Over the course of their careers, firefighters will perform a variety of hose stretches. For many of us, it’s not just stretching through the yard and heading in the front door of the dwelling. Because of staffing in many departments, now it might not be uncommon to “relocate,” “transfer,” or “cover” another town or city. When we do, we might find ourselves in an area with unfamiliar types of buildings. So, if you’re not so well-versed in stretching off a standpipe riser, train on it; or, when you pass one of the structures en route, stop and look it over with some hose and a standpipe kit.
The Fire Department of New York is known for “bottle stretching” in multiple dwellings. Standard operating procedures state that no more than two handlines are stretched up the interior stairs. Often, you’ll see an engine officer and those responding on multiple alarms with some type of plastic gallon jug (with 50 feet of utility rope and a notch cut out in it for packing it) in their hands or sitting on their hip (using the self-contained breathing apparatus waistband to hold the jug when placing it through its handle). You can deploy this jug in many ways, either off a fire escape and then entering the apartment a floor below the fire or from the roof level to pull up a line to prevent the fire from “jumping” the trench cut. When opening the line, sweep the trench with the stream; avoid driving it back into the cockloft because it could move gases in the space, which could ignite and blow down on members operating below.
You can often use the bottle stretch inside the structure too, especially if you have a large well hole (an open area between the stair risers and platforms that runs from the lobby to the top floor). Dropping the bottle then using 50 feet of hose vertically to cover five stories reduces the amount of hose needed to stretch it around the stairs on the way up. Doing so can help reduce the friction loss and kinking in the hoseline. Often, firefighters may run into stairs that wrap around the elevator shaft; these require stretching a large amount of hose. It may be easier to bottle stretch in these buildings by dropping the jug out the stairwell window on the floor below the fire to the lobby and pulling the hose up the outside of the building.
In vacant buildings with unusable stairs, you can stretch the hose in this manner, too. It’s faster than draping the hose over your shoulder and climbing up a ladder a few stories. It may be safer, too, since you don’t have to worry about stepping on the hose or having it slip on your gear and then grabbing for it while losing contact with the ladder.
Many companies have a figure eight loop at the end of the rope with a carabiner in it that they can quickly snap onto the nozzle handle. Some argue that this is wrong because the nozzle can be damaged. Check nozzles frequently, especially their “plastic” handles. Check that they’re not cracked, nothing is in the tip, and the tip is not burred in the orifice—all of which can impede the stream’s shape. Also, check that the threads aren’t burred and the bail’s attachment point at the valve is not worn from use; the bail handle can wear out over time and need replacement. Many firefighters find the carabiner quick and easy to engage to get the stretch going faster and more efficiently.
I’m sure many of you can remember that wonderful way of inserting the rope through the handle then back onto the folded hose and tied off. Well, you talk about old methods that are easily forgotten, and if tied wrong or with many knots, it takes too much time to unravel. Sometimes it might just be easier to fold the hose over on itself, about two feet behind the nozzle, and slide a clove hitch over the hose and cinch it down (sure, put a safety in the rope if you’re so inclined). You will deploy it faster because it’s easy to tie and untie vs. unraveling it through the nozzle’s handle. One of the best parts of the bottle stretch is if the plastic jug cracks, all you need to do is find another in the recycle can in the firehouse and make a new one.
The District of Columbia Fire Department has a specific hook with a large crook on the opposite end of the head used specifically for a fire escape stretch. Placing the nozzle’s bail onto the crook and then handing the hook upward with firefighters rotating positions on the fire escape allows you to quickly stretch the hoseline upward. Realize that this hook’s head assembly allows a hose to be hung on it and hooked on the next higher railing when operating short-staffed and stretching vertically.
A while back at a job, it was comical to watch a firefighter operating in the attic of a 2½-story wood-frame dwelling asking for a line to be passed up so he could wash down burning embers in the attic’s window frame. The firefighter on the second floor kept extending the line up to him with the nozzle in the air, and it would suddenly flop over and fall because of the weight of the hoseline. It happened a few times, and most of us enjoyed the comedy show. One of the brighter firefighters yelled out, “Slide your hook down to him and hook the nozzle on it.” It was like someone threw on the power switch and the lightbulb went on, judging by the expressions on their faces. On the first try, they accomplished what they set out to do.
Hose, hooks, and utility rope—often used separately—do have tactical value when used together.
MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 35-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 International Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladders and Ventilation chapters for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and the Bread and Butter Portable Ladders DVD and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on .