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The first line stretch is a critically important task. It determines the outcome of the entire fire. If there are any problems with the first hoseline stretch, the chief must take action to solve the problem. After you size-up the fire, then size-up the hose stretch.
An experienced fire chief will usually stay in the street and observe the first line stretch before going inside to supervise the interior firefighting attack. A quick glance at the pump operator, the hydrant hookup, the flow of the hose layout and stretch will tell a lot about how things are going. Watching the hose jump and straighten out while being supplied with water and listening to the radio messages between the hose team officer and pump operator will tell of low pressure or kink problems.
A good predictor of how the firefighting effort will proceed is the success or failure of the first attack team's hose stretch. A frozen or broken hydrant, rubbish in the hydrant that may clog the strainer on the pumper inlet, centrifugal pump failure, a hose length bursting from overpressure, kinks or bends in the hose, or broken nozzles can indicate failure unless action is taken by the fireground commander.
Stretch a hoseline to the front of a building. After one, two or three hoselines have been stretched into a burning building and firefighters are advancing them toward the fire, sometimes there is no obvious need for another hoseline. This is the time to have firefighters stretch a hoseline to the front of the building and "stand fast" until there is another call for a line.
When you order a fire company to stretch a hoseline to the front of the burning building and stand by, you are being proactive with your hoseline placement. If there is a sudden need for a hoseline to cut off spreading fire in a building, the firefighters standing fast with the line nearby can quickly take it inside the building.
The advantage of stretching a hose to the front of the building and standing by is that the most time-consuming part of the hose stretch is completed. The firefighters must find a nearby pumper, select the proper nozzle and hose size, and stretch the hose to the front of the building with excess hose folded nearby. If the hoseline is not needed, however, you can order the fire company to "take it up."
Hose stretching from a standpipe outlet. The initial attack hoseline stretched from a standpipe system during a serious fire in a commercial building should be connected to the outlet on the floor below the fire, not to the outlet on the same floor as the fire. The advantages to connecting the hose to the standpipe outlet on the floor below the fire are:
- It prevents overcrowding. The forcible entry team has space to use tools, control the door and make preliminary searches from the stair landing on the fire floor, while the hose team on the floor below can stretch out and connect the hose and nozzle on the stair landing out of the way.
- If flame and heat explode out the door to the fire floor, that could prevent a firefighter from operating the nearby standpipe outlet valve controlling water pressure. Also, firefighters operating the hoseline could temporarily back down the stairs several steps to avoid heat and direct the stream through the open door.
- Excess hose can be played out in the hall and stairs safely on the floor below the fire. FDNY Firefighter John King was killed at a fire in which he was laying out excess hose being connected to a standpipe on the same floor as the fire. As he played the uncharged hose folds up the stairs, the door was forced open. So much fire, heat and smoke burst out of the doorway that King was trapped on the stairs above the fire.
Hose stretching to supply a standpipe and sprinkler. A fireground commander must always size-up the front of a burning building to determine if it has a sprinkler system siamese. If it does, the system must be supplied with water. Fire departments have been sued for considerable sums of money to compensate for fire damage when a sprinkler system was not supplied or the water supply to a sprinkler from a water main was diverted to pumpers.