Quality Hoseline Management for a Better Forward Advance

BY RAY McCORMACK

Hoseline placement is a choice subject these days, with options from the front door, rear door, or side entrances. Windows, however, don’t count because hoseline advances don’t take place there, at least not typically. The unspoken problems of transitional attack (from exterior to interior attack) and using the same line for both are the likelihood of numerous kinks in the line when the line is finally brought back to the entrance door and that the line will most likely also suffer from a poor layout position unless efforts are taken to correct both.

Engine companies that stretch their hoseline to the entrance door and do not position it for a rapid interior advance are doing only a portion of what is required and are setting themselves up for a more difficult and frustrating interior advance. When you encounter a fire at street level, the lead length of the hoseline should be folded into a “U” shape. To do that, bring the first coupling back from the nozzle up to the same location as the nozzle. The hoseline should also be in line with the entrance door, which will allow you to check on the line’s status as it is charged. Additionally, with the hoseline perpendicular to the entrance door, there is less friction advancing the line. If the line is laid out parallel to the entrance door, it will be more difficult to advance because two friction forces are working on it both forward and lateral. Positioning the line correctly lays the foundation for a smoother advance into the occupancy.

Once entry is made into the fire occupancy, no one should be racing through it; overall speed is determined by several factors such as conditions encountered, the interior’s layout, visibility, proximity to the fire, heat levels, and clutter. When your attack hoseline is rubbing on the entrance door frame unnecessarily because you skipped laying out the lead length of the hoseline, you are causing a delay and extra work for the nozzle team.

OVERSTRETCHING

The vast majority of handlines stretched are preconnected, which engine companies tend to overstretch, not always to a critical level, but overstretching is still an issue. As an example, 150 feet of attack line is stretched directly to the home’s front door. Without a proper setup (attack length placed into a “U” shape), the total weight of the hoseline will be pulled forward as the line advances. Stretches from static hosebeds also suffer from overstretch; however, because long stretches usually occur in combination of horizontal and vertical segments, pulling the full amount of hose as you advance doesn’t usually occur. What is pulled, if above street level, is what you have positioned near the fire occupancy.

COMMERCIAL FIRES

Hand stretches for commercial buildings are often overlooked as a contributing factor in an inability to defeat the fire. Many street-level commercial buildings contain a difficult fire package for firefighters–from large amounts of stock to high ceilings to deep-seated fires. Building entrances are often not far from the street, and parked cars contribute to a poor hose layout and subsequent slow advance. The reality is that even if we cannot get the hoseline set up optimally (in a direct line with the door), we still need to use a secondary “U”-shaped hose layout. When the hoseline cannot be laid out directly in line with the building’s entrance door, placing it parallel to the entrance is still a better option than dragging the whole line set as one piece. If fire conditions allow, you can advance the hoseline into the occupancy and then bring the coupling into the occupancy so that the space for the “U” layout is gained, and then continue your advance. The importance of segregating the lead length from the balance of the hose stretch is vital for ease of movement because you are now basically working with only one length of hose and are not initially dragging along additional hose.

Your hoseline layout will assist with your forward advance and extinguishment, but only if you work at it. As an example, 200 feet of 2½-inch hose is stretched from the apparatus to the fire and just the nozzle is near the entrance door. With a large handline, this problem is often chalked up to the fact that the hoseline is heavier than the smaller handlines typically used for residential fires, tricking us into blaming weight as the issue. Weight is always an issue, but it is not the problem. The problem is that you are pulling multiple 50-foot sections of hose as you start the advance. You want to pull only a portion of the lead length of hose as you make entry. As you go deeper, the balance of the lead length enters the occupancy, allowing the stretch to advance more quickly and easily. For a store that is 100 feet deep, one length of hose fully deployed will get you halfway back. Combine this with stream reach, and you have good positioning and a scrub area equal to the occupancy depth, and possibly its width also.

UPPER FLOOR, RESIDENTIAL

When you reach the fire area via the stairs, you have several options for hoseline placement between the staircase landing platform and hallway or off apartment. You need to control the fire area door and then lay out the hoseline. By taking advantage of the hoseline’s weight, you can place your “U” on the stairs, matching the first coupling back with the nozzle on the fire floor landing. This places your lead length in an advantageous position. Gravity and the weight of the hose will provide forward momentum into the fire area as the hose travels down the stairway toward the entrance door.

We can also use the off apartment for laying out the lead length. The best area to use is an occupancy that is directly across and in line with the fire occupancy. By using this space, you have basically built a large runway for your advance into the fire area similar to a long hallway. You may be turned off to using this approach because you may have to force entry into an uninvolved occupancy; however, the advantages of this initial positioning far outweigh some limited collateral damage. By using the off apartment, you already have your line squared away and will be advancing directly into the apartment. If you were to charge the line from a position below the fire floor, the hoseline would most likely suffer from a rubbing issue as you enter the entrance doorway if the apartment is not directly in line with the stairway steps.

HIGH-RISE RESIDENTIAL

A hoseline set up at a high-rise residential building takes the form of either a wet or a dry stretch. In the dry stretch, you lay out your attack line from the standpipe on the floor below to the fire apartment. This stretch should be clean and direct. That means that, most likely, the lead length will be the only thing that moves once the line is charged. You accomplish this by knowing your buildings, but even if you do not know the layout or the expected amount of hose required inside the fire occupancy, you will still lay out the hose the same way, making sure not to have excess hose on the fire floor. You must estimate the distance to the fire area using the floor below as a guide; if the distance is significant, you may have to place the third length on the fire floor. If your estimate from the floor below is less, then one length of hose will be needed from the attack stairway door to the fire occupancy. Then placing the second hose length onto the stairs leading to the floor above instead of pulling it up the stairs from the floor below will make the initial deployment less daunting.

Figure 1. Creating “U” Shape for Entry
Illustrations by author.
Illustrations by author.

Using a “U” for the first length of the dry stretch will place a portion of the lead length either away from the hallway wall adjacent to the apartment or it will hug that same wall. If the lead length is not fully stretched out for the attack, a small portion of the “U” may remain in the hallway in proximity to the occupancy door. When you lay out the hoseline in this manner, you must remember how the line was laid out for a quick exit.

If the line is wet stretched because of fire in the hallway, you will not be using the “U” fold in the hallway. However, if you use a wet stretch and reach the occupancy door and conditions are favorable, the hose can be laid out with the “U” at that point (control the door); pull on the second coupling back so that it is up by the nozzle at the occupancy door, and start your advance again.

In the wet version of the high-rise standpipe stretch, you lay out and set up the hose within the confines of the attack stairway. Where your line enters the fire floor determines the attack stairway, not the location of the standpipe riser you are using. A wet stretch is typically called for when the fire floor hallway is contaminated with heat, smoke, or both. The line will end up exiting the stairway charged so you can attack any fire you discover or that is extending. The point of doing the wet stretch is that you have now included the hallway as part of the fire area because the door to the original fire area is open and now your fallback position is the attack stairway. Advancing a charged hoseline, whether or not it’s used on the approach to the original fire area, is prudent even if it’s more labor intensive.

When you charge the hoseline within the stairway, you typically place only the lead length on the staircase going above to the next landing. Any time you stretch in an enclosed stairway and fire is present on the other side of the entrance door, you must control the opening of that door while getting the hoseline ready. When you lay out the line to the landing above, try to maximize the amount of hose on the platform. Lay the hose against the outer walls of the stairway; don’t continue to lay it out above the first landing reached, as this will create an additional turn that must be pulled through on the advance.

With the lead length running up the stairway, gravity will assist with its movement onto the fire floor; however, the engine may still have to advance the second length or more to access the fire area. Under most conditions, the second length back will also enter the fire floor, and companies should look at double stacking the two lengths so that entry and advance are made a bit easier. When you decide to double stack two lengths of hose on the stairway leading to the floor above, stack the second length first. Run the second length up the stairs to the landing (usually it’s a half landing), and then place the lead length over it.

Figure 2. Double-Stacking the Hoseline
Illustrations by author.

When you charge the line within the stairway, remove kinks so that you get a true pressure reading at the standpipe outlet. Don’t forget that to obtain the correct reading, the line must be flowing water. During a wet stretch, open the nozzle up toward the landing above and examine its striking power. Flow some water through the nozzle for a prolonged time; do not just burp the line. Flow water to purge all the attack hose of air, and wait until you actually achieve a desirable attack flow. The kinks and pinches in the hoseline will take a few seconds to find and correct. Don’t rush; you have only one chance to get the pressure correct.

Drilling on this hose layout is not difficult; employing the double stack requires some practice. By taking a little time and employing the “U” turn in your lead length layout, you will be practicing quality hoseline management for a better forward advance.

RAY McCORMACK is the coeditor of Urban Firefighter magazine and is a lieutenant and 30-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC 2009 and is lead instructor for FDIC’s Urban Essential H.O.T. program. He is the author of “Tactical Safety for Firefighters,” a weekly safety column.

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