Photo by Tony Greco.
By Anthony Rowett Jr.
When arriving at the scene of a structure fire, there are many decisions that the company officer must make. One of the most important of these decisions is which hoseline to use. This decision will be based on multiple factors including the size of the fire, the type of building on fire, the amount of hose that will be needed to reach the fire, and the tactics that will be used.
The most common hoselines used in the fire service are the 1¾- and 2½-inch hoselines. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. The company officer’s decision on hoseline selection is a make-or-break factor in the overall incident operation. The saying goes, “the fire goes as the first line goes.” Therefore, if the first line is not effective, then the entire incident operation will not be effective.
The 1¾-inch hoseline is a popular hoseline for fire attack operations; it is particularly effective at most residential fires. One reason it is popular is because it is much lighter compared to the larger 2½-inch, which greatly increases the ease of, for example, advancing a hoseline up stairways and through cluttered rooms; its popularity is such that it is used many times even when a 2½-inch is needed.
Stretching and advancing a 1¾-inch is a single-company task and can effectively be performed by two or three firefighters. The 1¾-inch can flow between 100 and 200 gallons per minute (gpm), which is effective on smaller fires. Select this hoseline for interior offensive operations at residential fires; the layout of these residences as well as their furniture and other obstacles that hoselines must navigate during interior operations make it a better selection than the 2½-inch. Note that 1¾-inch hoselines have a maximum working length of 300 feet. If the hoseline must exceed 300 feet to reach the fire, a 2½-inch will need to be stretched toward the fire and then can be reduced to a 1¾-inch; the 1¾-inch would then be used to make the fire attack.
The 2½-inch should be the hoseline of choice for fires in commercial buildings, standpipe operations, and exposure protection. It achieves flows of ranging from 200 to 325 gpm. Stretching and advancing a 2½-inch will, many times, require two companies and up to six firefighters. Because of the contents of commercial buildings, the fire load is much greater than in residential buildings, so the company officer should always select the 2½-inch for these incidents. Even though at the time of arrival, the fire may seem small enough to attack with a 1¾-inch, the increased potential for fire growth and spread in a commercial building demands the use of the larger 2½-inch.
The 2½-inch should also be used whenever firefighters are operating from a standpipe system, especially a system that was installed before 1993 and that contains pressure-reducing devices that may not provide enough pressure to produce an adequate fire stream when using a 1¾-inch. The 2½-inch is less pressure sensitive than the 1¾-inch because of reduced friction loss as water travels through the hoseline; as a result, it will perform better when limited pressure is available.
The 2½-inch should also be used for exposure protection operations as well as for ALL defensive operations. When operating in a defensive manner, the ability to apply more water outweighs the difficulty in maneuvering the hoseline. Use the acronym “ADULTS” to assist in the hoseline decision making process, specifically the selection of a 2½-inch. The “ADULTS” acronym is specific to 2½-inch and illustrates the different situations when one should be selected. The acronym represents the following:
- Advanced fire conditions.
- Defensive operations.
- Unable to determine the fire area.
- Long hose stretches.
- Tons of water.
- Standpipe operations.
Arrange hose beds to suit the needs of each particular department. Some departments prefer to use preconnected hoselines, while other departments prefer to use dead loads. A preconnected hoseline is already connected to the apparatus pump. The hoseline is then stretched from the apparatus until all of the hose has been removed from the hose bed. Before using a preconnected hoseline, determine the length for the hoseline that will be needed. When you have multiple preconnected hoselines of the same hose size, the hoselines will all be of different lengths. For example, if an engine company has three preconnected 1¾-inch hoselines, it is best to have all three with different lengths. The first hoseline may be 200 feet, the second hoseline 250 feet, and the third hoseline 300 feet; this would give the company officer the best opportunity to select the proper hoseline for that particular fire.
A dead load is when the hoseline is loaded in the hose bed but is not connected to the apparatus. When the hoseline is loaded into the hose bed using a dead load, the company officer must order the number of lengths of hose that should be stretched from the hose bed.
Hoseline selection is one of the most important decisions that the engine company officer makes when arriving on scene of a structure fire. The 1¾-inch is well-suited for residential fires, but it does not produce as great a flow as the 2½-inch for fires in commercial buildings. The 2½-inch is also less pressure sensitive than the smaller 1¾-inch, making the 2½-inch the proper choice for standpipe operations. Perform all defensive operations using a 2½-inch; the difficulty in maneuvering the hoseline is less of a factor because the hoseline will be operating from the exterior.
Anthony Rowett Jr. is a captain for the Mobile (AL) Fire Rescue Department. Rowett was previously a firefighter for the Ogdensburg (NJ) Fire Department. He has an associate degree in fire science technology from County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fire science and emergency services management, respectively, from Columbia Southern University.