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When and where a fireground commander orders the first attack hoseline to be stretched is a critical decision at a building fire.
Most structural fires are extinguished by the first hoseline. If the first hoseline stretched is sent to the right location and it extinguishes the blaze, the second hoseline will not be needed or is stretched only as a precaution.
Photo by Ken Love
Rockford, IL, firefighters stretch a hoseline through a door of a burning home on Christmas Day 1996. For a room and/or content fire in a house or apartment, recommended procedures call for the first attack hoseline to be stretched in a front, rear or side doorway.
A properly positioned first attack hoseline saves most lives at a fire, confines the fire and reduces property damage. If the hoseline goes to the right place and extinguishes the fire, every other firefighting tactic will go smoothly. The searches will proceed quickly, firefighters will get into position and venting to save lives will be effective; sufficient personnel will be available for laddering, examination for fire spread will be performed safely above the fire and rescues of trapped victims will proceed with less danger to firefighters.
There are no hard and fast rules for hoseline placement. A fire chief and company officer must be flexible. However, there are some general guidelines of hoseline placement. The following hose placement procedures have proven effective in the FDNY.
Placement of the first attack hoseline. For a room and/or content fire in a house or apartment, the first attack hoseline is stretched by firefighters through a front, rear or side doorway. The hose stream nozzle is positioned and used to drive heat, flame and smoke from inside to outside through a vented window or other door or through an opening created by an "outside vent firefighter."
The first attack hoseline stream is usually not directed into a flaming window. One of the advantages of advancing the first attack hoseline through a door rather than directing it through a window is that unconscious, trapped victims are often found inside the door or in the hallway leading from the door to the fire. An analysis of fire victims trapped and killed in burning buildings revealed most fire victims are discovered in the fire area. The next location in which fire victims are discovered is in the hallways or corridors leading to an exit. They were trying to escape the flames and were rendered unconscious by smoke, heat or toxic gases in the path to the door. Firefight-ers advancing the first attack line through a doorway often come across these victims on the way to extinguishing the fire.
Placement of the second attack hoseline. Most fire departments in America do not have enough firefighters at a fire scene to stretch a second hose. Mutual aid or a firefighter responding from home must arrive before a backup hose is stretched, so this makes correct placement of the first line even more important. However, when there are enough firefighters to stretch, where should the second line go?
If there is an exposure problem, such as flame spreading to a nearby structure, the second line goes there; flame coming out a window is not an exposure problem if there is no nearby building. At most building fires there are no visible outside exposure. The exposure problem is most often an inside exposure.
What if flames are sweeping up a stair or shaft, or fire is spreading inside a wall or concealed ceiling space? To protect against inside fire spread the second line is needed inside the burning building. The second hoseline stretched follows the path of the first line up the interior stair or to the side door or rear entrance.
The advantage of having a backup second hoseline stretched into the burning building right behind the first line are: