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.

No matter if your attack lines come off the bumper, the crosslay or the backstep, someone in your engine company is supposed to insure that the hose stretch is done correctly. Some departments have in their engine company riding assignments, a position that is responsible for this task. In the FDNY, the position is called the "control" position. This firefighter is responsible for judging the situation and estimating the number of lengths to use, chasing kinks, assist the engine company chauffer with the hydrant connection, chocking doors and feeding the line, as well as other duties specific to the engine company's position due. Your own engine company should have someone working in a role similar to the control so that your hoseline stretch is done correctly. Not for the fact that it is because they do it like that in New York, but that most problems with the hoseline stretch occur in the street.

Problem No.1: "Rip and Run"
As was presented in Part I, there is a specific reason as to why we rack the hose the way we do. It is to make sure that the hoseline selected can be quickly and properly taken to the seat of the fire. In order to do this your engine company has decided to rack your attack lines in a way that should be the easiest for the majority of your members. Having a firefighter grab the nozzle only (see photo 2), or the nozzle and one fold of hose, and then running to the fire building causes the hoseline to not come off your engine correctly, leaving a pile of kinked hose in the street.

Most shoulder loads, or any load for that matter, are arranged so that the firefighter can either take off the whole amount (depending on the total number of lengths and arrangement) or an amount sufficient for him to work with as he enters the fire building.

Problem No.2: "The Off the Shoulder Load"
One area that I still see when new members work on pulling hoselines is that they are in such a rush that they fail to get the complete load on their shoulder. What usually happens is that the lineman grabs the hose, pulls it out approximately a foot or so and then, with both hands, drapes it over his shoulder while stepping down from the engine (see photo 3). This leaves the lineman looking as if he has ahold of a bag over his shoulder and as he advances to the fire building, the folds begin to slip out of his grasp, hose catches on obstructions, and the entire load is dropped at the front door.

To make sure you can have your hose properly deployed, you need to have it (if it is a shoulder load) draped across your shoulder at its middle point. The nozzle should be somewhere in the area of your waist or your knees. This helps keep the hose on your shoulder without its own weight pulling it off. It also allows you to keep the opposite side hand somewhat free, since you won't need both hands to hold the hose on your shoulder.

Problem No.3: "Not Clearing the Bed"
Depending upon how your hose loads are arranged and apparatus staffing, you may have a length or more left in the bed as the majority of the hose is stretched (see photo 4). Two problems occur when it is not communicated beforehand who will be responsible for making sure that all of the selected hose is out of its bed. One problem is that everyone thinks someone else will do it. The other problem is that a rush to clear the bed results with a pile of spaghetti at the pump panel or back step, by some firefighter simply yanking the remaining hose off (see photo 5).

The solution to the first problem is to determine who is responsible for clearing the bed. Some departments will state that it is the driver's responsibility, some say the firefighter assigned to the nozzle. Some say it is the responsibility of the last firefighter on the hoseline. And some hoselines are arranged so that the bed is completely cleared when the line is pulled. As part of your guide to your engine company, you need to work with your other firefighters and officer to have a solution.

A good rule of thumb would be to have the last firefighter to assist with stretching the hoseline go back to the engine and check the bed. It would only take a second or two. The solution to the second problem is found in having an understood and teachable manner in how your company will stretch each line depending upon staffing. I have always said, and it is proven, that a hoseline that requires four or more firefighters to properly stretch can also be properly stretched by three or even two. The only difference is in the speed of the stretch.

Rushing around, grabbing folds of hoseline, tossing them here and there, accomplishes nothing, tires out the firefighter needlessly and does not eliminate common hoseline problems.