Problem No.4: "The Missing or Left Behind Backup Firefighter"
Two additional problems with hose stretches are caused by the missing or left behind backup firefighter. This firefighter is quickly right behind you when attacking the fire, but while you are stretching the line, he is nowhere to be found. Whether you have a specific backup position or not, this position is equally responsible for how the hoseline is deployed.
Depending upon the line length, the backup firefighter may have to simply make sure the bed is cleared, or he may have to properly shoulder his own sections of hose. The most common problem I have experienced is that the backup firefighter is left behind because the lineman has grabbed his section of hoseline and has made a "run for the hills". This leaves the backup firefighter trying to grab ahold of hose as it is being yanked and jerked out of the bed. Rather than take his sections properly, or stopping the lineman, the backup firefighter resorts to grabbing ahold of whatever amount of hose he can and trying to catch up with the lineman.
The second problem is when the backup firefighter simply abandons his company and heads into the fire building. Solutions to that problem are addressed by training and discipline. The backup firefighter, just like the lineman, needs to make sure he has ahold of his sections of hose properly (see photo 6). Depending on how the hoselines are packed, his sections will usually be the first to properly fall out during the stretch. As he and the line move towards the fire building and the fire room, he needs to be mindful of obstructions, pinch points, and chase kinks as well. Like any quality engineman, he should have a few chocks, either in his helmet band or pockets, and should be ensuring that the doors his company passes through are properly chocked open,
Problems with the stretch begin in the mind of every firefighter assigned to the engine company and if not corrected before the alarm, will continue out in the street. Regardless of whether your department is a large municipal department or a rural volunteer company, if you are assigned to the engine company you are responsible for a quick and efficient hoseline stretch, no matter your position on the hose. Take the time to practice stretching hoselines, experimenting with new loads to see what will work best for you overall situation. In the next article, the actions of the lineman, or nozzleman, will be presented, with a focus on sizeup of the fire room, operating the nozzle and making important decisions. Until then I leave you with what I consider the best quote about engine work.
"Good engine companies are aggressive but also disciplined. Disciplined engine companies 'take the time to make the time.' They take an extra 30 seconds to properly position the rig and estimate the handline stretch. They chock doors. They chase kinks. They see the big picture. Disciplined engine companies are deliberate, patient and professional. Is your engine company disciplined?" Andrew Fredericks, Firefighter. Squad Company 18, FDNY
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- FDNY Engine Company Operations, Chapter 5. The Control Position