Hoseline Placement At Structural Fires

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...


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  1. This is a safety action to protect firefighters operating the first attack hoseline in case of explosion, flashover or collapse.
  2. If the first hose suffers a burst length or broken nozzle, the second hose team can move into position and attack the blaze.
  3. If there is too much fire for one hose attack team to extinguish, two hose lines working side by side may be successful.
  4. If there is no need for the second hoseline, and the first hose attack team can handle the room and content fire, it is important to get the second hoseline up to the floor above, the attic or an adjoining room to cut off spreading fire.

Improper hose placement. Once I did not follow the above hose placement guidelines during a fire and it almost became a disaster.

The fire occurred on the second floor of a four-story multiple dwelling of ordinary construction. An inexperienced firefighter was assigned to perform forcible entry. Upon arrival, flames were blowing out one window which led directly to a fire escape on the front of the building. The first hoseline had already been stretched up the interior stairs and charged with water. You could hear the firefighters' tool-pounding attempts to force the door.

After I ordered a second hoseline, flames broke out a second window and began to spread into an open window on the floor above. An unusual radio report from inside stated they could not force open the heavily padlocked apartment door. As firefighters stretching the second hose passed in front of me, I redirected them to stretch up the fire escape and advance in on the fire through the fire escape window. I also ordered the hose team inside to bring the hose up to the apartment above to stop the "auto exposure fire spread."

As the firefighters advanced through the burning apartment from the fire escape, disaster struck! The forcible entry team suddenly forced open the door to the second-floor apartment. The firefighters advancing the hose from the fire escape drove flames out into the public hall and up the interior stairs. Now I had fire spreading up the interior stairs and a fire company with a hoseline trapped on the floor above the fire.

After several "Maydays," the firefighters with the initial hoseline up the interior stair fought their way back down the stair with the hose, and the firefighters advancing the hose from the fire escape window extinguished the fire in the second-floor apartment.

After the fire was out, I realized what an error of hose placement I had made. The lessons learned were:

  1. The importance of forcible entry.
  2. The first hoseline goes to the seat of the fire and attacks the fire from a door and pushes the fire outward and protects the interior stairs.
  3. The second hoseline should back up the first hoseline and if necessary goes to the floor above.
  4. If necessary, the third hoseline should be stretched and advanced from the fire escape window.
  5. A hoseline should not pass fire.
  6. When forcing open a door, it is important to control the door and not let it swing open into the flaming apartment. A gloved hand or six-foot hook can sometimes reach in and close a door or a rope tied to the door knob during forcible entry can control the door.

Get water in the first hoseline before you stretch a second hoseline. A wise old pump operator told me "hoselines should be stretched in series, not parallel."

During the initial attack on a burning building, flame and smoke may be visible at several locations. Fire may show at the front door, rear windows and side alleys. People in the street will call for help from several locations and urge you to stretch hoselines to several different places at the same time. If three or four hoselines are stretched at the same time to different locations, this can create a disorganized operation and actually delay water being delivered into the fire. Firefighting resources well be fragmented and ineffective.

Generally, it is more effective for all firefighters on the scene to stretch one hoseline at a time. Get water in this first hoseline before you start another. All the firefighters are needed to connect the pumper to the hydrant, choose the nozzle and hose, stretch the hose from the pumper to the fire and charge the hose with water. After this is completed, start the second line after the second hoseline is stretched and charged, start the third line if necessary. There is a saying in the fire service: "Stretch the first hoseline right and you may not need another."

Size-up the hose stretch. A veteran fire chief told me that one of the most important size-ups to make at a fire is to size-up the hose stretch of the first attack hoseline.