Quickly stretching and advancing a handline is the most fundamental and important firefighting function an engine company performs. This series of two articles will discuss the proper stretching and advancing of handlines to control and extinguish structure fires–fires where lives are most often at stake. Part 1 will examine various considerations in stretching handlines, and Part 2 will cover techniques to ensure a safe and efficient advance to the seat of the fire.


Although tactical considerations governing the selection and placement of handlines based on needed fire flow and fire control objectives will not be addressed here, three indisputable firefighting truths concerning handlines bear mentioning. First, it should be the rare situation indeed that a second handline is stretched before the first line has been stretched, charged, and started its ad-vance on the seat of the fire. The fire control efforts of the first handline save more lives at structure fires than any other firefighting action. Plac-ing the first handline in service must be the primary objective of first-alarm engine companies.

Second, in almost every case, the first handline should be stretched through the front entrance to best ensure prompt fire control and the saving of lives. The front entrance is usually the most accessible and easiest to reach; it leads directly to the main hall and stairs–usually the primary means of egress for building occupants–and permits the first handline to be placed in service quickly to protect firefighters performing search operations on the fire floor and the floor(s) above.

Third, as near as possible, the ideal amount of hose necessary to reach the fire should be stretched. When an insufficient amount of hose is stretched (a so-called “short” stretch), rapid fire control will not be achieved, and a lot of screaming will take place on the fire floor. If too much hose is stretched, excessive kinks and high friction loss become problems. The fear (bordering on paranoia) of not stretching enough hose has resulted in stretches with up to six or seven extra lengths.1 Stretching the correct amount of hose for a given fire situation requires knowledge of various building types and an accurate estimate of the distance between the engine apparatus and the seat of the fire.


The following basic rules apply anytime a handline is stretched:

1. You must know the exact location of the fire before you can correctly estimate a handline stretch. The importance of this rule cannot be overstated. A reported fire on the third floor does not necessarily mean that the fire is on that floor. The fire may turn out to be on the fifth floor, and removing only enough hose to reach the third floor would cause a significant delay in applying water on the fire. In addition to facilitating a more accurate estimate of the hose required, waiting until the location of the fire has been confirmed will help to avoid stretching the line to the wrong place. Handlines have been stretched to the wrong floor, into the wrong wing of a building, and even into the wrong building altogether.

2. Estimating the amount of hose re-quired to reach a fire is a two-step process. The first step is to determine the amount of hose needed within the fire building. This amount of hose is usually consistent for a given family or group of buildings, simplifying the hose estimate. The second step is to determine how much hose is required between the engine apparatus and the entrance door to the fire building. This will vary according to how far the building is set back from the street; the position of the engine apparatus in relation to the building entrance (often a factor of the type of water supply procedure employed); and landscaping, fencing, or other obstructions that might increase the amount of hose required. The use of preconnected handlines has somewhat eroded firefighters` abilities to estimate how much hose will be needed. But even when preconnected lines are employed, some hose estimation is required, especially when preconnected handlines of various lengths are carried on the same apparatus.

3. Preincident planning is essential. For large-area buildings and garden-apartment complexes, stretching dry lines during training exercises or preincident planning activities will help eliminate problems when a fire does occur. Long handlines may be required, and engine apparatus should be equipped with hose loads that allow for a rapid and efficient stretch even when the fire area is beyond the reach of the longest preconnected line.


As mentioned in Rule #2 above, many types of buildings (particularly residential buildings) allow for fairly accurate estimates of the amount of hose required. Most rules for estimating hose are based on a building`s size and its stair configuration. Each City of New York (NY) Fire Depart-ment (FDNY) engine company assigns an experienced firefighter to “control” the handline stretch. The “control firefighter” is responsible for estimating the amount of hose needed to reach the fire and ensuring that it is properly removed from the hosebed. When I am assigned this position, I use several basic formulas to assist in determining the amount of hose required. FDNY does not use preconnected handlines, due to the tremendous variation in hose stretches faced by firefighters in New York City. Handline stretches in my area of the Bronx can vary from about three lengths (150 feet) up to 14 lengths (700 feet) or more, making accurate hose estimation vital.

The first formula concerns private dwellings. Most private dwellings (up to three stories) can be covered with between one and three lengths of hose, depending on the dwelling`s size. It is a good idea to stretch enough hose to cover the entire dwelling, since the line may have to be repositioned to cut off a rapidly extending fire. The amount of hose required to reach the entrance door from the street may be two or three lengths in suburban areas, but often a single length will suffice. Fires in two-story garden apartment buildings are effectively reached by two lengths; three-story garden apartments require a third length. It may require a significant amount of hose to reach the entrance of the garden apartment building itself. This issue is addressed later.

Another formula can be used for small multiple dwellings (buildings with a front-age of 35 feet or less and a depth of between 50 and 75 feet). For these small buildings, simply use the floor number of the fire floor to determine the amount of hose required. For example, a fire on the fourth floor would require four lengths of hose within the building to reach a rear room in the fire apartment. This accounts for one length of hose between the first and second floors, a second length between the second and third floors, a third length between the third and fourth floors, and a length for the fire floor. (Maintaining at least one length on the fire floor is another good practice. Larger buildings may require up to two lengths or more.) Since the distance between the front entrance and stairs is short and the stairs are usually of a small, U-return type, this formula works very effectively. Lengths of hose are added based on how far the engine is from the building entrance.

In the case of larger multiple dwellings (buildings with frontages from about 36 feet up to 100 feet and depths up to 100 feet or so), start with the floor number of the fire apartment and immediately add one length. More lengths may be required as follows: The distance between the entrance door and stairs may require at least one full length; a very large building will warrant a second length on the fire floor. For a fire on the sixth floor of a large multiple dwelling, my initial hose estimate is six lengths, plus one, for a total of seven lengths. If it turns out that the distance between the entrance door and stairs is about one length, I will add this to the estimate, for a total of eight lengths. Many of these buildings have large apartments, straight-run stairs, long hallways, and large lobbies. These features demand a hose estimate formula more generous than the one used for smaller multiple dwellings. In the example above, five lengths are needed to reach from the base of the stairs to the sixth floor; one length is needed between the entrance door and the stairway itself; and two lengths are available on the fire floor due to the long hallways and large apartments. Additional lengths will be needed between the fire building entrance and the engine apparatus.


Occasionally, a stair configuration may require adjustments to the basic hose estimation formulas. One such configuration is that in which the stairs wrap around an elevator shaft. Although not a common arrangement, it dramatically increases the difficulty of the stretch and requires that additional lengths be figured into the hose estimate. On the other hand, sometimes fewer lengths of hose are needed to reach a given fire area. Some stairways contain a wellhole, a vertical opening within the center of the stairway that often permits a single 50-foot length of hose to reach from the first to the fifth floor. The presence of a wellhole must be made known as soon as possible so the hose estimate can be adjusted accordingly. Effective use of a wellhole can reduce substantially the number of lengths required. This in turn increases the speed with which a handline can be placed in service and significantly decreases friction loss.

Although many commercial buildings require thorough preincident planning to determine the amount of hose necessary to reach specific areas, typical “main street” businesses–those located on the first floor of multiple dwellings or in one- and two-story taxpayer buildings–can usually be covered by one or two lengths of hose. Most of these buildings are between 50 and 100 feet deep, and entrances are readily accessible on the sidewalk. An additional length should be added for a cellar fire, since many bends and turns may have to be made, or should an alternate entrance have to be used for the line advance.

When stretching a second handline at a structure fire, it is good practice to make the second line longer than the first by one length. Although the primary purpose of the second handline is to ensure the safety of the nozzle team assigned to the first line, in multistory buildings the second line is often directed to cover areas above the main body of fire. Operations on the floor above the fire may be ordered to protect searching firefighters or to control fire extension. Even in one-story structures, the second line may be directed into adjoining areas, and additional hose may be required. Im-mediately adding another length in anticipation of operating above or adjacent to the main body of fire will save time and provide for a smoother, more professional operation.

FDNY standard operating procedures require that anytime a third line is needed, it be stretched via the outside of the building. This is done to reduce the difficulties created when three lines are stretched via the interior stairs. Three charged lines on a narrow staircase can make moving up and down extremely hazardous and advancing the lines difficult, since they often become entangled. A quick and easy way to stretch a line on the outside of a building is to use a utility rope. The rope can be deployed from a stairway window, an apartment window, a fire escape balcony, or the building`s roof. FDNY uses a 75-foot-long 38-inch nylon rope, which is stored in a 112-gallon empty plastic bleach bottle with a hole cut near the top.2 Many companies attach snap hooks to each end of the rope. The nozzle firefighter and officer ascend to the point at which the rope will be deployed while the balance of the engine company stretches the handline to the “drop point.” Once the rope is dropped, it is attached to the hose using either a clove hitch and binder, a simple hitch, or the snap hook, which is wrapped around the hose behind the nozzle and then hooked onto the rope. Utility rope stretches also come in handy at fires in large buildings with complex layouts and when the stairs wrap around an elevator shaft, as discussed above.

One more point: While it may be necessary to use an aerial ladder to stretch a handline, do not allow a charged line to lie on the ladder. Instead, let the line run vertically up the side of the building and properly secure it with a hose strap. This will reduce the amount of hose needed in the stretch and free the aerial ladder for other critical duties. Aerial ladders are purchased by fire departments for the following reasons (listed in ascending order of importance): (4) to provide elevated master streams, (3) to provide access to the fire building for topside ventilation and VES (vent-enter-search) operations, (2) to rescue or remove civilian victims, and (1) to rescue firefighters trapped on the upper floors. If the aerial is tied up with a handline, this defeats its primary purpose, and firefighters lives may be jeopardized. Tom Brennan has made this point more than once in his Random Thoughts column, and I feel it is important enough to mention again.

In the absence of a utility rope, a six- or eight-foot hook can be used to stretch a handline to the upper floors via a fire escape. Place the bale or handle of the nozzle shutoff on the hook, which is held in an inverted position and passed hand-over-hand to firefighters stationed on each fire escape balcony between the ground and the point at which the line enters the building (most often the floor below the fire). For extra security, the nozzle can be lashed to the hook with a hose strap or a short length of rope. This technique is a modification of a hose-stretching method used many years ago that used a special “fire escape hook.”


How do fire departments successfully handle structure fires that cannot be reached by preconnected lines? Several methods are available to quickly ensure placement of the first handline (as well as a backup line), even when fire areas are a considerable distance from the engine apparatus. One method is to use a “bulk,” “dead load,” or “static” hosebed–containing hose that is not preconnected. Carrying hose in this fashion permits the effective use of a “reverse lay” or “backstretch” and allows rapid deployment of a long handline.

Static hosebeds may contain up to 16 lengths of line and are used very successfully by many fire departments, including FDNY and Los Angeles City, California. In FDNY, each engine is equipped with two 134-inch and one 212-inch hosebeds. The 134-inch beds contain no more than six lengths of 134-inch hose “filled out” with 212-inch hose, to reduce friction loss when a long stretch is required. Los Angeles City engines are equipped with three transverse hosebeds (sometimes called “crosslays”), each containing a handline loaded in bulk fashion. After the necessary amount of hose is removed, the line is broken and attached to one of three discharge outlets located below the transverse hose compartments.

Another method of overcoming the limitations posed by preconnected lines is to combine the features of a static hosebed with a preconnected hose load. Part of the hose loaded in a hose compartment is preconnected. Additional hose is carried in bulk fashion below the preconnected line or in an adjacent compartment. If more line is needed, it is added to the preconnected line near the engine apparatus. A problem posed by this method is that most crosslay hosebeds feature a discharge outlet on a chicksan swivel. The swivel is often difficult to reach due to the height or width of the crosslay hose compartment. A simple solution is to connect a five- to 10-foot length of hose to the swivel outlet. This makes breaking the line to add more hose an easy process and eliminates any delays in getting water on the fire. The same solution can be used for preconnected lines loaded at the rear of the apparatus. Many older engines are fitted with discharge outlets at the front of the hosebed, not readily accessible from the rear step. By using a 10- or 15-foot length of hose, the handline can be quickly broken and additional lengths inserted as needed.

Still another method is to use a static hose load consisting of 212-inch or three-inch hose with a manifold (usually a gated wye or “water thief” appliance) attached. Anywhere from two to four lengths of 134- or two-inch leader line are preconnected to the manifold and bundled as a “skid load” for efficient transport. The bundled hose may be held together by old seat belts, nylon webbing, or sections of inner tube. Once the manifold is in position, the leader line is unbundled, charged, and advanced into the fire area. In the case of multistory buildings, the manifold may be deployed in the lobby or on the floor below the fire, depending on the location of the fire in the building. At fires involving garden apartments or private dwellings set well back from the street, the manifold is usually brought to a point just outside the entrance door. The leader line is then flaked out and charged. A second line can be quickly attached to the manifold–and perhaps even a third and fourth line–depending on the size of hose supplying the manifold and the type of manifold in use. Large manifolds with up to six 212-inch outlets are available for use with four- and five-inch hose.

Once a manifold has been placed in service and the first line is charged and advancing on the fire, where is the hose that is to be used for subsequent handlines obtained? Some departments merely disconnect preconnected lines from the apparatus and drag or carry them as a shoulder load to the manifold. Other departments use additional bundled hose loads. Still others carry the hose in a soft-sided bag or case. As I mentioned in “The 212-Inch Handline” (Fire Engineering, December 1996, pp. 36-49), whenever a leader line is attached to a nozzle shutoff or manifold, the shutoff or manifold should be secured in the open position to ensure the safety of the nozzle team.


Once the correct amount of hose has been removed from the apparatus, it must be brought to the point of operation. I will not begin to describe the many different hose loads in use, but I must mention some key considerations in loading hose that will facilitate a rapid and efficient stretch. One is to load the hose such that the firefighter assigned to the nozzle can easily remove the nozzle and at least one length of hose. The nozzle firefighter is responsible for the length of hose that is advanced into the fire area–the so-called “working length.” It is very poor practice to simply grab the nozzle and run, trailing hose behind. This hose inevitably gets caught on car tires, tailpipes, shrubbery, fences, door jambs, and so on. If the nozzle firefighter does not stretch sufficient hose to cover the anticipated fire area, he has failed in his mission. Likewise, avoid “pulling and piling.” Pulling hose off and creating a pile near the apparatus causes knots in the line and greatly increases the potential for kinks once it is charged. In addition, load each preconnected handline so that the entire amount of hose is easily removed or “cleared” from the apparatus, thereby reducing the possibility of charging the line with hose still remaining in the bed.

Another important consideration is to stretch the line uncharged or dry as far as safely practicable. It is much easier and more efficient to stretch a dry line than to advance a line that has been charged prematurely. The point at which the line gets charged varies with the size and type of building involved. Normally, at private dwellings, the line is charged in the front yard or driveway or on the floor below the fire, if cramped quarters do not make this impracticable. If the line is flaked out in the yard or driveway, it is desirable to form a series of “S”-shaped curves to reduce the potential for kinks. For a second- or third-floor fire, the first 20 to 30 feet of line should be kept straight to permit a quick advance up the stairs.

At multiple dwellings, the line is usually stretched to the public hallway and charged just outside the entrance to the fire apartment. The safety of this tactic hinges on control of the fire apartment door. That is why it is so important to preserve a door`s integrity (minimize distortion so it can still be closed) when forcing it open and to maintain control of it by placing a piece of rope or a hose strap over the doorknob. If fire conditions deteriorate severely before the handline is ready or if a loss of water occurs, you can pull the door shut quickly by grabbing hold of the rope or hose strap. If a size-up of the door indicates the fire is immediately behind the door (blistering or melting paint, door or knob hot to the touch, door or knob glowing red), do not under any circumstances force it open until the line has been charged and bled. Many times the fire apartment door is left open by a fleeing occupant, allowing fire to extend into the public hall. Sometimes the fire has burned through a wooden door or transom, making the public hallway untenable. While ladder company personnel should attempt to close an open apartment door or seal the opening with a door forcibly obtained from an apartment elsewhere in the building, the handline will have to be charged on the floor below the fire and advanced up the stairs. This will require more effort, but it is the only safe course of action. It may also be more efficient to charge the line on the floor below or on the stairs leading up to the fire floor in multiple dwellings with narrow hallways and small landings.

If the fire apartment door is controlled and there is no immediate danger of extension into the public hall, the line should be flaked out on the fire floor. Make every effort to reduce the potential for kinks and to ensure an unhindered advance to the seat of the fire. This may require flaking some of the line out on the stairs leading to the floor above the fire (or the roof bulkhead in the case of a top-floor fire). Two benefits provided by this tactic include less line on the landing, which may be small and crowded, and the assistance gained from gravity feeding the line down the stairs and into the fire apartment. This tactic can also be very dangerous if control of the fire apartment door is lost while the firefighter flaking out the line is still on the stairs above. The firefighter assigned to flake out the line on the stairs (most often the backup firefighter) should ascend only as far as necessary while staying low and against the wall, not the balustrade. His SCBA face piece must be in place, and communication with the forcible entry team is essential. Another tactic is to force the door to an adjoining apartment or, preferably, an apartment opposite the fire apartment and flake the line out inside. Although this may be safer than exposing a firefighter on the stairs above the fire, will the forcible entry tools necessary to force open one or more other doors be available? Will opening the door to another apartment cause the fire to extend or endanger occupant lives due to contamination by heat and smoke? In all cases, these various factors must be carefully (albeit quickly) weighed and a course of action chosen.


Apparatus design also affects the task of stretching handlines. Engine apparatus continue to get longer, wider, and higher. Many hosebeds are well above the head height of the average firefighter–even when standing on the rear step. Crosslay hosebeds are also very high and are often a chore to reach. This has impacted fireground safety and efficiency by increasing the difficulty in removing hose and stretching handlines. It has also increased the potential for muscle-strain injuries to personnel and the time required to get water on the fire. The height of modern hosebeds can be attributed to both an increased demand for compartment space and today`s average booster tank capacity. Even in urban and suburban areas with adequate water supply systems and engines equipped with large-diameter hose, 750- and 1,000-gallon booster tanks are common. Why? The main reason is staffing. Criminally low staffing levels have forced fire departments to alter their tactics. Increasingly, fire attack operations are initiated with booster water because only two or three personnel arrive with the first engine. In anticipation of a delay in establishing a continuous water supply, larger booster tanks are specified to provide more operational time and a wider cushion against running out of water. Hose loads should be designed as best as possible to overcome the limitations posed by modern apparatus and to recognize the size, strength, and physical abilities of the average firefighter.


Individual fire departments must evaluate their response areas, building types, staffing levels, and hosebed capacities to determine what hose loads will work best for them. The actual mechanics of stretching handlines must be practiced on a regular basis, especially the more difficult and uncommon stretches. For example, a department that routinely fights fires in small, private homes using preconnected handlines must practice stretching hose from a static bed to reach a fire on the upper floors of the few multiple dwellings it protects. Stretching handlines via a wellhole is another tactic that requires practice and discipline on the part of the firefighters involved. Deploying manifolds and leader lines is yet another important tactic requiring regular drills to ensure proficiency. Consult some of the many excellent firefighter training guides for specific information on various hose loads and methods of stretching lines. Ideas and suggestions can also be obtained by visiting neighboring fire departments to see firsthand the types of hose loads in use and how they address operational problems. The chapter “Hand-ling Hose and Nozzles” in Fire Stream Management Handbook by David P. Fornell (Fire Engineering Books, 1991) is an excellent source of information on various hose loads and hosebed configurations used by fire departments around the country.

One more issue must be addressed when discussing handlines–accurate pump discharge pressure (PDP). Most departments label individual gauges or discharge valve handles with preset pressures for their preconnected handlines. This is an effective and widely used system.

Complications may arise, however, when a static hose load or manifold and leader line are stretched. In the latter case, if the manifold itself is preconnected and the leader lines are all of the same diameter and length, preset pressures can still be used. If the manifold is not preconnected and its length varies depending on the distance between the engine apparatus and the point of operation, the chauffeur or pump operator must be informed as to how much hose of each size has been stretched so he can calculate the correct PDP. The same is true if hose is stretched from a static bed. In the case of multistory buildings, the chauffeur must also be told what floor the fire is on, which may not be evident at night or if the fire is in the rear of the building or in a shaft. As handlines grow longer, it is also wise to increase the diameter of the hose to keep friction loss to a minimum. A rule of thumb is to use no more than four lengths of 112-inch hose, six lengths of 134-inch hose, or eight lengths of two-inch hose. Using fewer lengths, of course, is better, especially if 100-psi fog nozzles are used as opposed to low-pressure fog nozzles or smooth-bore tips. Using a larger-diameter hose (212-inch most often) to “fill out” a long stretch is another widely adopted solution. Reducing the PDP minimizes the potential for burst lengths of hose.

As a chauffeur, I must emphasize one more point when stretching hose from a static bed: Once sufficient hose has been removed and the line is broken, let the chauffeur decide to which discharge outlet it should be attached. I prefer to attach the first and second handlines to the pump panel where I can observe them and label them with a grease pencil. Face-to-face communication is essential, as illustrated by the following story: A veteran chauffeur in Brooklyn was suddenly contacted by an officer in charge of a handline desperately asking him to charge the line. The chauffeur assumed at first that the officer was mistaken and was actually trying to contact another chauffeur. Just to be on the safe side, however, he walked around to the opposite side of his rig to investigate. Sure enough, a dry handline was attached to a discharge outlet, and it proved to be the handline in question. The firefighter who had broken this line and connected it to the rig never informed the chauffeur he had done so. Not only didn`t the chauffeur know how much hose had been stretched, he didn`t even know he was responsible for supplying another handline. Communication on the fireground, particularly between the chauffeur and the nozzle team(s) he is supplying, is vital. Take a few seconds to talk, and you may save yourself a lot of heartache later.


Even after a long and difficult hose stretch, the real work of the engine company has yet to begin. This is where experience and training really pay dividends. As the late senior member of Engine Company 48 in the Bronx used to say, “Never run to the rig when turning out for an alarm; if you run to the rig, you`ll run at the fire, and running leads to shouting and the job won`t get done.” Experienced firefighters know how to pace themselves–both physically and mentally; this conserves energy, prevents needless injuries, and enables them to maintain a focus on the task at hand without losing sight of the big picture. Ad-vancing a handline at a tough fire requires discipline, concentration, and some intangible factors–courage, mostly–to see the job through. The many considerations in advancing handlines will be covered in Part 2. Emphasis will be on the first line, since it is the most critical. n


1. The term “length” is often used in handline estimation. Lengths of hose are generally 50 feet long, so a “five-length stretch” represents 250 feet of hose. In some parts of the country, the terms “section” and “flake” are used instead of length.

2. For additional information, see “Another Use for Plastic Jug: Keeps Hoisting Rope Ready,” Joseph A. Principio, Fire Engineering, July, 1981, p. 19.

Thanks to the following fire companies/departments: Chambersburg (PA) Fire Department; Enterprise Engine Co. No. 1, New Hyde Park, New York; FDNY Engine Companies 46 and 48; Monsey (NY) Fire Department; Pearl River (NY) Hook & Ladder Co.; Pennsville (NJ) Fire & Rescue Co. 1; Relief Hose Co. No. 3, Haverstraw, New York; Rochelle Park (NJ) Fire Department; and Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1, Suffern, New York. Thanks are also extended to Kevin Cowperthwait and Pete Hart for their assistance.

An effective method of stretching handlines is to use a utility rope deployed from a window or fire escape balcony. FDNY SOPs limit to two the number of lines stretched via a single interior stairway at multiple- dwelling fires. Additional handlines are stretched on the outside of the building and brought inside on the floor below the fire. (Photo by Matt Daly.)


(Top left) Los Angeles City engines are equipped with three transverse hose compartments, each containing a “static” or “bulk” hose load. After the required amount of hose is removed, the line is broken and attached to a discharge outlet located immediately below the hose compartment. (Photo by Keith D. Cullom, IFPA.) (Top right) This transverse hose compartment, originally designed for a pair of preconnected handlines, has been converted to a static hosebed containing four lengths (200 feet) of 212-inch hose with a gated wye. Three lengths (150 feet) of 134-inch handline are preconnected to the wye. This department found that overreliance on its preconnected crosslays consistently placed its engine in front of the fire building to the detriment of later-arriving ladder company apparatus. (Photo by Kevin Cowperthwait.) (Bottom left) Three of the four hose compartments at the rear of this engine feature static hose loads. Proceeding left to right, the first hose compartment contains a preconnected handline equipped with a foam nozzle. The next compartment contains four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch handline “filled out” by 12 lengths (600 feet) of 212-inch hose. The next compartment contains 14 lengths (800 feet) of 212-inch handline. Note how each nozzle length has been formed into a horseshoe for ease in grasping and removing. The extreme right-hand hose compartment contains 14 lengths of three-inch hose with a preconnected manifold. In every case, the engine chauffeur must be informed of how much hose has been stretched so he can calculate accurate pump discharge pressures. (Photo by author.) (Bottom right) This engine is equipped with three preconnected handlines, two of which are easily extended using static hose carried in adjacent compartments. Proceeding left to right, the first handline consists of four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch hose. An additional four lengths of 134-inch hose are stored alongside. The second handline consists of four lengths of two-i

This department uses short sections of hose (about 10 feet long) to permit quick extension of its two-inch preconnected handlines. The line can be easily broken and additional lengths inserted as needed without struggling to disconnect the hose from the chicksan swivel. To the right of the four preconnected handlines are two additional hose compartments containing extra lengths of three- and two-inch hose, respectively. (Photo by author.)

This crosslay hosebed features four preconnected 134-inch handlines, each designed to be removed as a shoulder load. Two of the lines are three lengths (150 feet) and two are four lengths (200 feet). Each line can be extended by 212-inch hose carried at the rear of the apparatus or by adding lengths of 134-inch hose carried in soft-sided bags. As each line is fitted with a “break-apart” nozzle (150 gpm fog tip operated at 75 psi and 1516-inch solid stream “slug” tip operated at 50 psi), the chauffeur must be told which nozzle tip will be used so he can properly adjust the pump discharge pressure. (Photo by John Ford.)

(Left) This hosebed features four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch handline, bundled as a “skid” load, which is preconnected to a gated wye. The gated wye, in turn, is attached to a static load of 212-inch hose consisting of 16 lengths (800 feet). This type of hose arrangement is ideal for garden apartment complexes or wherever long handline stretches are required. (Photos by author.) (Top right) This “skid” load consists of three lengths (150 feet) of 134-inch handline bundled together and placed on top of 11 lengths (550 feet) of three-inch hose fitted with a “water thief.” The handline is not preconnected to the water thief, permitting increased flexibility on the fireground. It can be used as an additional handline, to extend a preconnected line already stretched, or as a leader line from the water thief. (Bottom right) This “water thief” manifold has been deployed at a fire involving the top floor and cockloft of a six-story multiple dwelling. It is supplying three 134-inch handlines. Depending on the height of the building and other factors, it may be advantageous to place the manifold in the lobby or on the floor below the fire.

(Left) This engine features three “speedlays”–crosslay hose compartments located beneath the top-mounted pump panel. Speedlays facilitate stretching handlines due to their height, which is more accommodating to the average firefighter. The handline in the center of the photo consists of four lengths (200 feet) of 134-inch hose, designed for rapid removal by placing an arm through each set of “loops” or “ears.” (Photos by author.) (Right) Even when engine apparatus are equipped with preconnected crosslays, additional preconnected lines (perhaps a 212-inch handline or a long handline consisting of five lengths or more) are often carried at the rear of the apparatus, where there is more available hosebed capacity. The engine pictured carries both a 134- and a 212-inch preconnected handline in its rear (or main) hosebed. Each is attached to a discharge elbow that is readily accessible to a firefighter standing on the rear step. This makes it easier to disconnect the lines so that their length can be extended or reduced.

This FDNY engine, operating at a third alarm in the Bronx, is virtually stripped of hose. It is supplying four handlines of varying lengths. FDNY routinely uses a “backstretch” or (“reverse lay”) when stretching handlines due to the tremendous variation in building types and sizes throughout New York City. The “control” firefighter estimates the handline stretch and ensures that the required number of lengths are removed from the hosebed and are connected to a discharge outlet selected by the engine company chauffeur. As a general rule, no single engine apparatus should supply more than two handlines, but this is not always possible. This reduces the burden on the chauffeur and may help to prevent a disaster should a mechanical failure occur or a hydrant connection suddenly become clogged and cause a loss of water. (Photo by author.)

ANDREW A. FREDERICKS is a 17-year veteran of the fire service; a firefighter with the City of New York (NY) Fire Department, assigned to Engine Company 48 in the Bronx; and an engine company chauffeur. He is a New York State-certified fire instructor at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, New York and an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science. He has two bachelor?s degrees, one in political science and the other in public safety, with a specialization in fire science, and a master’s degree in fire protection management from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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