In Part 1 (May 2005), I discussed the fundamentals associated with the tactical use of the 2 1/2-inch handline, explaining the seven keys to success when using the so-called “Big Line” and the overriding importance of the “can-do” attitude. Continuous training hones these critical skills.

(1) Denver (CO) Fire Department (DFD) Engine Co. 15 has a 350-foot, 2 1⁄2-inch preconnected attack line located midship in the crosslay (Mattydale) hosebed. A 2 1⁄2-inch preconnect is standard equipment on a DFD pumper; at longer lengths, such as 350 feet, it can be used as a preconnect or a static hosebed when shorter stretches are sufficient. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.)

In Part 2, I outline several specifics associated with the tactical use of 2 1/2-inch handlines on the fireground, including operations with the 2 1/2-inch preconnect, the 2 1/2-inch static hosebed, and procedures for successfully using the Big Line when operating off standpipes.


Many American fire departments use preconnected attack lines, which have proven to be valuable for quickly delivering water on the fireground. Ultimately, the good engine company has the ability to go beyond the preconnect while maintaining the ability to deliver water using a wide range of basic techniques, including preconnected attack lines when and where they’re appropriate. Therefore, even though I am a huge proponent of the 2 1/2-inch static hosebed, I am also a huge proponent of and strongly endorse the use of preconnected 2 1/2-inch attack lines. When setting up the pumper apparatus for an engine company’s best overall tactical use, I recommend including a static 2 1/2-inch hosebed and a preconnected 2 1/2-inch attack line.

In the Denver Fire Department (DFD), all engine companies are set up with preconnected attack lines and static hosebeds. The 2 1/2-inch preconnect serves several important purposes, including functioning as a backup line, a quick “blitz” attack line for large fast-moving fires, and a proactive offensive weapon for fires within the reach of the preconnect’s length (photo 1).

2 1⁄2-Inch Preconnect Length

The length of the 2 1/2-inch preconnect can vary according to the needs of the response district. A good rule of thumb is to build the preconnect to at least 50 feet (one length or one section) longer than the longest 1 3/4-inch preconnected attack line on the pumper. The longest 1/3⁄ 4 -inch preconnected attack line in the DFD, for example, is 300 feet. (It is not good practice to use 1 3/4-inch attack lines in excess of 300 feet because of significant friction loss, which necessitates extremely high and unsafe pump pressures and likely will result in reduced flows. Therefore, a 350-foot preconnected 2 1/2-inch attack line is ideal as an effective backup line.)

2. Cited by FDIC 2005 H.O.T. team member Harry Lee Davis during the standpipe H.O.T. program.

That length may seem excessive; however, keep in mind that the engine company is not restricted to using the entire preconnect for every situation-it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. In essence, longer preconnected beds of 2 1/2-inch hose can also double as static hosebeds. In other words, with a 350-foot 2 1/2-inch preconnect, the engine company should use shorter lengths when appropriate. The company members simply stretch the length of hose needed to the point of operation. The engineer (pump operator) then breaks the hose, attaches it to a convenient discharge outlet, and provides the appropriate engine pressure to supply the shorter attack line (photos 2, 3). Keep in mind, using the preconnected 2 1/2-inch attack hosebed as a static hosebed is only for short stretches and is not meant to replace a separate, dedicated static hosebed.

(3) Once the crew has reached the objective, the engineer (pump operator) breaks the hose, attaches it to a side discharge, and charges the line. For this stretch, 250 feet of attack line was used from a hosebed containing 350 feet of preconnected attack line.

The reason I am addressing this issue is that I have seen shorter preconnected 2 1/2-inch handlines, typically 150-foot preconnects, stretched supposedly for the purpose of serving as a backup line when the primary attack line was actually a longer, preconnected 1 3/4-inch handline. It is critical to remember that a backup line must be at least the same length as the primary attack line to truly serve its purpose as a safety measure for the first-due engine company (primary attack line/team); this can be achieved only if the backup line can reach all the way to the first-due engine company’s (primary attack line’s) point of operation. The additional 50 feet will ensure that the backup line is long enough to reach the objective and, in many cases, is enough hose to make the floor above, as backup lines are sometimes redirected to this position.

The 21⁄2-Inch Static HoseBed

Even though the preconnected attack line is a very valuable weapon, it is not always appropriate for every fire problem in most jurisdictions. A poorly trained engine company sometimes will try to fit a square peg into a round hole by always stretching a preconnect, usually 1 3/4-inch, only to come up short of its objective. Adding insult to injury, the company will attempt to extend the line by adding extra hose at the nozzle end. In some cases, a long 300-foot 1 3/4-inch preconnect becomes a 400-foot or longer line-in many cases, a high-pressure, low-volume weapon that ultimately results in defeat.

(4) The main (rear) hosebed of DFD Engine Co. 15 has two 13⁄4-inch preconnected attack lines, two supply hosebeds with three-inch hose, and a static hosebed containing 750 feet of 21⁄2-inch attack line.

Equipping your pumper with a static hosebed of 2 1/2-inch hose, frequently training on its use, and recognizing when and where it should be used are among the hallmarks of an excellent engine company. For most fire departments, the static hosebed of 2 1/2-inch hose will be appropriate for low-frequency events that are also high risk (photos 4, 5).

21⁄2-Inch Static HoseBed Length

(5) A view from above shows how DFD Engine Co. 15 loads its static hosebed. The top four lengths (sections), 200 feet, are set up in short, user-friendly lengths that crew members can easily carry, facilitating a faster, more efficient stretch.

Evaluate the engine company’s response district to determine how much hose to carry in a static hosebed. A good rule of thumb is to identify the largest buildings in the district that likely would require manual firefighting and to estimate the amount of hose needed by calculating their length width. That number would be a good starting point for determining how much hose to carry in the static hosebed. This method would be impractical for buildings such as massive, block-long warehouses; an unrealistic amount of hose would be needed using this calculation method. Remember, too, that the static hosebed is designed to be a resource close to the fire building that can provide one or several handlines for general operations. For example, if Engine Co. 15 is first to arrive, Engine Co. 19, as the second-due, might stretch a second line off 15’s pumper from the static hosebed.

(6) DFD Engine Co. 15 has the top four lengths of hose in its static hosebed set up for a fast, efficient stretch. Four loops identify the first four lengths, 200 feet. The loops were marked with tape to indicate the length, making the operation user friendly, especially for new members or those temporarily assigned to the company (detailed) from other companies for the shift.

A good baseline length for a static hosebed is 600 feet. This is a significant amount of hose, slightly longer than one city block in most cities. A 600-foot-long attack line can cover a lot of territory in a large fire building or provide for two or more handlines in most instances. Once again, that’s just a good baseline; additional hose may be necessary and should be added if a thorough evaluation of the engine company’s district indicates the need. However, avoid placing more than 1,000 feet of hose in a static 2 1/2-inch hosebed. The size of the static hosebed needs to remain practical and manageable. In rare situations that may necessitate an extremely long stretch of hose, additional engine companies and additional hose from their pumpers might be needed to assemble, stretch, and operate one hand-line. As a newly promoted lieutenant, I was working as a roving (covering) officer assigned to an engine company one night. My company, assisted by two other engine companies, had to stretch 950 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose from the pumper to the point of operation, which happened to be a fire deep inside a large rubber manufacturing plant-high risk, low frequency.

21⁄2-Inch Static HoseBed Configuration

(7) The size of some older-style and larger hosebeds allows for an accordion load of 21⁄2-inch hose in a static hosebed. When stretching, the length (from front to back) of many of these hosebeds will accommodate one 50-foot length of hose for every three folds.

The configuration of the static hosebed depends on the room available on the pumper, specifically the width of the hosebed. A large portion of the pumper’s main hosebed will be needed to accommodate supply hose. In addition, some fire departments also spec their pumpers with preconnected attack lines in the rear hosebed. The newest fleet of DFD pumpers has five separate loads of hose in the rear main hosebed. Two of them are three-inch supply lines, two are preconnected 1 3/4-inch attack lines, and one is the static 2 1/2-inch hosebed. In this limited space, the static hosebed is much longer than it is wide; therefore, configuring the hose in a flat load with two tiers works best. For the flat load, finish out the upper portion of the hosebed using loops to indicate separate sections of hose or configuring the top sections of hose in horseshoes to facilitate the stretch (photo 6).

Insert paragraph (8) Initiating the stretch from a static bed involves estimating the length of hose needed to reach the point of operation. The nozzleman takes a �working length� and proceeds toward the fire building. (9-11) The next two members, including the officer based on typical resources, each take additional hose and stretch toward and into the fire building.

Many older pumpers, including a large portion of the DFD’s fleet, have two large hosebeds in the rear. The larger width of these hosebeds makes them well suited to using an accordion hose load for the 2 1/2-inch static hosebed. Determining how many accordion folds in the hosebed represent one length of hose makes stretching the line easier and more efficient-for example, typically three folds equal one 50-foot section or one length in most standard hosebeds. The engineer (pump operator) standing on the pumper’s back step (tailboard) would pull the hose from the static bed and load it onto the firefighters’ shoulders. When I first came on the job, this was the standard method for stretching 2 1/2-inch attack line from the rear static hosebed (photo 7).

Stretching an Attack Line from the Static Bed

Generally, the need to stretch an attack line from a static hosebed is based primarily on the fact that the distance from the pumper to the point of operation is unknown. A guideline firefighters and company officers use to determine when and where the 212-inch attack line should be used is the ADULTS acronym:

(12) The engineer (pump operator) wears many hats during the stretch, first operating as a �control man,� counting the lengths as the line is stretched, then assisting with the stretch by pulling additional hose from the static bed, and finally stretching additional hose up to the building entry point as needed. (13, 14) The company officer radios to the engineer (pump operator) that the attack team has reached the point of operation and calls for water. The engineer then breaks the line from the static bed, attaches to a convenient discharge outlet, and supplies water to the attack team at the appropriate low pressure. (15) Success with the Big Line means fully stretching out the entire line, leaving no piles of hose to become kinks prior to calling for water. Also, when the operation begins on the exterior of a building, at least two lengths, or 100 feet of hose, stretched straight back away from the entry point makes for a smoother, more efficient initial advance.

A – Advanced fire on arrival

D – Defensive operations

U – Unable to determine the extent or location of the fire

L – Large, uncompartmentalized areas

T – Tons of water to cool the heat

S – Standpipe operations.

The “U” in the ADULTS acronym applies here: unable to determine the extent or location of the fire. Both of these are significant tactical concerns that point directly to the need for a 212-inch attack line to be stretched from a static hosebed that contains a sufficient supply of hose.

16) This working fire in a high-rise multiple dwelling may look somewhat tame from a distance. However, with a reflex time of 10, 15, or 20 or more minutes, not unusual for high-rise operations, the fire likely will require a powerful weapon once the attack begins. [Photo courtesy of Battalion Chief Ted Corporandy, San Francisco (CA) Fire Department.] (17) The Denver Hose Pack begins with a measurement of 32 inches from the outside of the female coupling to the first fold and is then assembled in a horseshoe configuration. (18) When assembling the Denver Hose Pack, stop all folds short of the female coupling; stagger the folds, one long and one short, to keep the hose pack as compact as possible. [Photos 18-23 by Firefighter Sean Roeper, Denver (CO) Fire Department.] (19) The assembly of the Denver Hose Pack has been slightly revised since its introduction in the 1999 article. It now includes finishing the pack by connecting the male coupling to the female coupling, thus protecting the male threads.

“Unable to determine the extent of a fire” means that just because a heavy smoke condition might not be showing from the exterior of a large building-perhaps no fire is showing at all-that is not a reliable indication that a serious, fast-moving fire is not deep within the building. “Unknown extent” should direct an engine company to stretch a Big Line, especially at fires in large buildings and commercial occupancies, so that the firefighters will be equipped with a powerful weapon should a substantial fire volume be encountered.

As for the unknown location, once again, the well-trained engine company does not allow itself to be caught short by stretching a preconnect in such situations. Initially, members can and should size up the building and determine the baseline amount of hose to be stretched. As an example, a good starting point would be to use the building’s width and length, add a length of hose for every floor above the main level, and ensure that there is one “working length” at the point of operation. One member (sometimes called a “control man”) is left at the pumper; with a four-member crew, the DFD assigns the engineer (pump operator) as the control man. The attack line is not broken until the company officer gives the order to do so, based on the attack team’s arrival at the point of operation. This requires some finesse, as the attack team must stay out of harm’s way and have sufficient hose to enter a fire area from a safe position, such as the floor below. A good engineer gets water to the attack team quickly, but it still takes some time. Attack team members must protect themselves while waiting for water.

(20, 21) The completed Denver Hose Pack. (22, 23) The completed Denver Hose Pack nozzle section (length). One length (hose pack) has a nozzle preattached for speed during deployment (stretching). Note the small compact nozzle, placed with the bail down against the hose, to maximize the compactness of the completed hose pack.

Leaving the engineer (pump operator) outside to complete the hookups and supply the system leaves the DFD engine company with three remaining members, including the company officer, to complete the initial stretch. As noted in Part 1, it is critical that the second-due engine company join the first engine company and assist with the stretch, if necessary-more importantly, it should assist with advancing the line once the attack begins.

24) A firefighter carrying one 50-foot length of 21⁄2-inch hose, assembled in a Denver Hose Pack horseshoe configuration, on his SCBA cylinder. This method allows hands to be free; therefore, hand tools can be carried, or hands can grasp the handrail while climbing stairs. Note also that the firefighter has a one-hour air cylinder for high-rise operations.

Jurisdictions with minimum staffing levels of three and sometimes two members must use other resources to assist with a static hosebed stretch. For example, a fire department with a three-member engine company and a two-member paramedic rescue unit responding from the same fire station can work together and form a powerful attack team. They must first devise a plan and then conduct regular training drills to make fireground success a reality. Ultimately, fire departments with limited resources will, in many cases, have to use firefighters assigned to support positions, such as truck companies, rescue companies, paramedic units, and so on, to assist with the initial stretch and advancement of a Big Line. These members must be trained and prepared to wear many hats, since getting the first handline into position quickly is often the difference between success and failure.

(25) Assemble hose packs on the floor below, and begin the stretch from that position. Three hose packs, 150 feet, is usually a good starting point for most high-rise and standpipe-equipped buildings.

This is not meant to discount the importance and value of the myriad of critical support functions that must be completed on the fireground, especially search operations. But with limited resources, which is the norm across the American fire service, we must work efficiently and be creative. A well-trained engine company whose members are physically and mentally prepared and have can-do attitudes can effectively stretch several hundred feet of 212-inch attack line from a static hosebed. At a recent drill, DFD Engine Co. 15’s four-member crew stretched 400 feet of 212-inch attack line from the pumper’s static hosebed to the point of operation within two minutes (photos 8-14).

26) The nozzleman takes the �working length� and begins the stretch by walking up the stairs to the fire floor landing. (27) With the hose packs properly assembled, positioned on the ground correctly, and attached together, the attack line will play out easily, without twists or kinks as it is being stretched.

The fine points of a Big Line stretch include the critical component of ensuring that all hose has been fully stretched out. As noted in Part 1, a pile of dry hose will become several kinks when the line is charged. The engine company must use all available room to fully stretch out the attack line before calling for water. For operations that begin on the exterior of a building, two lengths, or at least 100 feet of hose fully stretched out away from the entry point, will make the initial advancement into the fire building smoother and easier (photo 15).


The “S” in the ADULTS acronym stands for “standpipe operations.” The recommendation is based on the low pressure typically associated with a standpipe system, including buildings that have improperly set pressure-regulating devices. In addition, the reflex time associated with standpipe operations and overall firefighting operations in large high-rise buildings is very significant. The fire that from the street may appear to be rather benign and easily controllable with a 134-inch handline will in most cases be a completely different enemy 10, 15, or 20 minutes later when the attack actually begins (photo 16). Add to that scenario an unforeseen wind condition that forcefully drives the fire out of the apartment and into the public hallway, and the need for an extremely powerful, high-volume, low-pressure weapon becomes critical. If this equipment is still on the pumper down at street level or-worse yet-if those tools are not available to firefighters at all because of organizational complacency, fireground failure and possible tragedy might be the end result.

(28) For those operations that must begin from the stairwell, such as well-involved fire floors, the lead length of hose (nozzle section) should be stretched up past the fire floor landing, but only up to the next landing above, forming a large horseshoe. Do not stretch any farther than one landing above, as firefighters cannot operate above at friction points because of heavy heat and smoke in the stairwell once the attack begins.

Even with the recommendation listed in the ADULTS acronym and the endorsement of countless fire service professionals experienced in high-rise firefighting and standpipe operations, some still disregard the facts and figures and select their weapons entirely on the criteria of the speed and maneuverability characteristics of the 134-inch attack line. Although those features are valuable benefits of the smaller weapon, all the speed and maneuverability in the world will not overcome a low-pressure situation and the overwhelming Btus likely to be encountered at many high-rise operations. Proactively selecting a more powerful tool will, at worst, end up being too much, which is not a bad thing. It’s better to have too much power nine out of 10 times than to not have enough power just once. That one time could be someone’s last time.

The Standpipe Hose Pack

As pointed out in Part 1, the “keys to success with the Big Line” include preparing a user-friendly hose pack for standpipe operations.1 My standpipe hose pack recommendations are still basically the same, with a few slight revisions. Any good fireground operation and equipment package continually evolves and is adjusted as necessary to accommodate new and better techniques. The standpipe hose pack is no exception.

(29) The nozzleman (left) and the company officer (right) secure the line and call for water. Note that when stretched dry up a flight of stairs, the line must be secured before calling for water, or the weight of the water will pull the line down when it�s being charged. You can secure it by stepping or kneeling on it.

The basic assembly of the hose pack has remained the same since it was introduced in my 1999 article, beginning with a measurement of 32 inches from the outside of the female coupling. From this point, the hose pack is assembled in a tight horseshoe configuration (photo 17). The fine points include stopping short of the female coupling with each fold, thus making the completed hose pack as tight and as compact as possible (photo 18).

(30) The third team member can begin operations on the floor below while the other members are stretching the line up to the fire floor landing. This member will briefly flush the outlet to clear heavy debris; attach the standpipe inline pressure gauge; attach one or two elbows, as necessary, to prevent kinks; and then attach the hoseline. He will then proceed to fully stretch out any remaining hose on the floor below before charging the line. (31) After completing his hookups to the standpipe outlet, this member will stretch all remaining hose not used to reach the point of operation out onto the floor below. (32) Once again, it is critical that all hose be fully stretched out, with no piles of hose left anywhere in the stretch, before the line is charged.

The evolutionary process leading to improvements in assembling and deploying this hose pack is based on the fireground experience and advice of the members of the FDIC Engine Company Standpipe Operations Hands-on Training (HOT) team. Based on the recommendations of Firefighter John Ceriello, Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Rescue Co. 1, and Firefighter (Ret.) Harry Lee Davis, FDNY Squad Co. 18, the Denver Hose Pack has evolved to include protecting the coupling threads by connecting the male and female couplings at the bottom of the completed hose pack (photos 19, 20). The completed hose pack includes three lightweight, quick-release self-fastening straps. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying clear of heavy straps, buckles, bags, and the like; each adds weight to the completed hose pack and slows deployment. Keep it simple (photo 21).

(33) The line can sometimes be stretched up to the point of operation on the fire floor, such as in those situations where the fire is confined and the door to the fire area is closed and controlled. In these situations, it is best to drop the nozzle at the door to the fire apartment or area and stretch one length past the apartment door, in the opposite direction from the supply, forming a large horseshoe in the hallway; this facilitates advancing the line into the fire apartment. Fifty feet of working line usually is sufficient for most apartments. (34) When preparing your weapons for battle, it is a good idea to paint a large one- or two-inch strip with bright paint at the halfway point of high-rise hose packs. This helps when stretching to the landing above in the stairwell and past the fire apartment when stretching on the fire floor.

The engine company should be equipped with a minimum of three, individual, 50-foot 212-inch hose packs. One of those hose packs should have a nozzle preattached to the hose pack to speed deployment of the initial attack line (photos 22, 23). A second nozzle (lightweight shutoff and tips) should be included in the standpipe equipment bag. This is the standard complement on the DFD and many other fire departments across the country. The three hose packs provide 150 feet of attack line, which is a good, baseline starting point that will be sufficient for many operations in high-rise/standpipe-equipped buildings with the attack beginning from the floor below the fire. Some engine companies carry a fourth hose pack, which may be needed to reach the seat of a fire with the initial attack line in many larger buildings with complicated floor plans. However, keep in mind that using a two-engine company concept to stretch and deploy the attack line employs the equipment of both companies, which would be six hose packs, or 300 feet of attack line. That likely would be more than enough hose to assemble and stretch the initial attack line, with hose left over to extend the line if necessary and appropriate.

Making the Stretch

A user-friendly and properly assembled standpipe hose pack makes the logistical aspect of the operation much more efficient and easier for the firefighters doing the work (photo 24). However, getting the equipment to the point of operation is just the beginning. That point of operation in high-rise and multistory standpipe-equipped buildings is the floor below. It is absolutely essential and of critical importance that fire departments implement an operational policy specifying that standpipe attack lines must come from the floor below. Continual training should reinforce that it is important to initiate the attack from below. When the line comes from below, it serves as an umbilical cord to safety for firefighters operating on the fire floor.

(35) This 21⁄2-inch front bumper load, designed by Assistant Chief Steve Garrod when he was the captain of DFD Engine Co. 3, is used for operations in narrow alleyways, such as garage fires behind dwellings.

In addition, when the fire is on the main level or belowgrade in high-rise and standpipe-equipped buildings, the initial attack line must come from outside the building (stretched from a pumper). This may seem complicated and impractical, especially for operations in large buildings with horizontal standpipes, such as shopping malls. However, firefighter safety is of paramount importance; make every attempt to initiate attack from a safe area. If the standpipe connection is within an area of heavy-smoke or high-heat conditions and firefighters cannot retreat to an area below the smoke and heat, it is essential to stretch the initial attack line from the exterior.

In the August 1999 article (Part 2), I introduced a method of stretching an attack line from a standpipe using a shoulder load and laying out hose while walking up the stairs from the floor below. This method is effective for many circumstances if all members are properly trained and experienced in the operation. Once again, the evolutionary process has given us other options and methods for deploying the attack handline. The DFD and the FDIC H.O.T. team have adopted a new method of standpipe hose deployment based on the experience of team members and the recommendation of team member Firefighter Daryl Liggins of Oakland (CA) Fire Department Engine Co. 16. Now, instead of loading the hose on the shoulder and allowing it to play out as members walk to the point of operation and connecting the hose packs as the hose is laid out, the hose stretch begins by assembling the appropriate number of hose packs on the floor below and stretching from that location (photo 25).

(36) Members of DFD�s Fleet Maintenance Division have fabricated lightweight metal hangers that can be mounted inside apparatus compartments or the cab to carry high-rise hose packs. This makes the hose packs easily available for immediate use.

Once again, a baseline length of 150 feet of hose, or three hose packs, is used. Keep in mind that we are using three members of a four-member company for the interior hose stretch. The engineer (pump operator) is outside supplying the system. On the second engine company’s arrival, three of the four company members (engineer remains outside and assists first-due engineer with water supply) will assist the first-due engine in advancing the initial attack line. Using three members of the first-due engine company, the hose packs are placed on the floor and connected on the floor below the fire. It is generally a good idea to make all connections in the area just inside the floor below and not inside the stairwell or landing because of the civilian and firefighter traffic that might be encountered inside the stairwell. Ideally, direct all civilian traffic to the opposite stairwell, thus establishing and maintaining separate attack and evacuation stairs from the outset and throughout the duration of the operation. However, at the beginning of most high-rise events, it typically takes some time to clear the attack stair of all civilians, and it likely will be congested. Civilians encountered must be allowed to pass and get below the fire floor prior to commencing with the attack, because stairwell doors above likely will be locked in many buildings, and civilians can become trapped in a smoke-filled stairwell above the fire. Proactive communication from fire department personnel by way of the building’s public address system (if the building is equipped with one) as well as the manual releases for the stairwell door locks (located in the fire command center) should begin at the outset of an event, properly directing building occupants to remain in place or evacuate using the designated evacuation stair.

With three hose packs placed on the floor, connected together, and with all straps removed, members can begin the stretch. Although two members can complete the stretch, three members should be the minimum used. With three members, the nozzleman takes the working length and stretches up to the fire floor landing (photos 26 and 27). If operations begin from the stairwell, such as when the fire floor is heavily involved or if heavy smoke, heat, or fire is present in the public hallway, the nozzleman can stretch up past the fire floor landing to the next landing above (photo 28). The advantage of doing this is that once the line is charged, you can advance several feet out onto the fire floor with the assistance of gravity. The landing above will be a half-landing in buildings with U-return stairs and the floor above landing in buildings with scissor stairs. The key is, stretch only up to the next landing; going past this landing would create a friction point and a firefighter would have to be positioned at this location to keep the hose from hanging up. To put it simply, once the stairwell door to the fire floor is opened, conditions inside the stairwell above the fire floor likely will be untenable and it would be extremely dangerous and probably impossible to assign a firefighter to this position.

After taking a quick look at the layout of the floor below, the company officer will join the nozzleman, taking a position on the fire floor landing, where he can assist with the stretch as necessary and help secure the hoseline before it is charged (photo 29). This also places the company officer in a good position to evaluate other needs such as forcible entry. The third team member will complete all operations on the floor below, beginning with locating the standpipe connection and briefly flushing the standpipe of debris. This member will attach all necessary appliances including the standpipe inline pressure gauge, which is of critical importance (photo 30). Other appliances may be needed, including one or two elbows to eliminate kinks in the line as it comes off the outlet. The last thing this member must do is to fully stretch any remaining hoseline out onto the floor below (photos 31, 32). This is a critical step, as absolutely no piles of hose can be left in the stretch, or kinks will lead to reduced flow and impede advancement out onto the fire floor.

Additional Stretching Tips

In some situations, the size of the stairwell will limit the engine company’s ability to operate inside the stairwell. For example, small stairwells with a narrow overall width and very small landings do not lend themselves well to stretching additional line above the fire floor. Therefore, the attack must begin at or below the landing, leaving enough room for the door to the fire floor to be forced by truck company members and to swing open, outward into the stairwell. In all situations, don’t crowd the stairwell door with the line. Leave plenty of room to operate because if there is a heavy fire condition on the fire floor, the line will have to be operated from the stairwell, perhaps for quite some time before any advancement can even be attempted. Advancing this line will not be easy: The entire attack line will have to be muscled up from below. This is where the unglamorous positions become so important.

The best situation is being able to stretch the attack line dry out onto the fire floor. A good example of this is a fire in a compartmentalized building, such as a high-rise multiple dwelling, where the fire is confined to the inside of an individual apartment and the door to that apartment has been controlled and is closed. This type of stretch can be completed safely only if the public hallway is clear of fire or heat and smoke conditions are not extremely heavy. The nozzleman should stretch the “working length” up to the fire apartment door and drop it at that location, making this the “drop point.” The nozzleman then leaves the nozzle at the door and places the coupling between the nozzle length and the middle length across the hallway opposite the fire apartment door. He then stretches this working length out fully down the hallway, away from the fire apartment, in the opposite direction from the supply, creating a large horseshoe in the attack line. This will provide 50 feet of hose, which will be easily advanced into the fire apartment without having to muscle additional hose from below (photo 33). For most sizes of apartments, 50 feet of working line is sufficient to reach all apartment areas. For larger apartments, additional hose can be brought up onto the fire floor before calling for water, but only if the fire apartment door or fire area is closed and controlled and conditions in the public hallway allow for a safe stretch.

One final tip: It is a good idea to mark all high-rise hose packs with a large, one- or two-inch brightly colored strip at the center point of the hose section. This makes it easy to identify the midpoint when completing hose stretches such as those previously described (photo 34).


Captain Mike Shepherd of DFD Engine Co. 15 set up the company’s pumper apparatus in a user-friendly manner with a wide selection of high-volume water delivery weapons, including the 212-inch handline. This handline can be stretched from all four sides of the engine. Also included in Engine 15’s arsenal are a 200-foot preconnected 212-inch attack line on the front bumper (photo 35); a 350-foot 212-inch preconnected/static bed located midship as a crosslay (Mattydale); a large, static hosebed located in the rear; a main hosebed that contains 750 feet of 212-inch attack line; and four sections of 212-inch hose set up as high-rise/standpipe hose packs (photo 36).

Engine 15’s daily routine includes a physical fitness program of running stairs at a local high-rise building and a regular training schedule. As a busy inner-city engine company, Engine Co. 15 takes time between calls to stay prepared, physically and mentally. Like most engine companies in the American fire service, DFD Engine Co. 15 will most frequently stretch and use a 134-inch preconnected attack line to quickly and safely control most fires. However, it will not be seen using this weapon at fires that require greater force because it’s the easiest line to use and the only one with which its members are acquainted.

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In the “Powell Doctrine,” one of the tenets espoused by former Secretary of State Colin Powell is that force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy.2 This philosophy should be applied to a fire department’s operations when faced with the enemy that is fire. All fire departments, including the smallest, should apply the concept of overwhelming and disproportionate force by training on the use of and proactively selecting the appropriate weapons for battle. The 212-inch handline can truly overwhelm a formidable fire. It should be used to combat a wide range of fires in big cities and small communities and is essential for fires that occur in high-rise and standpipe-equipped buildings.

With the proper attitude and by applying the “seven keys to success” introduced in Part 1, any department can use the 212-inch handline as an effective weapon. Is your engine company prepared to overwhelm the enemy with disproportionate force?

Special thanks to the members of DFD Engine Co. 15, specifically Captain Mike Shepherd, Engineer Ray Madrid, Firefighter Josh Ruby, and Firefighter Rob Burton, for their assistance in preparing this article, and to the members of the FDIC Engine Company Standpipe Operations Hands-On Training team.

1. I first introduced the high-rise/standpipe hose pack used by the Denver Fire Department in “High-Rise/Standpipe Hose Packs: A Primer, Part 1 and 2,” Fire Engineering, July and August 1999.

2. Cited by FDIC 2005 H.O.T. team member Harry Lee Davis during the standpipe H.O.T. program.

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