Engine Work, Chicago Style

When deciding on what size hoseline to stretch at a structural fire, there are several options. The smaller hose sizes such as 1 1/2-inch and 1 3/4-inch are the most frequently pulled lines and can be used to extinguish everything from a vehicle fire to several rooms at a structural fire. The next size up is the two-inch line, which has a noticeable increase in discharge but is more maneuverable than the next larger size, the 2 1/2-inch line. The 2 1/2-inch is generally the largest handline used and is reserved for big jobs such as defensive operations and exposure protection.

If an engine company pulls a 1 3/4-inch hoseline for an interior attack on a structural fire and is pushed back or cannot advance on the fire, it may have to make a change in hoseline size. This change usually takes place when another engine crew stretches a 2 1/2-inch line or the first engine company drops the first line and returns to the pumper to stretch the big line.

The Chicago, IL, Fire Department has a hose load on all of its pumpers that allows firefighters to stretch a 1 3/4-inch line into a structure and a second line brought in by another engine can also be connected and operated off of this line. If that's not enough, as we all know is sometimes the case, this line can be converted to a 2 1/2-inch line with a solid-stream nozzle. How can they do all this with just one line? Let's take a look at Chicago's Engine 42.

For fire situations that the engine officer feels 1 3/4-inch hose can handle, an initial hoseline of 1 3/4-inch with a combination nozzle is pulled. There is 100 feet of 1 3/4-inch hose attached to a gated wye. The other side of the wye is left available for a second 1 3/4-inch hoseline that can be carried in and attached by a later-arriving engine company. This gated wye is attached to the threaded tip of a solid-stream nozzle connected to 700 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose (see photo on facing page).

Photo by John Salka Jr.
Chicago's Engine 42

A typical scenario may go like this: The engine company arrives at the scene of a fire in a two-story frame dwelling. Smoke is coming from several windows on the first floor and fire is showing from one window in the rear. The engine officer enters the house and determines that a single room is involved and calls for the 1 3/4-inch hoseline. The engine crew removes and stretches the 100 feet of 1 3/4-inch hose and nozzle to the fire area and the connected nozzle and gated wye are brought to the interior hall or front-door area. Depending on where the fire is located within the building will dictate where the wye will end up. Obviously, it must be placed in an area where the remaining 100 feet of hose will reach the fire area. If the fire is quickly extinguished and no further lines are required, the first option the single-line 1 3/4-inch stretch has done its job.

If after stretching and operating the first line off of the gated wye a backup line is needed in the fire area or above, another engine company can carry in several lengths of hose and a nozzle, attach it to the other side of the gated wye in the hall or stairway and quickly place a hoseline where it is most needed. The obvious advantage here is speed.

The fact that a second hoseline is being called for indicates that the fire is either too large for a single line to handle or is extending inside the structure. Running a second line off the gated wye, which is already inside the building and charged, is much faster than stretching a second line from the hosebed of the first engine apparatus, into the building, past the first engine and to the area of operations. This second option, the use of two 1 3/4-inch hoselines for more advanced fires, works well too.

The third option that can be taken with this single-hoseline stretch is a 2 1/2-inch line with a solid-stream tip. As stated earlier, the gated wye from which one or two 1 3/4-inch lines can be supplied is attached to the threaded tip of a solid-stream nozzle. If a fire overcomes the extinguishing power of the initial attack lines, the company can close the shut-off on the 2 1/2-inch nozzle and disconnect the gated wye. This leaves the firefighters with a 2 1/2-inch hoseline with a solid-stream tip, which may be what is needed to halt the progress of the fire. This conversion from 1 3/4-inch hose to 2 1/2-inch hose can be made as quickly as the firefighters can get to the 2 1/2-inch nozzle, shut it down and disconnect the wye. Once again, the initial line does not have to be shut down and a second line does not have to be stretched.

As can be seen, this single hoseline with its unique combination of hose, nozzles and a wye can be used for three separate situations. The routine one-line fire, the extending two-line interior attack or the 2 1/2-inch blitz can all be supplied individually or in succession.

Giving ourselves options and being able to implement them quickly are key to successful fireground operations, for Chicago's engine companies can't lose with this three-in-one hose stretch.

John J. Salka Jr., a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 15-year veteran of the FDNY and the captain of Engine 48 in the Bronx. He is an assistant chief of the South Blooming Grove, NY, Fire Department, an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science in Montour Falls, NY, and an instructor at the Orange County, NY, Fire Training Center.