The Probie's Guide to the Engine Company: Lines, Lines, Lines - Part II

Part I of this series presented the need to have the hose racked properly and how to sizeup and estimate a stretch. In Part II we will go over stretching the line to the fire room and some common problems.

From the street to the fire door
"Engine 7 to Engine 7 Pump, charge the line." As the barman of Ladder 3 slips the Hydra-Ram in to force the apartment door open, the probie takes the nozzle and kneels down on it on the floor. While slipping his facepiece and hood on, his lieutenant tells him water is on the way. He can see through the narrow opening as the door is forced, a dull orange glow. Smoke begins to collect at the top of the second floor landing. "Suit up" the lieutenant tells him, as he puts his own facepiece on. With his regulator in place he grips ahold of the nozzle and inches up close to Ladder 3's interior team.

"Aw man, it's just the kitchen off, that's all" says the can man. The probie can hear he is breathing fast and tries to calm himself down. The line is charged and he opens the nozzle slightly to bleed the air. "Open it all the way." the lieutenant tells him. As he does the stream bounces off the floor. "Okay, good. Shut it down." More smoke banks down on them and the barman checks to see if the engine company is ready. The probie and lieutenant move up to the door and the barman opens it fully. The probie can feel the heat and sees flames rolling partly across the living room. "Let's go" the lieutenant tells him, moving him into the room.

He stops and starts to kneel down in the middle of the room and is pushed forward by the lieutenant. "No, a little closer. It's just a kitchen, come on, get up on it!" As he creeps forward he sees the barman, can man and captain of Ladder 3 move around him, left, right and down the apartment hallway. "Okay, up at the ceiling over the fire and open it all the way and keep your hand off the bale." Pointing the nozzle up at the top of the kitchen ceiling, he pulls hard on the bale, adjusts his stance, and remembering his training, moves the stream left and right at the top of the kitchen.

"Get up off of both knees." "Okay, get up, walk it in" says the lieutenant. Instantly visibility has gone to seeing nothing but black and the heat has dropped. They move up a bit more and the probie can see embers and debris flying around. "Drop it down some" the lieutenant says, and the probie moves the stream down, playing it across the cabinetry. He can hear the water knocking stuff off the counter, out of the cabinets.

To his right he notices a soft glow, and on his left he hears the truckies moving around, the captain of Ladder 3 telling the lieutenant the primary search is negative. "Okay, shut it down and let this lift a little bit and we'll see what we got" the lieutenant tells him. As he shuts the line down he can feel the tension in his arms and shoulders, notices his heavy breathing, is hearing transmissions on his radio and he feels the slap of something on his back as the can man moves him aside to start opening up.

"Good job kid," the backup firefighter tells him through his mask, "good job."

From the Street to the Fire Door
Part I of this series presented the need to have the hose racked properly and how to size-up and estimate a stretch. In Part II we will go over stretching the line to the fire room and some common problems. Note: all photographs are illustrative of the subject and not necessarily actual firefighter/fireground errors. The terms are either department-specific or are from my own experience.

"The control firefighter's primary function is to assure that the correct amount of hose is stretched in order that the nozzle reaches the seat of the fire...The success of an engine company hoseline operation relies greatly upon the actions of the control firefighter...A hoseline that is stretched quickly but in an uncontrolled fashion may result in excess hose and kinks or insufficient hose and a short stretch."* Emphasis mine.

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