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

The probie is beat. In addition to the day's runs, he has washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed the bunkroom, and made another pot of coffee. He muddled through a first due address drill and is studying from his rookie book, slowly nodding off to...


The probie is beat. In addition to the day's runs, he has washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed the bunkroom, and made another pot of coffee. He muddled through a first due address drill and is studying from his rookie book, slowly nodding off to sleep. He's been given the lineman spot tonight and aside from an earlier car fire the most hose time he has had has been washing the engine.

The intercom wakes him up with a shout, "first due box! 7701 Congress Street!" As they pull out, he remembers going there for a medic local earlier and he remembers the lieutenant telling him about sizing up how many lengths of hose it would take to reach the apartment they were in. He listens as the radio rebroadcasts "7701 Congress Street, smoke coming from apartment 2 Baker on the second floor. Engine 7, Ladder 3..."

Remembering his lesson he thinks, one length from the wagon to the door, one from the door to the floor, and he hears the wagon driver yell "layout!" In a few seconds they are in front of an apartment building with its occupants coming out. He moves to the backstep and grabs the first shoulder load of the 250' line, drapes it over his shoulder and steps aside. The lieutenant glances at him and the backup firefighter as they start the initial stretch. "Watch around those cars!' the lieutenant yells as they move past parked cars in front of the building and up the walk to the front door. The probie knows the lieutenant is telling them to mind the hose that it doesn't become snagged up under a tire or on a bumper. He sees his officer taking a chock off his helmet to wedge the door open, and then sees him bound up the steps and up the stairway.

The backup firefighter yells to the probie that he's flaking out his shoulder load and to keep going. As he makes his way inside and up the stairs, he's jostled by the occupants leaving the second and third floors on the way down and the forcible entry team of Ladder 3 on the way up. He keeps a hold on his shoulder load as he makes the turn up to the second floor landing. He can smell the fire, a good wood burning smell and not that acrid food on the stove odor that stays with you all night. As he gets on the second floor, he sees the lieutenant chocking open the apartment door next to where the truckies from 3 are beginning to force entry. "Start flaking some of that hose in here" the lieutenant tells him. And as he does he hear his handie talkie report "Engine 7 to Engine 7 pump, charge the line" (see photo 1).

Make your Bed Right Every Time

While at Hyattsville, there was a member who is a smart firefighter, driver and operator. He would get ribbed by the guys sometimes and called a 'hose Nazi'. Whenever this member came in and saw hose in the bed not racked right, he'd make a few brief, mild comments to those in the station, never in a rage, and then pull the engine out and take the hose off and rack it correctly. His simple retort to the nickname was "if you pack it right, it will come out right, no matter who you are."

The reason why lines have to be packed "just so" isn't so the back end of your engine looks nice, although that is a benefit, but it is so it comes off quick and easy. This is especially important in combination and volunteer departments. Having an agreed upon hose bed setup and way to pack the hose will eliminate discovering any changes on the fireground.

Imagine if you will that your engine has always carried 150 feet of 1-3/4-inch in a crosslay in a minuteman load. Captain Jimmy and a few guys one afternoon decide that it should be 100-foot flat loaded and they change it. You go to a fire before the company meeting, reach up and expect to see a shoulder load of 100 feet, the nozzle below the folds, and a pull off 50 feet. You're surprised as you stretch in a length short and with a pile of spaghetti at the base of the pump panel. This has happened in the real world. Hose loads need to be repacked properly, in a department wide agreed upon manner, to make the next stretch to the seat of the fire quick, efficient and to eliminate problems such as kinks and snags on obstructions (see photo 2).

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