Redirecting the Stretch

May 30, 2024
Keith Niemann explains four concepts that engine crews can utilize to allow quick, efficient relocation of a hoseline at a structure fire when the conventional stretch to the front door proves to be incorrect for what circumstances present.

The best way to move a hoseline at a structure fire is to ensure that the hoseline is placed in the right spot from the beginning. Quite often, this is an easy call to make. The member who is on the nozzle will place the hoseline at the front door of the structure that’s on fire. The goal for the initial hoseline is to end up between the fire and the biggest “exposure.” Often, that “exposure” is an unsearched room(s) that is adjacent to the fire. Placing a hoseline at the front door of the structure allows for the protection and removal of any victims who are located in that room(s).

The front door is so frequently the target of the first hoseline, because it usually gives the best access to the entire house, including the stairs in a two-story dwelling, and direct paths that lead to the fire. We find that the front door rarely is blocked with furniture and that it’s less secured than a rear door and lacks access problems, such as fences and dogs.

What happens when the member who is on the nozzle places that hoseline in the usual spot and, for whatever reason, that hoseline must be moved? Crews must have plans in place to efficiently move that hoseline to the correct position. It’s critical to ensure that the hoseline is charged only once the 360-degree size-up is completed and the correct stretch location is determined. Quickly moving a charged hoseline to a new location with the limited resources that usually are available in many departments is very difficult.

A few easy things can be added to an engine to help to overcome a stretch to a “wrong location.” These small items have minimal cost, are easy to employ, and, coupled with regular training, can ensure that victims and searchers get the protection from the hoseline when its needed the most, even when the initial stretch was to the wrong location.

One way to ensure that the hoseline is in the right place from the beginning is to set up the engine to stretch hoselines off of the rear. A rear-mounted preconnect—or my preference of a hosebed that’s of the “static,” or “bulk,” style—has many distinct advantages. (See “The Midwestern Static Load” sidebar.)

Stretching off of the rear allows the engine to pull past the structure that’s on fire, whereas a mid-mounted crosslay usually puts the engine directly in front of the structure. By setting up the engine to pull past the structure, not only does the ladder truck get the prime spot that its crew needs, but the engine crew gets to see three of the four sides of the structure before ever getting out of the rig. In most instances, the three-sided view allows the officer to halt a stretch to the front door before it’s made if there is any doubt about where the hoseline must go.

An addition to a department’s engine that can be beneficial in moving a hoseline that’s in the process of being stretched is a set of straps.

It might seem counterintuitive that two or three Velcro straps on the working hoseline will save time, but the fact is that the extra couple of seconds that it takes to remove the straps during the standard stretch saves minutes when a hoseline must be moved. Although I recommend the Wichita Bundle, attaching a couple of Velcro straps on the last 50 feet of a minute-man-style load gets the job done.

The straps ensure that the member who is on the nozzle doesn’t lose the vital working line while approaching. Furthermore, if that individual stumbles and drops the hoseline, the hoseline will stay together for picking up and continued deployment. If the strapped bundle is dropped near the front door and the officer realizes that the hoseline must be moved, the straps facilitate easy retrieval and movement of the bundle to the correct spot.

Halfway points
Another addition that can be made to the engine is Chief Dave McGrail’s concept of marking the halfway points on attack lines: nozzle and coupling to the door and halfway points away from the door.

The easiest way to mark the halfway point is to set the couplings side by side, walk back to the fold at the halfway point and mark it with contrasting-color tape, paint or marker. Tape might be ideal, because if a hose is damaged and must be recoupled as a slightly shorter length, the tape is easily moved. Note: Some hose manufacturers mark the halfway point of their hose.

As the Wichita, KS, Fire Department incorporated halfway points into its Wichita Bundles, we found that the practice also is advantageous for moving a hoseline that isn’t strapped together and is dropped on the approach, with the line looking like spaghetti. By picking up the line, getting the nozzle and coupling to the door, and finding the halfway point and dragging it away, the dropped stretch will be fixed in most cases.

Another advantage to marking the halfway points is the ability to move a hoseline that was stretched but not charged. When a new location is established, the member who is on the nozzle will put hands under the halfway point and then walk up and grab the nozzle with one hand and the coupling with the other. The person now has control of the hoseline, and the dragged line is short enough to get between most obstacles and into the new stretch location. At the new stretch location, the nozzleperson will set down the coupling and nozzle near the entry point, then walk the halfway point backward, finishing the stretch.

The advance
The last suggestion isn’t for moving a hoseline that’s in the wrong spot but for getting the 15 feet of hoseline from the front door to the fire room.

As the member who is on the nozzle moves the charged hoseline from the entry point to the fire location, someone must ensure that the hoseline is moved around obstacles, so it doesn’t get hung up on something. Once the hoseline is deep into the structure, it becomes difficult to push the hoseline from the door or pull it from deep inside.

Making a “wheel” out of the hoseline might benefit those cases. To do this, walk away approximately 15 feet from the entry point, grab the hose and walk it forward to the entry point. The hoseline will fold over itself, making a large circle. Grab the hose opposite where the “X” is made (the point where the hoseline crosses itself) and stand it up. This circle, or wheel, if you will, now can be pushed, or “rolled,” into the structure and around obstacles up to the nozzle team. This 12–15 feet of extra line should be enough to make the final push into a room or get the nozzle team in position to mop up any remaining fire.

Another circumstance for which the wheel works well is moving the hoseline upstairs.

As a nozzle team makes the push to the second floor, a member can bring wheels from the front yard to the top of the stairs, gaining the nozzle crew 15 feet each time. Most crews find this more efficient than a member pulling a hoseline from the door and attempting to push it up the stairs, similar to a traditional advance.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that the wheel doesn’t work well for a 2½-inch hoseline because of the relatively low pressures and weight of the charged line. A wheel of a standard 1¾-inch hoseline, with a smooth bore or combination nozzle, will stay rigid even when water is flowing; a wheel of 2½-inch hoseline usually collapses when water is flowing, which makes the hoseline difficult to move and automatically adds two kinks to the line.

A few changes & practice
We never plan to make a mistake, but it’s inevitable that a crew will stretch to the wrong location. With a few easy changes to an engine and a little practice, crews can be prepared to overcome an error without affecting the overall operation.

About the Author

Keith Niemann

Keith Niemann is a 20-plus-year veteran of the fire service with Wichita, KS, Fire Department's training division, assigned to Firehouse 22. As a field training officer, Niemann responds to all fires and major alarms on his shift as well as serves as a lead instructor, teaching hands-on skills to members of all ranks. He also is the president of the FOOLS of OZ, teaching engine company operations throughout the country.

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