PRECONNECTS, PART 2: HOSE LOADS

BY BILL GUSTIN

Part 1 was published in the April 2002 issue.

The location of preconnects on a pumper is not the only factor that determines their overall effectiveness. It is just as important to select the preconnect hoseload that works best with your staffing, structures, and street conditions. Let’s look at three of the most common preconnect hoseloads. You can find step-by-step instructions for making these and other hoseloads in basic firefighting manuals.

THE FLAT LOAD

The flat load is the easiest way to bed a preconnect, and it deploys a hoseline very effectively if you avoid a couple of pitfalls common with this type of hoseload. The first mistake involves the nozzleman’s grabbing only the nozzle end of the line and taking off (usually running) toward the fire. Dragging hose in this manner almost guarantees that it will snag on corners and fences and wedge between a vehicle’s tire and the pavement. Invariably, our inexperienced nozzleman will arrive at the entrance of the fire building without any extra hose to advance to the fire-very unprofessional.


(1) Straps bind the last 100 feet of the preconnect. This facilitates stretching the bundle of hose to the entrance of the fire building. The loop in the flat load helps clear the crosslay and stretch additional hose. (Photo by John Ferraro.)



The second error common with flat-loaded preconnects is pulling the entire load and dropping it in a pile at the pumper. I have been guilty of this. When I entered my department 24 years ago, our engines were equipped with 11/2-inch preconnects, flat loaded into crosslays with two loops at the beginning, or bottom, of the hoseload. Pulling the loops deposited the entire load in the street and often resulted in a mess of kinks and insufficient hose at the entrance to the fire building.


Sequence of stretching a flat load: (2) The nozzleman grasps appropriate folds to pull 100 feet of hose.



Avoid both of these problems by training personnel to properly lay out the line, remove potential kinks, and make sure they have sufficient hose to reach the fire before charging the hose. Also teach them to place loops at strategic places in the hoseload, such as in the last 50-foot section, the one connected to the nozzle. (Place two loops, one on either side of the apparatus for crosslays.) Now, when the nozzleman grabs the loop and the nozzle, he will bring 50 feet of hose, a “working length,” as he stretches to the fire building.


(3) Then he pulls 100 feet halfway out of hosebed.



Add additional loops in intermediate sections, say, at 100 and 150 feet. These loops enable a second firefighter to clear the preconnect bed and drag additional hose to the fire. Experiment by placing loops at different intervals until you determine what works best for your preconnects.


(4) He wraps his arms around the hose and



You can use a short piece of rope or nylon webbing instead of or in addition to loops. Lacing the rope or webbing through the end folds of the last 50 to 150 feet of hose gives the nozzleman a way to pull and stretch a definite amount of hose along with the nozzle.


(5) turns and shoulders the load.



Some departments that flat load their preconnects use self-fastening strips or postal straps to bind the last 50 to 100 feet of hose to the nozzle. This allows the nozzleman to pull and carry one or two sections of hose in a neat, compact bundle. Similarly, a flat load can be finished by forming the last one or two sections into a horseshoe, which can be stretched with the nozzle.


(6) This turns the bundle over so the nozzle is now against his body.



While researching for this article, I visited an engine company that effectively leads out its flat-load crosslays without any loops, ropes, or straps. Instead, the members index and pull the desired length of hose by grasping folds at the end of the crosslay and placing them on the shoulder. Carrying hose on the shoulder or over the forearm has definite advantages over dragging the entire length because there is less hose in contact with the ground to snag on obstructions, and the nozzleman takes extra hose with him to advance into the fire building. This is the idea behind the “minuteman” load. But, before we examine the minuteman itself, let’s see how the engine company I visited leads out its crosslay preconnect in a narrow alley by improvising a minuteman with its flat load.


(7) The shoulder carry facilitates stretching a crosslay in an alley.



First, the nozzleman grasps the appropriate folds and pulls 100 feet or more of hose halfway out of the hosebed. Then, he wraps his arms around the hose hanging out of the crosslay, turns, and shoulders the load. This turns the hose over so that the nozzle that was at the top of the hoseload is now at the bottom, against the nozzleman’s body. Now, he essentially has a minuteman load: Hose plays off the top of the bundle as the nozzleman proceeds to the fire.


(8) The hose plays off his shoulder as he proceeds to the fire. (Photos by Neil Colosi.)



This technique works well for this company because the department specified engines with crosslays at a good, sensible working height.

THE MINUTEMAN

As mentioned, the minuteman load is designed to be carried and deployed from a firefighter’s shoulder. Because the minuteman is carried as a bundle and plays off the shoulder, it works well for engine companies that frequently stretch hose around corners, up stairs, or in areas congested with entanglements. Imagine trying to stretch hose in a scrap yard around several junk cars. Dragging hose through this “minefield” of obstacles is an exercise in aggravation because the hose will snag on just about everything. Dragging hose in these conditions is also labor-intensive because firefighters will have to be positioned along the stretch at every obstacle to free the hose when it “hangs up” on something.


(9) The nozzleman shoulders his portion of the load (100 feet). Hose is loaded with the nozzle at the bottom. Hose plays off the top of the bundle.



A minuteman load minimizes these problems because firefighters carry the bulk of the hose instead of drag it. Hose plays off their shoulders as they lay it over and around obstacles.

THE TRIPLE-LAYER LOAD

A cardinal rule for preconnects is that you must pull them completely out of their hosebed before charging them. This primary rule is occasionally broken by excited firefighters or an inexperienced pump operator because of a lack of training, discipline, or communication. Charging preconnects prematurely, with hose remaining in the bed, results in a real mess: Hose kinks and jams inside the hosebed so tight that it must be shut down and bled before it can be removed. Naturally, a hoseload that rapidly clears all of a preconnect from its hosebed is desirable. This is the idea behind the triple-layer load. A preconnect is folded into thirds, stacked, and loaded in three layers. As an example, a 150-foot preconnect packed in a triple-layer load is clear of its hosebed and ready for water after pulling it only 50 feet. The line can be charged almost immediately, with minimal kinks, because the three layers of hose form an “S” with only two bends, one at the apparatus and one at the nozzle.


(10) The second firefighter shoulders his bundle and pulls the remaining hose out of the bed.



The triple-layer load is probably the fastest way to deploy a preconnect if this were a perfect world where every lead out was straight, level, and in line of sight of the pumper. My department has used the triple-layer load on our crosslay preconnects for more than 20 years-that’s a lot of time to make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. We’ve also learned the limitations of the triple-layer load and techniques to overcome them.

The triple-layer load begins to show its weakness when it is in a crosslay and a building, fence, or parked car prevents it from being pulled completely out of its hosebed. In this situation, the nozzleman should take only the nozzle and stretch the third layer of hose to the fire. A second firefighter clears the hose remaining in the bed by pulling the loop formed by the first and second layers and stretching the hose toward the front or rear of the apparatus, in a direction away from the fire. This technique empties the crosslay of hose, but it doesn’t give the nozzleman any extra hose to advance into a structure. The nozzleman must be trained and disciplined to pull slack hose, at least one length, to the entrance of the building before he calls for water.


(11) The second firefighter plays out his hose. The nozzleman keeps his bundle intact.



Any department that has been using the triple-layer load for any length of time is well aware of another limitation: It is a “magnet” for entanglements, such as vehicle tires, fences, stairs, and corners. This can really be a problem when stretching to the rear of a structure. Many residences in my company’s district have been divided into efficiencies or single-room occupancies. This requires a stretch to a side or rear entrance, usually between buildings or through a narrow space between a house and a car parked in the driveway. Now, that’s not a problem if there are sufficient firefighters to position themselves at every corner and obstacle, but few departments today have the staffing to do this.


(12) The nozzleman plays out hose as he stretches through an entanglement. (Photos by Raul Torres.)



We’ve learned to lead out a triple-layer load under these conditions by improvising a horseshoe that will play out hose as the nozzleman stretches around corners and obstacles. This is fashioned by first stretching the triple layer load out on the street or sidewalk in front of the fire building. Then, starting at the nozzle end, walk back along the line, picking up a fold of hose every six to eight feet and draping it over your arm. Gather enough hose to reach the side or rear entrance of a residence with at least a “working length”-that is, sufficient hose to reach the fire inside the structure.

A triple-layer load is packed in its hosebed with the loop formed by the first and second layers inserted in the nozzle’s valve handle. This ensures that all three layers will be pulled at the same time. Occasionally, firefighters will forget to pull this fold out of the nozzle before the line is charged and end up with hose that is jammed so tightly in the valve handle that it must be shut down and bled before it can be pulled out of the nozzle. To prevent this, firefighters should be trained to immediately pull the fold from the nozzle as their first step when stretching the line.


(13) Triple-layer load is folded into thirds, stacked, and loaded in three layers. The loop of hose, formed by the first and second layers, is inserted in the nozzle to ensure that all layers are pulled at the same time. (Photo by John Ferraro.)



Companies with crosslays can form a horseshoe at the top of the hoseload across from the nozzle. This facilitates pulling the nozzle and fold from the opposite side of the apparatus.

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(14) The fence and small front yard prevent the triple-layer load from being pulled completely out of its crosslay. In this case, the nozzleman stretches only the third layer to the fire. A second firefighter stretches the remaining hose along the street. (Photo by John Ferraro.)



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(15) One of the weaknesses of the triple-layer load is that it does not provide any slack hose to stretch with the nozzle. Firefighters must be trained to pull and flake at least one section of hose at the entrance before calling for water. (Photo by Raul Torres.)



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(16-19) Gathering hose to stretch a triple-layer load to the rear of a structure. (Photos by Raul Torres.)



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(20) A horseshoe fashioned in the triple-layer load facilitates pulling the preconnect from the side of the apparatus opposite the nozzle. (Photo by Raul Torres.)



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