In this day of do more with less, we are confronted with engines that are designed to carry not only the normal complement of engine tools but also equipment to perform EMS, rescue, haz mat, and basic truck work. Booster tank size has also increased because of the reductions in personnel, both career and volunteer. The need to operate fully off one engine without the support of a supply engine or tanker has also increased. To accommodate these needs, vehicles have become larger and heavier and in many cases have reduced overall hosebed size. The sheer height of the hosebeds has been raised, making it common to see beds that are five feet or more above the tailboard. With these design issues, it is becoming harder and harder to effectively perform the “primary” functions of the engine company.

Another general trend is that firefighters no longer know how to estimate the amount of hose needed and how to stretch it off the rear of the engine. We are very good at stretching the preconnect crosslay, but when the structure requires something different, sometimes our world starts to crumble. If the 150- or 200-foot crosslay does not reach the fire, it is common practice to connect both crosslays. Extending a 112- or 134-inch line to 300 or 400 feet will more than likely cause so much friction loss that it will not be possible to attain the gpm needed to extinguish the fire. Remember, it still comes down to “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff,” and gpm is a critical component of this concept.

In the past, urban departments had to concern themselves with long stretches. But today as garden apartments, strip malls, and 5,000-plus-square-foot homes are moving to the bedroom communities and small towns, we need to look at how to make our engines work as effectively as possible. The real trick is to accomplish this while using our present units, since none of us have the funds to replace them just because we don`t like the hosebed.


The old guys will tell you, “Plan for the 10 percent, and the other 90 percent will take care of itself.” The 10 percent was the inspiration behind the development of the hose load we call the “Minute Mills.” Our community, like so many other communities, is full of garden apartments, structures with long setbacks, strip malls, and standpipe-equipped buildings. Using the preconnects many times not only made us come up short but also placed the engine in a position where it blocked incoming truck companies. The keys to the Minute Mills load are its versatility and expandability.

The Minute Mills, in our case, consists of 300 feet of 212-inch line “dead” loaded with an attached 212-inch break-apart, smooth-bore nozzle. The load in its basic format is a takeoff of the Minuteman hose load many departments use for their preconnect lines. The advantage of the Minuteman load is that the nozzle is on the bottom, thereby allowing hose to flake off the top as the line is stretched. It is also quite easily deployed by one firefighter. The Minute Mills uses the same basic format in that the nozzle is on the bottom and can easily be deployed by a limited number of personnel. It also allows the firefighters to break the load and take only what hose will be needed to perform the task.


Begin by placing the preconnected nozzle on the bottom of the hosebed up against one of the bed dividers. Then lace 100 feet of hose into the bed; stack it straight up and with the female coupling exposed. Then start a second stack of 212-inch hose next to the first; leave the male coupling hanging out of the bed approximately three to four inches (see photo 1). Again, connect two 50-foot sections and load them right next to the first stack. Once this is done, you can connect the female coupling from the first stack to the male end of the second stack. The interesting aspect of this is that the couplings are exposed at the back of the bed between the first and second 100 feet. Start a third stack next to the first two stacks, again with the male coupling hanging out. This will be the third stack of 100 feet of 212-inch hose; connect the female coupling from stack two to the male end of stack three (see photo 2).

Once you determine the amount of hose needed, you can stretch the first stack with the attached nozzle (see photo 3). As is shown in photo 4, you can disconnect the second stack from the third and deploy it in the same way as the first. In the evolution pictured, we are removing 200 feet of 212-inch hose to be stretched from the engine, moved to a second engine, or carried into a structure for connection to a standpipe. Three hundred feet could have just as easily been stretched by adding another firefighter and by pulling the third stack.

The key is to know your district and its special hazards. Those of us who provide EMS are afforded an excellent opportunity to get inside places we normally would not be able to access. It also enables us to check floor plans, evaluate setbacks, determine the length of stretches, and note any special hazards. We also will find the best access into these areas.

For example, in our community we have a new home located down an extremely small gravel lane that will not allow for passage of fire apparatus. While operating at this residence on an EMS call, we determined that the best access would be from a cul-de-sac in a neighboring subdivision. What would have been a labor-intensive hand-stretch of more than 1,000 feet of hoseline supplied by a tanker operation is really less than a 300-foot stretch supplied by hydrants from the cul-de-sac.

In our community, 300 feet will allow us to handle the majority of structures. We also carry 400 feet of three-inch hose loaded flat in a bed next to the Minute Mills (see photo 5). This line is normally used to supply sprinkler and standpipe connections but can also be used to lengthen the 212-inch hose if necessary. One of the most important aspects of this load is to know how much hose you will be pulling off with each fold–for example, our engine personnel know that they need to pull four folds to obtain 100 feet of three-inch line.

So how do we know how much hose to stretch? The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) in its Engine Company Back to Basics program teaches firefighters to add the number of lengths needed from the apparatus to the building, from the door to the foot of the stairs, one length per floor and one plus length on the fire floor. [For additional information regarding the specifics of estimating the stretch, see “Stretching and Advancing Handlines, Part 1” and “Observations on the Engine Company” by Andrew A. Fredericks, Fire Engineering, March 1997 and April 1998, respectively.]


The 212-inch line, or “big line,” has been the backbone of the fire service for many years. Most departments have established protocols for the types of fires for which this line is automatically stretched. The acronym ADULTS provides us with general guidelines for when to stretch this size line.

Advanced fire on arrival

Defensive operations

Unable to determine extent (size of fire area)

Large uncompartmented areas (commercial structures and basements)

Tons of water required

Standpipe operations

The Minute Mills allows us to place the “big line” in operation quickly and effectively with minimal personnel. The addition of a smooth-bore nozzle operating at 50 psi or less nozzle pressure will allow a small number of personnel to flow the line safely. With the use of rope hose tools, two personnel can handle and move this line for exterior operations (see photo 6). At King Fire Department, we wrap these ropes around the hosebed grab bar for easy access. Many of our personnel also carry one-inch tubular webbing in their pockets to do the same thing. Remember: Big fire, big line.

Yet, not every fire we go to requires the high gpm provided by the 212-inch line. We may simply need the 212-inch line to reduce the friction loss on our 134- or 112-inch line as we advance out 300 feet or more. In our case, we have loaded 100 feet of 134-inch line next to the Minute Mills in the same fashion (see photo 2). Using this load, the 212-inch line can be stretched to a stair landing or area remote from the fire where the 134-inch can be connected and advanced (see photo 7). To make the connection, the tip on the 212-inch nozzle can be removed and the smaller line connected to the exposed 112-inch threads. Remember to use one of the rope hose tools to tie the bail of the break-apart nozzle open so that it is not inadvertently kicked closed (see photo 10). We teach our people to place the tip in their pocket so that it is readily available if needed. The nice thing about this advance is that if conditions deteriorate, you can simply back up, replace the tip, and advance the 212-inch line already stretched. This method can also be used once the fire has been knocked down with the 212-inch line to connect the smaller 134-inch for mop-up.

Another option that works well is to use the two 100-foot stacks without the nozzle to feed a ground-mount deck gun. In our case, we would normally stretch a four-inch line to within about 75 feet of the gun and place a four-inch gated wye or manifold, and then extend the 212-inch lines off that (see photo 8). Since the female coupling is exposed, the connection to the manifold can be made and the lines advanced toward the gun. With practice, this sometimes difficult operation can be set up fairly rapidly (see photo 9).


One of the most difficult operations for most departments is to get our so-called “high-rise pack” to the standpipe and then get the lines flaked out so that operations can begin. Many times you will see these lines rolled, bundled, or strapped together, making them heavy, hard to carry, and even harder to deploy. On most apparatus, it is even difficult to find a location to carry these lines for quick application, not to mention that most of us do not have the funds to purchase a high-quality nozzle to do anything more than be dedicated to a hoseline we seldom use. Many times I have seen departments place their “junk” nozzles on this line, only to fail seven or eight floors above the ground.

The Minute Mills concept for standpipe operations is really a takeoff of FDNY`s high-rise packs. FDNY uses individual, folded 50-foot lengths. A nozzle is preconnected to one of them. The folded lengths are carried to the floor below the fire and connected for deployment. In our case, firefighters remove one or two stacks as needed and then proceed to the area. The connection then can be made and the line advanced just as it would be if it were being stretched off the engine (see photo 11).

Most of us don`t see enough standpipe operations to be proficient at deploying our lines. If we can make it as similar as possible to what we do on a daily basis, the outcome will more than likely be successful.

Keep in mind that you must also bring to the connection point adapters, an in-line pressure gauge, spanners, a pipe wrench, and tools to remove any system pressure regulators. Many departments keep these items stored in a bag that can easily be carried inside the building. When you are at a standpipe connection and preparing to advance on the fire is not the time to realize that you have forgotten something.


When loading the Minute Mills, if you have an extremely long bed, the stacks of hose will end up dragging the ground instead of being carried by the firefighters. To correct this problem, simply shorten up the load by not lacing it all the way to the back of the bed. A paint or tape mark on the floor or sides of the bed will ensure that the flakes are reloaded to the same length each time.

If after an evaluation of your district you find that you need more than 300 feet, simply add more stacks. The only concern with this is that you may not have the room to lace more hose side by side. This problem can be rectified by fabricating a tray that hangs on the bed dividers, creating a two-tiered hosebed. Your load can then be continued above or be loaded above another style of load used for a different purpose.

The key is to take what you have and make it do the job. I have worked with firefighters who are so busy complaining about their apparatus or equipment that they don`t take the time to figure out how to make it work. For the most part, any apparatus can be modified for minimal cost to make the unit functional. My standard motto is, “If you want to complain about a problem, you need to get so busy fixing the problem that you don`t have time to complain.” Thus, the Minute Mills was developed.

Special thanks to Fire Marshal Brad Cheek of the Stokes County Fire Marshal`s Office and Captain Keith Handy and Firefighter Les Collins of the King Fire Department for their assistance in developing this article.

Firefighters from Hampton (IL) Fire Rescue begin a defensive attack on a fully involved rural home with a 212-inch handline. (Photos by authors.)

(1) The second stack of the Minute Mills is loaded between the first and third stacks. Note that the male couplings are left hanging out of the bed approximately three to four inches.

(2) A completed Minute Mills with the exposed couplings. The female coupling from the stack with the attached nozzle is connected to the middle tier, and the middle tier`s female coupling is connected to the third tier. Also, note the 134-inch hose stacked in the bed to the left. This line can easily be removed and connected to the nozzle of the Minute Mills.

(3) The first stack of the Minute Mills is led out using a shoulder carry. This first bundle is 100 feet and has the nozzle attached. Notice the short distance between sections. If the lead firefighter advances too far, the second stack will begin to deploy from the bottom of the load. Coordination between the two firefighters is essential.

(4) The line is broken at the third stack. Once this is done, the line will be led out using the shoulder carry, and the female coupling will be connected to one of the engine`s discharges.

(5) Hosebeds must be as versatile as possible. The bed on the left has 100 feet of 134-hose loaded with the nozzle on the bottom. By placing the nozzle on the bottom, the hose will flake off the top, helping to eliminate spaghetti. Next to this is the Minute Mills, using 300 feet of 212-inch hose. In the bed to the immediate right are 400 feet of three-inch hose. This hose can be used to supply standpipe and sprinkler connections, dump water into another engine or tanker, or extend the Minute Mills. The bed on the far right carries 1,000 feet of four-inch supply line. Note the rope hose tools connected on the rear-step grab rail.

(6) This 212-inch nozzle is flowing around 265 gpm at 50-pound nozzle pressure. The line is supported by and moved with the rope hose tools. This method allows a “big line” to be safely placed in operation with minimal personnel for an exterior firefight.

(8) The 212-inch line is being connected to a manifold supplied by a four-inch line and then led out to a ground-mount deck gun. Note that the line will flake off from the top, leaving the male coupling available for connection to the gun.

(7) The 134-inch line is being attached to the break-apart nozzle of the 212-inch line. Once connected, the crews will tie the 212-inch nozzle`s bail open and then advance on the fire. It is imperative that all lines be charged prior to entering the area of involvement.

(9) The line being connected to the deck gun. Both feeder lines have been wrapped around the gun to prevent it from moving once charged. This method uses the weight of the water to help hold the gun in place.

(10) A 134-inch line has been connected to the break-apart 212-inch nozzle with the bail tied open. This practice prevents the nozzle from being accidentally kicked closed by personnel operating around the line.

The line is being connected to a standpipe outlet and advanced up the stairs to the fire. Remember that connection to a standpipe should be on the floor below or in an area remote from the fire.

CRAIG A. HAIGH is a 16-year veteran of the fire service and is chief of the King (NC) Fire Department. He previously served as chief of department for Hampton (IL) Fire Rescue and as a career member of the City of Rock Island (IL) Fire Department. He is a paramedic with extensive EMS management/training experience and a field staff instructor at the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute.

RICHARD C. MILLS is a firefighter with the King (NC) Fire Department and is assigned to Engine 130. He previously served with the Geneseo (IL) Fire Department. He is an instructor at the Rockingham Community College Fire Academy and is a co-developer of the King Fire Department Safety and Survival training program. He has an extensive background in the building trades and frequently lectures on building construction and its associated fire hazards.

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