble some high-rise hose packs from the main hosebed and collect the necessary equipment. Remember, preparation equals safety! n

Special thanks to members of DFD Engine Co. #6 and Hazardous Materials, Hamer Co. #1, for their invaluable assistance.


1. I wrote about this fire in “Denver`s Polo Club Condo Fire: Atrium Turns High-Rise Chimney, ” Fire Engineering, March 1992, 66.

2. For specific information on the methods used to complete the proper advancement of the attack line, see my article “High-Rise Firefighting and Standpipe Training,” Fire Engineering, March 1999, 69.

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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