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• Do you have a small fire contained to one room?
• Or is the first floor fully involved and rapidly extending to the second floor and the exposure?
4. What is your mode of attack – interior/offensive or exterior/defensive? This information will help you determine the knockdown power of your hose and nozzle combination.
• Do you need a 2½-inch attack line with a smooth-bore tip to knock the fire down from outside?
• Or will you need a 1¾-inch line with a combination nozzle for an interior attack?
Selecting a hoseline and nozzle
Once you answer these four questions, you can choose the appropriate-size hoseline and nozzle. The selection should be based on the conditions found during the size-up. Too many times, firefighters deploy attack lines at a fire out of habit or laziness. They stretch the line they always stretch because they cannot think outside of the box or they stretch the line that is lighter and easier to maneuver, regardless of whether it has adequate flow to extinguish this fire.
5. Where and how is the engine positioned? This helps you determine the most efficient place to start your stretch, depending on your engine’s layout and options.
• Did you pull past (stretch off the back step)?
• Or stop short (stretch from the front bumper or a crosslay)?
6. What are your obstacles – fences, cars, dogs, people? This helps you determine the appropriate amount of hose needed to reach the building (travel length).
• The more obstacles to get around, the more travel hose you will need to negotiate each turn. Never use the hose in your working length to help you reach the structure.
7. What floor is the fire on and where will you enter to attack the fire? This helps you determine how much hose you will need to reach the fire (working length).
• Is the attack entrance the main entrance of a dwelling with a fire on the first floor?
• Or the apartment entrance for a fire on the third floor of a garden apartment building?
8. Are we operating in the main fire building or an exposure? This helps you determine the length of the stretch.
• Is it a relatively short stretch within the reach of your attack line lengths?
• Or is it a long stretch that will force you to extend the attack line?
Answer questions five to eight and you can estimate your stretch.
Estimating the stretch
What is a stretch estimate and why is it necessary? A stretch estimate is conducted as part of your size-up to make sure you deploy enough hose to not only reach the building, but to make sure you have enough hose to reach the fire. One of the most common fireground errors to occur when making the stretch is focusing solely on reaching the building’s entrance and giving no thought to having enough hose to reach the fire inside the building, causing a short stretch.
This error stems from the fire service’s dependence on pre-connected attack lines. In the 1970s, fire equipment manufacturers introduced the concept of piping a discharge into the hosebed to allow a pre-designated length of hose and nozzle combination to be pre-connected for rapid deployment. The success of the stretch was now all about speed, not efficiency. Firefighters were no longer concerned with conducting a size-up or stretch estimate; they simply deployed all of the hose in the pre-connect whether they needed or not.
Stretching short – when the attack line and nozzle are unable to reach the fire – is not always about not having enough hose. Usually, it is about soft skills, poor techniques and a lack of planning by the firefighters making the stretch. You have deployed the amount of hose necessary to reach the fire, but because you did not take the time to properly deploy and stage the hose, it will become tangled and snagged and stop the advance. Final extinguishment will be delayed until the line can advance into the occupancy or room of origin. Any delay in extinguishing the fire lets the fire grow and possibly extend. It also delays the search and reduces the survival chances for trapped occupants.