You can be the best possible firefighter in the world, but if you can't get the nozzle to the seat of the fire, you will never put the fire out. Stretching hose requires teamwork, discipline and practice.
Back in the day, we used to use 2 1/2-inch hoselines to practice in acquired buildings and training buildings just to develop the teamwork and proficiency necessary to move the large, heavy, cumbersome hose around corners, stairs and around obstructions. Too many firefighters today refuse to compromise or harness their own egos and work together as a team. Using the 2 1/2-inch hose demanded teamwork. Backup firefighters are very important in helping the team accomplish its mission. When stretching the heavy 2 1/2 around each corner, we would leave the last firefighter at that corner to help pull and shove hose to us. Although 1 1/2-inch line is much easier to deploy and maneuver, there will still come times when the last person on the hoseline needs to stop at the corner and continue to shuttle hose to the members in front and above him.
How do you become a pro at stretching a hoseline? One of the first things you want to do is take an honest assessment of your weaknesses, as a department, as a company and as a team. What are the specific weaknesses of the department, the company and the team that is working together? I know when I worked in Richmond, we did a wonderful job with one- or two-story house fires, but any fire that required us to stretch hose to the third floor or above; it looked like the Three Stooges just came on duty.
How about long stretches? Have you become dependant on your preconnected hoseline? What is the longest preconnect you carry? What do you do when you need a hoseline quickly deployed to an area where your preconnect won't reach? Do you double them up? How about bundle loads? Bundle loads are loaded similar to the way Chicago or New York City packs their lines and are deployed in a reverse-lay fashion, in other words, the wagon lays from the fire to the hydrant.
One thing that is not thought about by a lot about is the committee that purchases the fire trucks we ride. Are you buying and setting up your fire trucks for the area that they will work in? Some companies have buildings that are set back far off the road and require longer lines to reach, while other companies literally have only a small sidewalk and you are at the front door and a hundred feet of hose is too much. Set your fire truck up for the area where it will be doing its work.
Practice, practice, practice. I can't stress how important it is to practice. There are opportunities outside of the norm to practice. I remember using a six-story, masonry parking garage on Sunday mornings in an area that had virtually no traffic at that hour or on that day of the week. It had several concrete stairwells which afforded the opportunity to stretch hose up and it was virtually "firefighter proof." In other words, there was nothing in this building that we could possibly break; it was all concrete.
As I said, we were weak on third floor and above so we went down there several Sunday mornings and I literally challenged the guys to see who could be the fastest one to get the line to the fifth floor and get water flowing. This was a competition that became fun and we also learned a whole lot about ourselves and discovered little tricks to make these types of stretches easier and more efficient. It really paid off. A few months later, we had a serious fire at a furniture refinishing plant where we deployed a 600-foot line more quickly than most companies can deploy a 200-foot preconnect and we had water going on the fire with a 2 1/2-inch line and the chief scratched his head and asked me how we did it.
That's all for this month. Stretching Hose Like a Pro. Stay low, stay safe.