The way in which we carry or store fire hose on engine companies and other apparatus with pumps depends on many factors, such as apparatus layout, needed hose lengths, type and size of hose used, available manpower, tradition and/or orders from higher up in the food chain.
It’s important to be intimately familiar with the loads used on the fire company to which you’re assigned. Some questions each of us should consider and/or reconsider:
- What type of load do we use?
- How many feet of hose are in this load?
- Are there any special finishes to this load?
- When was the last time I deployed this hose load or practiced deploying it?
- Will the hose loads allow the most efficient deployment for the building fires I encounter in my response area?
- What available manpower do I have to deploy the attack line?
Remember: Our primary mission is to suppress fires and, when assigned to the engine, be proficient in getting the hose into service, no matter what hose load we use. The fire doesn’t care whether we use a flat load or a minuteman load, if we’re operating at a wood-frame ranch or a multiple dwelling of ordinary construction, or if the fire started on the first floor or the fourth. Getting the hoseline into service and putting water on the fire are the greatest life-saving actions we can perform on the fireground. To do this well, we must train on the hose loads we use regularly.
Although a variety of hose loads exist, as well as specific variations of common hose loads used by fire departments, in this article, we’ll discuss the basic loads commonly used and variations of these loads.
The Flat Load
The most common load used in the fire service is probably the flat load, which can be used in a variety of narrow and wide hosebeds for a variety of fire lines. We’re most familiar with using the flat load for supply lines; most large-diameter supply lines are loaded with a standard flat load.
Many 1 ¾" and 2 ½" fire lines are also carried in flat loads. This is usually because they’re easy to load and deploy. The flat load allows for standard shoulder or arm deployment. The nozzle person can also grab and flip the hose as they put it up on their shoulder, instantly creating a minuteman load on the last section or two if deploying to an upper floor from the apparatus.
Because there are no formal finishes on standard flat loads, the nozzle person can take as much hose as they want. Unfortunately, the nozzle person can take too much hose, which sometimes causes kinking at the drop point.
The flat load does create sharp bends in the hose. In hosebeds that aren’t used or deployed frequently, the hose should periodically be pulled off and reloaded to move the bends throughout the hose.
This load is best suited for situations involving multiple types of properties, such as single-family, multi-family and large and/or tall multi-family structures with various types of stairs.
The Minuteman Load
One common variation of the flat load is the minuteman load. It requires some thought to load, but it’s easier to load than the triple- layer load. This load is popular because it allows the hose to flake and deploy from the nozzle person’s shoulder as it’s advanced into a structure (e.g., up a stairwell). This load also controls the amount of hose the nozzle person can deploy, thus eliminating the problem of taking too much hose.
This load can be used in standard beds in conjunction with a flat load to help split up large or long hosebeds; however, it’s best suited for situations requiring shoulder deployment of hose up various types of stairwells when ascending multiple floors.
A third common hose load is the triple-layer load, which is hardest to load and therefore easy to mess up without practice. This load is best suited for companies with minimal manpower that commonly respond to fires in one- and two-story single-family dwellings where the line is flaked and charged upon entering the building. One person can easily clear the hosebed and deploy this load.
Lastly, there’s the accordion load, which actually isn’t as common as it used to be. It’s found in beds that carry 2 ½" or 3" hose for fire attack or supply.
One disadvantage to this load is that it creates many sharp bends in the hose and places the hose on its side, exposing the side area to damage. The hose also gets packed tightly into the hosebed, sometimes making deployment difficult. Some of the apparatus in our department have a wide, short hosebed, making this load the most efficient for storing 600–800 feet of 2 ½" hose that’s used to supply fire department connections and 2 ½" attack lines.
The Reverse Horseshoe
One common finish to the flat or accordion load is the reverse horseshoe finish. This finish allows for a more timely deployment of attack lines in a reverse-lay situation or when the fire is beyond the reach of the standard pre-connected hoseline on the apparatus.
This finish works well in large, static hosebeds where the last section of either 2 ½" or 1 ¾" line is connected via a wye or reducer to a large static bed of 2 ½" line. When used for long lays, the reverse horseshoe makes deployment easier.
As you spec or purchase fire hose and apparatus, consider the layout of your hosebeds to best meet the needs of your response area. If you have areas that are predominately residential with one- and two-family dwellings, relying strictly on pre-connected hosebeds is probably going to work most of the time. If you have areas where access is restricted and long hoselays are necessary, beds that allow for quick deployment of long hoselines are essential.
In addition to making sure your apparatus works well for your firefighters and hoselines, make sure that when you purchase new hose, you consider alternative hose colors for commonly used fire lines. It’s much easier in multi-line operations to ask your apparatus operator to start the water on a line of a particular color versus making the operator guess which line you’re referring to when two or more lines are deployed.
Other specs may include making sure your preconnected crosslays are closer to the ground to enable the average-size firefighter to grasp the hose from the ground without stepping on a step or side running board; rear hose loads that allow for large preconnects of 1¾" and 2½" hose, and as a minimum, static loads of 2½" and 5"; and lower hosebeds that can be reached easily from the ground for quick, easy deployment.
Our job as the engine company is to get the fire line into operation and extinguish the fire. To accomplish this, we must ensure we’ve performed the proper training and that our equipment is ready for rapid deployment; however, the method in which you load your hose is strictly a department-based issue. Each of us must be familiar with our response areas and ensure our hose-loading techniques and methods match the needs of our area. Training is essential to ensure we can deploy the hoseline efficiently to complete the required task.
Remember: Getting the hoseline into service and putting water on the fire are the greatest life-saving actions we can perform on the fireground.