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Another common fireground error is the overstretch, when you deploy more hose than is needed. Just because you are stretching a pre-connected attack line does not mean you must deploy all of the hose in the hosebed. This is not one long, continuous piece of hose; there are couplings every 50 feet allowing you some flexibility. Why deploy all 200 feet of hose when you only need 100 or 150 feet? Stretch just the hose you need, disconnect the hose and hook it to a different discharge.
Avoid overstretching. Every section of hose deployed must be flaked out and staged. If you don’t need the extra hose, why create more work for yourself? The extra hose makes it harder to advance, maneuver and operate, which will only slow your advance. Having unnecessary hose lying around increases the chance for kinks to develop and reduce fire flow. Performed correctly, the stretch estimate keeps you from committing two common fireground errors and lets you master the stretch.
How much hose do you need?
A correct stretch estimate must be conducted in two parts:
Part 1 – How much hose is needed to get from the engine to the entrance (travel hose or length)?
• You need this hose to get around cars, trees, fences and other obstacles
• You need this hose to get around turns, change direction and navigate alleys and stairs
The building entrance and your attack entrance may not be the same. If you are stretching to a garden apartment building for a fire in a third-floor apartment, you must factor in the stairs and landing inside the building during your stretch estimate. If you only bring enough travel hose to reach the building entrance, you will stretch short of your attack entrance on the third floor.
Basement fires also present a challenge, since access to the basement in residential and commercial structures is in the rear. Many fire departments still stretch through the building over the fire, but if you have a door in the rear close to the basement stairs or, even better, exterior basement access, then you must adjust your stretch estimate to accommodate the extra travel length needed to get you to the rear.
Part 2 – How much hose will you need to get from the entrance to the fire (working hose or length)?
• You need this hose to get around furniture and debris to advance through the occupancy
• You need this hose to change direction and navigate doorways and stairs so you can reach the fire
In most cases, your working length will be a pre-determined amount of hose based on the buildings in your district. But what happens when your stretch estimate reveals it is not enough? Conducting a stretch estimate lets you identify occupancies that require more working length than the pre-determined amount so you can deploy enough hose to reach the fire and avoid stretching short. A little trick to make sure you have enough working length at your attack entrance is to stage the first coupling at the door. This guarantees you 50 feet of hose from your entrance. If you need more, place the next coupling as close to the door as you can to guarantee that you have 100 feet from your entrance.
Imagine you are dispatched for a dwelling fire in your first-due district to a neighborhood and on a street that you have detailed knowledge of through your training and experience. While responding, your crew members and you start your size-up by sharing your knowledge and experience and talking about the best route of travel so you can get a good position and not block the truck. The nozzle firefighter can picture it and already knows how much working length will be needed. The backup firefighter is anticipating how much travel hose will be needed to reach the building’s entrance. You arrive and conduct a size-up and stretch estimate, and now you are ready to make an efficient stretch and accomplish your primary mission: to put out the fire! n