How to Take a Charged Line Up a Ladder
Dick Sylvia’s Volunteers Comer
Taking a charged line up a ladder is one of the toughest jobs on the fireground. And because this evolution is so precarious, it requires exceptional teamwork to be accomplished safely and quickly.
The two factors that create the difficulty are the added weight of the water in the charged line and rigidity of the hose. These are the same two troublemakers that make it advisable to stretch dry lines whenever possible.
Three times the weight: But once a line is charged, we are faced with handling an additional 106 pounds of water in each 50-foot length of 2 ½-inch hose. This means that we have to haul as much as three times the weight of some dry hose.
The other problem – the rigidity of the hose-is intensified as the pressure increases. With water flowing, the pressure at any point in the length of hose back of the nozzle is no more than a few more pounds higher than the tip pressure.
Static pressure: But let’s take a look at the situation when we shut down the nozzle to move the line. When water is no longer flowing through the hose, the pressure at the pump becomes the pressure at every point in the hose line.
This means that if you have a fairly long lay and the pump is working at 180 pounds, you face the problem of jockeying a charged line up a ladder that is stiffened to the extent of 180 psi throughout the entire length. During a drill, try bending a 2½inch hose with this pressure. Then bend the same hose with 50 psi throughout its entire length.
You will begin to understand why teamwork is so vital to taking a charged line up a ladder. The hose is usually so stiff that if the men on the line move it up too quickly, the nozzleman is in danger of being knocked off the ladder.
Proper spacing: Unlike a dry line situation, the men on a charged line should be 8 to 10 feet apart.
This is where the handles on a playpipe prove their worth. The nozzleman holds the playpipe by the handle in one hand. He uses the other hand to grasp the ladder. And here there is a difference of opinion. Some fire departments prefer that the nozzleman grasp the beam of the ladder. By doing this, he maintains a sliding grip on the ladder. Other departments train their men to grasp the rungs with one hand as they climb.
The other men use hose straps or rope hose tools to hold the hose in one hand. If the nozzle is going to be worked from the ladder, then the nozzleman must have a hose strap just behind the playpipe coupling. If he has no playpipe, then he, too, will carry the hose with a strap.
Controlled speed: Experience in drilling fire fighters from many departments has shown me that is the time when the nozzleman is most likely to be silent — probably through exertion in handling the hose. But this is the time when the nozzleman must speak up —loud and clear — to control the speed at which the men advance the line up the ladder.
If the hose moves too quickly, the nozzleman is in danger of being pulled off the ladder. Or he might lose his grip on the playpipe. If the hose crew moves too slowly, the nozzleman will find that he is beginning to pull too hard. He will begin to feel that he is pulling up the hose all by himself. He should be carrying the weight of his section of the hose line, but the work of getting the line up the ladder should be done by the other men. If the second man on the line is at the proper distance from the nozzle — 8 to 10 feet — the stiffness of the hose will keep the pipe going up the ladder. The nozzleman controls its direction.
Leg lock: When the desired height is reached, the nozzleman orders the crew to lock in. One leg is thrust over the rung at knee height and the foot is then brought back under that rung. The top of this foot is then placed atop the nearest beam.
The nozzleman then puts the playpipe over the rung nearest his waist and then pushes the pipe slightly beyond the rung. He then passes the end of the hose strap or rope hose tool behind the next rung above the nozzle and brings it toward himself. The strap or rope, now between the nozzleman and the ladder, is then secured to the second or third rung above the nozzle – depending upon the length of the strap. The other men now push up enough hose to make a slight bow in the line at the nozzle. They then secure the line to the ladder at the beam, and the nozzle can now be opened. The hose should be strapped as close to the butt as possible and an effort should be made to avoid bends in the hose for at least 10 feet out from the ladder.
All on one side: It should be obvious in attempting this evolution, that each man must hold the hose on the same side. The right side seems most natural to most right-handed men.
If the line is to be advanced from the ladder into a window or onto a roof, the second man unlocks and climbs past the nozzleman into the window or onto the roof. The nozzleman passes the nozzle to the No. 2 man and then joins him. The other men, who usually have to slide a few feet of hose up the ladder during the passing of the nozzle, now unlock and climb, holding hose with the straps.