Increasing the Effectiveness of the Triple or Preconnected Hose Load

By Tom Sitz

We transitioned from the minuteman preconnected hose load to the triple or “S” hose load for our preconnects in the mid 1990s. The selling point for this new hose load was that it was designed for a one-firefighter stretch without the need to flake out the line. Once deployed, it was supposed to be kink free and ready for water once the nozzle reached the door. As it turned out, this is not always the case. Like any hose load, there are advantages and disadvantages. My company consistently spends more than 100 hours a year training just on engine company operations.

We found that this load works best with a two-firefighter stretch and that you can really increase its efficiency by slightly modifying how you finish the load. We believe we have identified and corrected some of the shortcomings of this hose load. For this article, I will refer to this hose load as the “triple load,” as it is commonly referred to in training manuals.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

The advantages of the triple load, as noted above, are that it can easily be deployed by a single firefighter and that it may sometimes deploy kink free.

The following are among the disadvantages of using the single-firefighter method of deployment:

  • Most of the slack in the attack line is closer to the street than to your point of entry (photo 1).
    Photos by author.
    1 Photos by author.
  • The hose may become stuck in the bail of the nozzle.
  • The hose load in photo 2 was stretched by one firefighter. Note that it has two inherent kink points. The kinks do not always kick free when the line is charged.
    Photos by author.
    2
  • For a one-firefighter stretch, you have to be able to walk straight out from the hosebed one-third of the length of the stretch to completely clear the bed of hose. If you are using 150-foot preconnects, you will have to walk 50 feet straight out from the bed.
  • It can be difficult to repack on the scene.

MODIFYING THE TRIPLE LOAD FOR GREATER EFFICIENCY

Through some slight operational changes, you can make this load extremely efficient; when compared with other loads, it may be tough to beat in speed and efficiency.

Problem Scenario: The hose is stuck in the bail of the nozzle. When you finish the triple load, you are supposed to take the bottom bend of the hose and feed it through the nozzle. This creates two problems.

1 It is often difficult to pull the hose back through the bail of the nozzle. The length of this bend will increase its difficulty. Sometimes when the hose is repacked, two to three feet of hose will extend past the bail. It takes a significant amount of time to pull three feet of hose through the bail when it is a tight fit. This is especially true with 2½-inch hose. It can be a struggle to back a 2½-inch line through the bail while at the station (photo 3).

Photos by author.
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2 If the line is charged before the hose is backed out of the bail, you just took the initial handline out of service and you will have to start all over with another stretch. This may happen for several reasons. The inexperienced nozzleman sets the line down and calls for water before backing the line out of the bail. Someone other than the nozzleman calls for water in the line, or the inexperienced chauffeur checks the bed to make sure it is clear of hose and then looks around the front of the engine and sees the line in the yard with its end at the front door and charges the line without the call for water (photo 4).

Photos by author.
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Problem Solution: Instead of feeding the middle bend through the nozzle, wrap it around the nozzle. This eliminates the two problems described above and sets up the load for a two-firefighter stretch, which is the way to fix the extra hose–out in the yard and not at the point of entry when ready for advancement (photo 5).

Photos by author.
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Problem Scenario: If your point of entry is farther than one-third of the total length of your preconnected handline, the majority of the hose stays at the street. When deploying this load by yourself, take the nozzle and the middle bend of hose (which may or may not be through the bail) and walk to your point of entry. If the point of entry is farther than one-third of your total hose load, you will come to an abrupt stop because the bottom bend of hose is attached to the truck and is fully extended. At this point, the nozzleman drops the middle bend and continues on to his point of entry, leaving the majority of the stretch at the street. At this point, any good firefighter has to go back to point to where the extra hose is and bring it up to the point of entry for advancement. Prior to finding the best solution to this problem, we trained our nozzleman to walk back down the line 15 to 20 feet when he had to drop the middle bend and grab the line again and bring that bend back up to the point of entry for advancement (photos 6, 7).

Photos by author.
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Photos by author.
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Problem Solution: Split the load between the nozzleman and the backup man. The nozzleman takes the nozzle and middle bend of hose out of the hosebed and waits for the backup man to get in position. The nozzleman carries the nozzle and whatever other tools he may be assigned and takes the most direct route to his point of entry. The backup man takes the fold and, depending the type of stretch (long or short), will either shadow or peel off of the nozzleman’s position when deploying. The nozzleman and the backup firefighter stretch simultaneously. If the nozzleman leaves before the backup firefighter is ready, it will cause a disjointed stretch (photo 8).

Photos by author.
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The point of difference in a long or short stretch is whether the nozzle will be at the point of entry before all the hose is out of the bed. If the dwelling is 30 feet off the street and you’re using a 150-foot preconnect, you are still going to have hose in the bed when you get to the door. What usually happens to this extra hose is that the pump operator will dump it out of the bed so he can charge the line. At this point, even if he takes the time to flake it out properly, the spare hose will still be sitting at the truck and not at the door you are using for your attack (photo 9). The nozzleman’s stretch remains the same whether long or short; he takes the nozzle and goes right for the point of entry. The backup man must make adjustments to ensure that the attack team has sufficient hose at the point of entry to cover the fire area.

Photos by author.
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SPLITTING THE LOAD: SHORT STRETCH

In this scenario, the dwelling is closer than one-third of your total preconnect length. In this case, the backup man needs to angle away from the nozzleman as he makes his way toward the point of entry. The closer the point of entry, the more extreme an angle the backup man needs to execute. By angling away, the backup man is able prevent hose from piling in a small area, which promotes kinking (photo 10, Figure 1). Figure 1 shows an entry point closer than one-third of your total preconnect length. Shown are the three positions the backup firefighter needs to adopt to keep the stretch at its maximum efficiency.

Photos by author.
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Figure 1. Short Stretch
Illustrations by Pat Tosti.
Illustrations by Pat Tosti.

After the line has completely cleared the hosebed, the backup firefighter takes his fold of hose and butterflies the fold, separating it enough so that it cannot kink. Butterflying the hose refers to putting the left part of the hose in your left hand and the right part of the fold in your right hand and just extending your arms to your right and left side. This makes a turn in the hose at least a couple of feet wide, eliminating any chances of a kink when the line is charged (photo 11). Once you butterfly the line, the backup man assists the nozzleman in making sure that at least 30 to 50 feet of hose is in line with your entry point to ensure that once you begin to advance, the forward progress will proceed without interruption for at least one length of hose.

Photos by author.
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SPLITTING THE LOAD: LONG STRETCH

In this scenario, the dwelling is set back farther than one-third of the preconnected length. The fire building can still be covered with the preconnects as long as you bring enough line up to the point of entry to cover the fire area. In this case, the backup man should be within five feet of the nozzleman and stay there during the stretch. Once all the hose has cleared the bed, the backup man comes to an abrupt stop because the bottom part of the fold he is holding is attached to the engine. At this point, he butterflies his fold and should drop back 20 to 30 feet and pick a fold of the slack hose and then follow the nozzleman by about 20 or 30 feet until they get to their point of entry. By allowing 20 or 30 feet of line between himself and the nozzleman before he picks up the line again, he guarantees at least one length of line at the door for advancement. The backup man brings this fold to the point of entry or as close as he can before he runs out of hose and then butterflies that fold to eliminate any kink (photos 12-14, Figure 2).

Photos by author.
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Photos by author.
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Photos by author.
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Figure 2. Long Stretch
Figure 2. Long Stretch

Figure 2 shows the four necessary positions for the backup firefighter. The gray hose represents how the hose initially lays out; the black hose shows the hose in its final position ready for advancement with all the spare hose at the point of entry. At position 3, the backup firefighter went back and picked up the spare hose to bring it up and flake it for advancement. When the backup firefighter has mastered how his job has changed because of the distance from the truck to the point of entry, this stretch occurs quickly and a call for water can consistently be made within 60 seconds of arrival.

THREE-FIREFIGHTER ENGINE COMPANY

The chauffeur takes the backup man position during the stretch while the officer in command completes his size-up. Once the chauffeur butterflies his fold, he reports back to the pump panel. This is the most efficient way to operate with this hose load when running a three-firefighter engine. If the officer assists with the stretch, the advancement may be delayed until he can complete the size-up. Having the pump operator assist with the stretch really doesn’t delay anything. He is never farther than 75 percent of your preconnect’s length from the pump panel. If you do not have at least 25 percent of your preconnect available for advancement, you are probably stretching short. The time it will take your pump operator to get back to the pump panel will usually be eaten up by the time it will take you to don your mask, so it is a moot point.

The preconnected handline is the line of choice for the majority of American fire departments. When used in conjunction with a good size-up, the preconnected handline is unparalleled in speed and efficiency. Your preconnects cannot be set to handle all of your fires, but they can be set up to handle the majority of your fires. Understanding their limitations and finding ways to improve their efficiency should be done on the training ground, not on the fireground. The fireground is where we work; we do not get do-overs on the fireground. The training ground is where we prepare for work; you can make adjustments when preparing. The most important task we do is get that initial handline moving to the seat of the fire. Nothing saves more firefighter or civilian lives than a quick knockdown of the main body of fire. How much time do you spend practicing what it can be argued is the most important thing we do?

TOM SITZ is a lieutenant in and a 28-year veteran of the Painesville Township (OH) Fire Department. He is an instructor in the Lakeland Community College Fire Science Program and Auburn Career Centers Firefighter Certification Programs. He has presented at the FDIC.

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