Dry & Wet Hoseline Stretches

Its 0200 HRS and you’re responding as part of an initial-response complement to a fire in a four-story, wood-frame, multi-family dwelling. Upon arrival, you observe fire coming out of a front window on the third floor of the dwelling, with people exiting the common center stairwell; more people are standing at their windows on the fourth floor. Smoke is visible in the glass stairwell above the third floor, indicating that the main means of egress for residents above the fire has been cut off and people are trapped in smoky apartments.

As the engine company arriving on the scene of this emergency, your action or inaction in the first couple of minutes could mean the difference between life and death for those trapped above or adjacent to this fire. Although you may be tempted to throw ladders or go into rescue mode, the most important life-saving technique that you must employ immediately is a properly deployed, pumped and advanced fire line to control the fire. Once the fire is controlled, everything else gets better.

In past articles, we’ve discussed hose loads, positioning of hoselines, chocking doors and working together to get fire lines in service. In this article, we’ll focus solely on how far to stretch a dry hoseline before you charge it with water to begin your advance on the fire.

The Need for Speed
The number one reason to take your hose uncharged as far as you can: to improve speed of deployment. The key is to get the line as close to the fire as safely as possible before you put water in it so you can get to the fire faster.  

Think about it: Stretching an uncharged hoseline up two flights of steps is much easier than advancing a charged line up those same flights of stairs. And stretching a dry line from an enclosed stairwell to an apartment door is easier than advancing a charged hoseline that was stretched and charged from a stairwell, even if the hallway is free of products of combustion.

As you evaluate your buildings and train on hose deployment, remember the old adages: “Work smarter, not harder” and “Take time to save time.” By stretching and flaking hose prior to charging, you save energy and time. An uncharged hose is simply easier to move and lay out.

Also keep in mind that if you have buildings in your response area that allow you to stretch closer to the fire (those with interior stairwells, long hallways, etc.), you should have hoseloads that facilitate deployment in these situations. For example, a triple layer or stacked load doesn’t work well for advancement of a dry line to the third floor; however, a flat load, minuteman load or a reverse-horseshoe type load all work well.

When Not to Charge & What to Watch For
When not to charge always depends on fire location and extent. You shouldn’t be charging a dry hoseline if you can’t see the line (due to smoke); it should be charged prior to that point. Why? 1) It’s easier to see the objects that your hose may get caught up on when you’re not in a smoke-filled environment, and 2) it ensures you don’t get caught in a rapid fire progression event without a charged hoseline.

As you operate on the engine company deploying hoselines, you must know the warning signs of flashover or rapid fire progression: pressurized, dark smoke; high heat; roll-over; a lowering thermal layer; and superheated air and/or pyrolysis. These conditions were a key factor in the death of Cincinnati firefighter Oscar Armstrong on March 21, 2003. Armstrong had advanced an uncharged hoseline into an extremely hostile fire environment without water in an effort to extinguish the fire more quickly. But without water, you can’t control or extinguish any fire. There were other issues associated with his death, but one of the biggest was over-commitment with an uncharged hoseline, they had gone past the point where they should have called for and waited for water. (Note: To review the Cincinnati Fire Department’s enhanced LODD report, visit www.iaff48.org/documents.cfm.)

Where & How?
You should be able to advance, flake and stage hose in any atmosphere that’s free of products of combustion (smoke). These areas may be:

  • Outside a fire building;
  • On the floor below the fire floor;
  • On the stairs or stair landing below the fire floor;
  • In an enclosed stairwell up to the level of the fire floor where you can be protected by a fire door; or
  • Up to the door of an apartment on the fire floor, provided the door is closed, controlled and not opened until the hose stretch is ready.

Outside the building
When entering an area where you’ll encounter fire from the outside entrance point (front door, basement access, etc.), you must first advance from the apparatus and:

  1. Flake the hose in order to assist your advance.
  2. If possible, flake perpendicular to the door to eliminate another bend in the hose as you enter and turn left or right.
  3. Stage at least 50 feet of hose to cover the fire area.
  4. Remember to leave someone to move the hose to the nozzle team.
  5. Charge, bleed and test flow. You should know if you have a kink or water issues based on your flow, reach and stream characteristics.

Floor below the fire or stairs/landing below the fire in open or compromised stairwell
When entering a floor where products of combustion are present, or an occupied space (apartment) that leads directly from the stairs:

  1. Stop one to two floors below.
  2. Take the nozzle and first  coupling to the landing below the entry door so you have hose flaked below for an advance.
  3. Remember to position someone on the stairs to feed the hose as it’s advanced.
  4. Charge, bleed and test flow. You should know if you have a kink or water issues based on your flow, reach and stream characteristics.

Enclosed stairwell
When entering a floor or apartment where you have the protection of an enclosed stairwell with a fire door to seek refuge:

  1. Flake halfway up the landing. Don’t take the bend around the return stairwell or the hose will get caught. This helps with advancement because it uses gravity to your benefit. Control the door.
  2. Remember to position someone on the stairs to feed the hose as it’s advanced.
  3. Charge, bleed and test flow. You should know if you have a kink or water issues based on your flow, reach and stream characteristics

To the door of an apartment on the fire floor
Use caution to ensure the door is controlled. This means communicating with all firefighters (truckies) to make sure the door isn’t opened or control isn’t lost until the hose is ready and charged. If a search needs to be initiated before the hose enters, close the door. If you suspect heavy fire, control the door, then:

  1. Flake to hose in the hallway and have 50 feet of hose ready to make the apartment when you begin your advance.  The best way to accomplish this is to stop short of the door and flake the hose as you approach, with the first coupling closest to the door leading to the fire.
  2. Charge, bleed and test flow. You should know if you have a kink or water issues based on your flow, reach and stream characteristics.

A word of caution: It’s strongly recommended that search operations be delayed until the line is in position and charged. If the situation calls for a search in front of the line, the line should be charged, staffed and in position for the crew’s protection.

Other Keys to Success

  1. Ensure all doors that your hose passes through are controlled (chocked—always give consideration to the air track and ventilation affects when chocking doors) to ensure you get water when you need it. An uncharged hose easily fits under a door, and that door will cut off water once the hose is charged.
  2. Always make sure you have a good stream and flow before committing to the fire area.
  3. Don’t take too much hose to the point of charging, and advance to eliminate kinks and poor water flow.
  4. Use hallways and rooms on floors below the fire to stage extra hose to ease in advancement into large areas. The closer you can get extra hose during your advance, the easier it will be for your support firefighters to feed the hose to your nozzle team, thus allowing for more rapid fire extinguishment.
  5. Be cautious when dealing with wind-driven fires, or when advancing into a long hallway or apartment on an upper floor that’s exposed to wind.
  6. Take a little time to save crucial time.

Back to the Beginning
Returning to the scenario at the beginning of this article, what should you do? With people trapped on the fourth floor of the building, you must first rapidly deploy your hose load to the landing on the second floor. Then flake the last 50 feet as far as you can up the stairs so you have the nozzle and a loop of hose below you for the apartment. Next, flake excess hose on the second floor and force a door, if needed, to stage extra hose on that floor. All of this should take 30 seconds or so. Lastly, call for water (charge, bleed and test flow) and initiate attack on the fire apartment.

Remember: Proper deployment and operation of the hoseline will save more lives than any other tactic on the fireground. The faster we can get the hoseline into position, the better—and safer—everything else becomes. But efficiency in this task requires constant hands-on training—so get out there and practice!

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