Stretching Dry: Increasing Engine Company Effectiveness

Stretching a hoseline dry to the drop point is a real time saver and reduces stress dramatically.A good engine company knows how to get a line into operation very quickly while at the same time providing for the safety of firefighters. While the length...

But at what point do we call for water? What would be some good rules of thumb? These points offer a start:

  • Use compartmentation to enhance your safety
  • Use elevation differences for greater protection
  • Use the exterior for your safety

Compartmentation is simply using fire resistive features to your advantage. For example, many building components offer some degree of fire resistivity. A fire rated door mounted within a fire rated wall and ceiling assembly offers protection to firefighters. With this protection intact, an engine company can stretch to this point with the line dry.

Differences in elevation take advantage of stretching a hoseline dry to the floor below the fire. This area of refuge offers a clear and smoke free atmosphere without the dangers of rollover or flashover.

The building dimensions, construction, fire location and extent may preclude stretching a line dry into the interior. This would call for the hoseline to be stretched dry to an exterior entrance of the building and water called for prior to entering.

The emphasis brought out by each of these three points is that a dry line must never be taken into areas that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). Areas prone to extreme forms of fire behavior such as flashover and rollover preclude any dry hoseline stretch. Remember, smoke contains combustible gases that when mixed with air and heat will ignite. Rapid fire spread is a very real consideration. A charged line offers significant protection.

When stretching a dry line, the nozzle firefighter should always be in the habit of taking not only the nozzle but also a fifty-foot length of hose to what is best identified as the drop point (see Figure 2). The drop point is that point within a building where compartmentation, elevation, or the building's exterior offer protection to the firefighters. It is also an area where fifty feet of hoseline can be flaked out so as to eliminate any kinks in the line.


Stretching a hoseline is critical to fireground success. Stretching a hoseline dry to the drop point is a real time saver and reduces stress dramatically. The key is to know when to call for water.

To gain real proficiency, try most of your stretches with 2 1/2-inch hose. By doing this, members will find the stretch of 1 3/4-inch hose extremely easy and more importantly won't forget the 2 1/2-inch line when it is needed most.

ARMAND F. GUZZI, Jr. has been a member of the fire service since 1987. He is a career firefighter with the City of Long Branch, NJ, and is the Firefighter 1 Program Coordinator for the Monmouth County, NJ, Fire Academy, where he has taught since 1990. He has a Masters Degree in Management and undergraduate degrees in Fire Science, Education, and Business Administration. You can reach Armand by e-mail