The 4 Phases Of the Stretch: Phase 1

The opening article in this series ( Firehouse ® , April 2013) introduced the idea that the success of the hoseline stretch is based on four phases – preparation, size-up, making the stretch and advancing the attack line to extinguish the fire. The...

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Teach, don’t preach. Demonstrate the skills; don’t just point and talk:

  • Show the rookies how it’s done and set a benchmark for them to achieve.
  • Be accessible to the rookies and never be too busy to help them or answer their questions.
  • Challenge and test the rookies to ensure that they are absorbing and retaining the information.
  • Most importantly, be patient. You didn’t learn it all overnight and neither will they.


Engine training

Now that everybody knows their roles, start your training at the rig. To master the art of firefighting and master the stretch, rookie firefighters must be intimately familiar with the engine they will be responding on. Have the rookies diagram the hosebed and the compartments on your engine, and then have them study it until they can tell you what is in every compartment before they open it. They should be going over the hoselines until they can describe each attack line in detail. If they cannot answer all nine of the following questions, they are not as prepared as they should be:

1. How many attack lines are there on the engine?

  • Identify all options and choices available
  • Which is the primary line and why?

1. What diameter of hoseline and what length?

  • The diameter of the hose will determine the maximum flow
  • The length of the line will help them make the right choice so they don’t stretch short

2. What type of nozzle; i.e., smooth bore/fog? This is important when choosing the best stream to extinguish the fire.

  • Are you looking for penetration and reach? (Smooth bore)
  • Or trying to generate steam? (Fog)

3. What’s the gpm setting or tip size? This information helps you make good fire-flow decisions.

  • Are you using automatic nozzles with pre-set flows or are they adjustable gallonage?
  • What are the gpm capabilities of the various-size smooth-bore tips?

4. Type of hose load; i.e., flat/minuteman/bundle load?

  • How a particular attack line is loaded will determine the proper method to deploy it
  • Is the hose load designed to be stretched by one or two firefighters
  • Will the hose need to be inverted (nozzle on top/flat) or is the nozzle on the bottom (minuteman)?

5. Are the lines pre-connected or static? This has a lot to do with pre-planning your district.

  • Is your district relatively predictable allowing a pre-determined length to be pre-connected?
  • Or does your district present challenges that require the versatility of a static line?

6. Are they crosslays or do the lines come off the back step?

  • How your engine is positioned at the scene of a fire will affect the decision on which line to stretch
  • If you pulled past the structure, it will be more efficient to stretch off the rear (back step)
  • If you stopped short, stretching off the side may be a more efficient option (crosslay)

7. What is your role when making the stretch?

  • The success of the stretch is based on each member of the engine company knowing his or her job and the responsibilities that go with it
  • Who will start the stretch? Who will assist with the stretch? Who calls for water in the line?
  • A successful stretch doesn’t happen by luck or chance; you must have a plan

8. Does your department have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for stretching and operating attack lines?

  • SOPs ensure a coordinated and safe effort on the fireground
  • SOPs must be understood, followed and enforced
  • SOPs should be trained on regularly
  • SOPs eliminate freelancing and duplication of effort


Drill daily

Conduct drills on making the stretch every day. Demonstrate the correct techniques and skills, and then have the rookies perform them to your satisfaction. Take them step by step through the procedures and explain each step. You can start their training at the station, but get them out into your first-due district. Find vacant or unoccupied structures and have the rookies perform the stretch so they can experience firsthand the challenges they will face.