Pros and Cons of The Forward Stretch

The forward stretch is used routinely by many fire departments for getting water from a source (hydrant) to an attack engine. This evolution is especially effective in the early stages of an intense and/or growing incident.


Firefighters are enjoying the quiet of a summer afternoon in their fire station discussing the night’s dinner when the stationhouse speakers crackle. The dispatcher announces “a reported structure fire” with a sense of urgency. Within seconds, firefighters are hustling toward their...


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Firefighters are enjoying the quiet of a summer afternoon in their fire station discussing the night’s dinner when the stationhouse speakers crackle. The dispatcher announces “a reported structure fire” with a sense of urgency.

Within seconds, firefighters are hustling toward their apparatus. The alarm is repeated twice. A few more seconds and fire companies are rolling. Firefighters are aware of the neighborhood from the address given. Enroute, firefighters are talking in the cab while donning their gear and equipment. As the first-due engine turns the last street corner before arriving at the reported address, it becomes obvious – a well-involved, two-story, wood-frame mixed occupancy about halfway down the block is sending heavy black smoke into the afternoon sky. Lots of fire is rolling from the structure, plus there is a severe exposure problem with a nearby two-story converted single-family dwelling on the number 4 side.

The first engine is staffed with an officer, a driver/pump operator and two firefighters. The engine has slowed its response before arriving at the fire building, even though there is a lot of excitement and an urge to rush to do things. Firefighters are looking for a close-by hydrant to “catch” before arriving at the scene – the engine is going to perform a forward stretch (also called a forward lay).

A hydrant is spotted and the engine stops across from it. A firefighter takes the large-diameter hose (LDH) from the hosebed, a wrench and wraps the hydrant, then waves the engine on. The engine proceeds slowly toward the fire. At the scene, the officer tells the driver/pump operator to spot the engine for a deck gun operation and then radios in a well-involved two-story frame structure fire with a frame exposure problem. Other fire companies will be arriving in a few minutes.

The pump operator stops the engine at the designated spot, applies the brakes and engages the pump. The other firefighter on the company gets out, disconnects the LDH and hooks it into the pump’s large-diameter intake. The pump operator then radios the hydrant firefighter to charge the supply line as soon as he can and opens the air bleed. The officer has climbed on top of the engine, swings the deck gun into position and calls for water. The pump operator starts water from the engine’s tank and the water supply from the hydrant will be at the pump in seconds. The firefighter has been ordered by the officer to start stretching a 2½-inch handline with a solid-bore nozzle between the exposure and the fire building. He takes the working length and nozzle and begins taking the line while the pump operator helps him get the hose out of the bed.

The hydrant firefighter has rejoined his company and takes over stretching the 2½-inch handline for the pump operator. The pump operator has the supply line ready to feed the pump. The supply line is exhausted of air and then the intake is opened – a water supply is established. The two firefighters have stretched the 2½-inch handline into position and are calling for water. Their hose stretch is a 200-foot layout.

The pump operator reads his master gauges – his pump pressure for the deck gun is at 80 psi. His residual pressure is around 60 psi. He then opens the discharge for the handline. The pump pressure starts to drop as the firefighters flow water, so he builds pressure back up to approximately 75 to 80 psi while flowing. The deck gun has stacked tips and the 1¼-inch tip is being used now. The handline has a 11/8-inch tip. The water supply is adequate for both operations and knockdown is being achieved. The exposure is saved and the main body of fire is knocked down.

This small crew of firefighters accomplished several objectives early in this incident by good use of their equipment, using proper procedures and possessing a “can-do” attitude.

Getting Water To the Attack Engine

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