PERSONNEL POSITIONS AND HOSE STRETCHES
BY BOB PRESSLER
The handline has been stretched to the front door and is ready to move in. The officer of the ladder company has returned to the front door and informs the engine company of his initial size-up: “Looks like a mattress. Maybe a little bit more. We used the water extinguisher but couldn`t get it all.” Turning to the nozzleman, he continues, “It`s the last bedroom on the right at the end of the hall, about 15 feet down from the top of the stairs.” What started as a mattress fire has grown in intensity as the windows, cracked from the water expelled from the extinguisher, have failed and allowed fresh air into the room.
The engine company finishes flaking out the excess line in the living room at the base of the stairs as the officer calls for water. After one last check of the firefighters` protective gear, the officer orders the line to advance up to the second floor. As the nozzleman clears the top stair, he gets his first look at the fire because it now is out of the bedroom, and flames and smoke are spreading down the hall toward his position.
The actions the crew on the first handline will now perform will determine whether this fire remains a room-and-contents fire or becomes a major fire that destroys the second floor of the house.
ENGINE COMPANY POSITIONS
The first person in the nozzle crew is the nozzleman. While waiting for water, this firefighter must make sure that all of his personal protective clothing is properly donned and in place and that the remainder of the hose is being flaked out. The nozzleman should never enter the fire area before he has water. As water reaches the nozzle, the line should be bled of excess air while it is aimed at the ground.
When the line is properly bled, the crew is ready to advance into the fire area. An officer, if present, should be as near the nozzle as possible to control the operation. A position on the same side of the line as the nozzleman may make the officer assume the position of backup man, but this may not be practical. Being opposite the nozzleman may put the officer in a position where he gets pinned to the wall as the crew tries to make a turn. Because of this, the officer`s position must be fluid.
The backup man should be on the same side of the line as the nozzleman, and all crew members should be low to the ground. As the nozzle team approaches the fire, members should look under the smoke layer, if possible, to familiarize themselves with the area layout.
The nozzleman should hold the handline under one arm and close to the body to counteract nozzle reaction. The hand of the arm that the line goes under should grasp the line at the coupling at the base of the nozzle. Keeping this arm and hand in a rigid position will help control the line. Opening and shutting down the nozzle, pattern selection, and stream direction will be controlled by the opposite hand. The nozzle itself should protrude from the front of the body. This makes it easier to direct the stream because the body does not turn, just the nozzle.
As crew members advance, they should direct the stream upward toward the ceiling and forward of their position. This cools the overhead, reducing rollover, and drives the fire back toward the room of origin. Then they should “sweep” the floor with the stream, to cool any heated debris in their path. After sweeping the floor, they again should direct the line toward the fire room at ceiling level. Depending on conditions, the nozzle team members may be forced to kneel or even crawl as they advance.
As they advance, members must be constantly aware of hot debris at floor level and the possibility of holes burnt completely through the flooring. To help avoid knee burns or falling into holes in the floor, the nozzleman should advance with one leg stretched out in front of his body. He can use the other leg to kneel, tuck the other leg under his body in a sitting position (in both positions, make sure the floor has been swept), or stay back on his other heel and slide or duck step toward the fire area. All three methods keep the firefighter`s weight back off his lead foot. If he encounters a hole in the floor, only his lead foot will go through, and he can just sit down to avoid totally falling through.
The stream should be used to darken down fire as the crew advances–to do this, members direct the stream into the top of the doorway as they advance, even if the angle is poor. As the company advances, the angle of the stream penetration increases until the nozzleman is completely into the doorway and, finally, into the fire room (see illustration above).
The backup`s job is relatively simple: reduce the nozzle reaction for the nozzleman, supply the line when called for, and move the line in the opposite direction of the nozzleman`s actions. If the stream is to be directed upward, the backup must lower his portion of the line. When the nozzleman turns toward the right, the backup man must move toward the left. The backup must keep in mind that he must avoid kinking the line.
If other members are present, they should stay out of the immediate fire area. They should conserve their air supply and make sure there are no kinks in the line and that sufficient hose is available for the attack team`s advance.
Other methods of stretching handlines include over ladders and by rope.
Ladder. When a handline is to be stretched over a ladder, the hose that will be required at the objective should be stretched to the base of the ladder and flaked out neatly. The nozzleman takes the nozzle and passes it under one arm, across the chest, and over the opposite shoulder. The nozzle tip should hang near waist level. As the firefighter proceeds up the ladder, the other members feed the line toward the ladder. Keep the line to one side of the ladder so it will not trip the climbing firefighter. Once the first firefighter has reached his objective, a second firefighter can ascend the ladder to help the first pull up the remaining line. Once sufficient line is raised, it must be tied off to the ladder to prevent it from sliding back down when charged.
Rope. For stretching by rope, the required amount of hose must be brought to the base of the lifting area. Two members either climb a ladder or use an interior stair to reach the hoisting point. They drop the hoisting line to the members still on the ground, who secure the nozzle and line to the rope. The members then proceed to hoist the needed hoseline up into the area from where it will be operated. This line also should be secured at the hoisting spot (using radiators, banisters, or other substantial objects) before charging. n
BOB PRESSLER, a 21-year veteran of the fire service, is a firefighter with Rescue Company No. 3 of the City of New York (NY) Fire Department. He has an associate`s degree in fire protection engineering from Oklahoma State University, is a frequent instructor on a wide range of fire service topics, and is a member of a volunteer department.