Engine Company Ops - The Attack Line

Remember 90% of all working fires are extinguished with one 1.75" hose line within 10-15 minutes of arrival.


Last article we discussed water supply. I know some of the brothers and sisters don't have the luxury of having hydrants in their districts and have to rely on creativity in order to get a reliable water supply. Having dinner the other night with a Chief from the Sound Beach Fire Department in Old Greenwich, Ct., I asked how his department deals with rural water supply problems. The Chief stated they had established a program in conjunction with homeowners where the homeowner would make their residential pool available for water supply. To enhance the program the fire department established a dry hydrant system that would use the water from these pools. Good idea.

As I could not cover all contingency plans, I hope you will take a good look at your district and map out your plans on water supply problems.

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Photo Courtesy Jay Heath

The next couple of articles will deal with hose line operations at specific fires.

Remember 90% of all working fires are extinguished with one 1.3/4" hose line within 10-15 minutes of arrival. Different structure fires require different hose line techniques. Arriving at a multiple dwelling fire you and your other two firefighters start stretching a 1 3 hose line to the third floor of a four story wood frame dwelling. Fire is showing out of two windows on the third floor and there is a heavy smoke condition on the fourth floor.

As the nozzle man, you pull off the first two lengths of hose and stand to the side as your backup person also removes two lengths of hose giving you four lengths ready to be stretched. The estimated hose stretch is four lengths, one length per floor plus one length for the fire area. You and your backup person begin the stretch into the structure, being the first to enter the fire building you chock the front entrance door and proceed up the stairs to the third floor carrying your length of hose. The backup person drops his lengths at the base of the interior stairs and helps stretch the additional lengths up the stairs. Reaching the fire floor the backup person helps get rid of the kinks and teams up with the nozzle person.

With the officer, nozzle man and backup man in position the officer will call for water. Being the nozzle man had crack open the nozzle a little a hiss of air will be heard before the water reaches the nozzle letting know water is on its way.

At this point in time the ladder company members should have arrived and force the fire apartment door and performed their primary search. The engine officer should have the nozzle team against the wall alongside the entrance door not in front of the fire door. When all truckies have exited the fire apartment the officer will start the advance momentarily letting the smoke and heat escape the apartment. This will hopefully prevent the nozzle team from getting burnt. As you enter the fire area move to the side of the door this way the nozzle team will be out of the path of exiting heat and smoke. Aim the nozzle upward rotating it counterclockwise and advance slowly staying low.

Stay low, Stay Low, Stay Low!!!!

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Photo Courtesy John Keenan
Photo shows how low the fire's heat line can get, and the importance of staying low to avoid serious injury.

I can't say that enough times. I don't know where we are going in the fire service when it comes to engine techniques. While I might not be popular with the statement "Stay down on your knees" I will tell you from experience that most burn injuries to engine firefighters are concentrated to their ears and neck. This occurs when the engine company is advancing their attack line and they place themselves in the heat zone.

Stay on your knees, if the water is starting to burn your knees then get up on your feet, but be careful the heat line is going to be right above your head and if you are not careful you are going to get burnt. Sweep the floor in front of you and then get back down. As you get closer to the seat of the fire the heat line will be lower. If you duck walk or extend your legs in front of you, you are placing yourself in the heat zone and are very unstable.

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