Conduct Your Own Tests For Moving Charged Lines
The Volunteers Corner
Since the advent of lightweight hose a couple of decades ago, the weight of the water in the hose has become a greater part of the burden of moving charged lines.
When we used 2 ½-inch hose with a double jacket of cotton, the water in the hose weighed about twice as much as the hose. Now the water in 21/2-inch hose with a polyester double jacket weighs about three times the weight of the hose.
Although the weight of the water has not changed, the number of fire fighters available to handle hose lines decreased in many fire departments—paid and volunteer. In many volunteer departments, manpower may be more plentiful at 2 o’clock in the morning, but at 2 in the afternoon, it is a different story.
Conduct tests: How many fire fighters are needed to move a 2½ -inch charged line up a flight of stairs and make the turn to move along a hallway or into a room? The answer to this question must be the answer that applies to the capabilities of your department, so the only way to get the answer that will do you some good is to test the capabilities of your fire fighters.
Ideally, conduct your tests in a drill tower, but if you don’t have ready access to a drill tower, you can do the testing in any two-story or higher building—including your own firehouse. If you conduct these tests in a building where hose leakage must be considered, charge your line outside, close the nozzle and let the pressurized line rest in place until the gaskets have tightened and leakage is nonexistent or reduced to a few drops that will not damage the stairs. Use of a spanner wrench frequently can eliminate minor leaks.
The fire fighters should wear full turnout gear, including breathing apparatus. There will be times when a fire fighter will have to bend down to free a coupling from an obstruction and the validity of testing will be greater if the fire fighter has to cope with the SC BA weight.
Try different stairs: If you can, use a straight flight of stairs for one series of tests and a stairway with a platform and a 180degree turn for the other series. Obviously, there is a tremendous difference in the degree of difficulty faced in taking a line up these two types of stairs. The width of the stairs also affects the degree of difficulty.
Impress on the fire fighters making the test that they must climb the stairs at a moderate, steady pace. An initial rush up the stairs will soon slow down, and it also may result in either pulling the line out of the grasp of the third or fourth person on the line or even causing a loss of footing.
Use a stopwatch to time your tests. You might start with three men on the line—all within 6 or 8 feet of the nozzle. You won’t have to point out how inefficient that is—they’ll know it. Then try the same evolution with three men spaced evenly along a 50-foot length of hose. If the building permits it, let these three fire fighters advance the hose as far into the building as possible—even up a second flight of stairs.
Everyone involved in the tests will soon realize the limitations of three fire fighters on a 2 ½ -inch line. Now add a fourth, fifth and even a sixth man—spaced well apart—to the line and document the distances they can advance the line and the time for each advancement.
Also conduct the same series of tests with a 1¼ or 1 ¾ inch line, whichever your department uses—or both if it uses both.
Use of test results: With the results of these tests in your fire department, you can now make some realistic conclusions about the amount of manpower needed to move charged lines in buildings. Fireground commanders will know when they must assign an extra company to take a line to an upper floor—or even to a distant part of a one-story factory or warehouse. With maximum realistic flows of 125 gpm for 1 ½-inch hose, 200 gpm for 1 ¾ -inch hose, and 325 gpm for 2’/2-inch hose, officers can make valid decisions about the number of fire fighters needed to operate a single line on various size fires.
Moreover, in paid fire departments, chiefs can offer facts to substantiate their recommendations for an adequate level of engine company manning to accomplish the basic fire fighting objective of an engine company—put enough water on a fire to extinguish it.
Remember, while we all try to advance a 2 ½-inch line as far as possible into a building before calling for water, the line must be advanced at a large fire as progress is made in extinguishing the fire.
A look at the water weight table will show why it is important to stretch large-diameter hose where it will be most useful for the duration of the fire. It is impossible to move it once it is charged. If you made an error in lining in with large-diameter hose, you have to live with it.