The Urban Edge

Hose management and plane landings

I often say that if pilots landed planes like we stretch hose, no one would fly. The reason is many firefighters don’t take the time to lay out their hose with the intent of a smooth advance. Hoselines are often laid with little if any regard to easily moving them forward. The result of this oversight is hose that gets caught on door frames and steps and contains multiple unnecessary kinks that will need to be removed so that a proper flow is attained along with a smoother advance.

We compound this mistake by believing that sloppy is good enough. We allow this type of advancing log jam because we’ve always worked through it before and then it just becomes how we do it. When a nozzle firefighter lays out the hose for advancement into a structure or on a floor landing, neatness counts—but only so much apparently. This mindful detachment between getting your line to the point of operation and then just throwing it about for someone else to fix (or worse, just leaving it like that) is dangerous and a time waster.

Fire attack on a single room doesn’t require a lot of time for extinguishment once you arrive at the location that provides stream access to the room. If your hoseline is a jumbled mess or is laid out so that when it’s pulled into the building or apartment it gets caught up on the door frame or is laid out without regard or advance, then advance will be slowed down. Your fire advance shouldn’t be held up by a sloppy stretch. Every firefighter knows doorway are obstacles to hoseline advancement. We need to minimize doorways from our obstacle list when and where we can. We do this through proper hoseline management techniques.

Steps are the number two place for the line to get caught up. To reduce this effect, place the coupling about a foot past the last steps on the house or off the stairs and on the landing, if possible. Be cognizant of your surroundings and physical impediments to your advance.

Management Techniques

If you lay out your hoseline parallel to the home’s entry door, you will have a rubbing issue as soon as you advance inside. A firefighter will have to be placed at this doorway just to lessen the effect of that stationary friction point. This happens when we make turns inside the building also; the hoseline rubs against the wall or door frame and must be controlled by a firefighter so that the line can advance more easily. While these events are similar, the latter is something that can’t be avoided while the former can be. If the fire area doorway is off a narrow hallway, then we need to use a bit of creativity to lessen that turn’s effect on advancement. When two turns are encountered, attempt to supply hose between these points so that the first turn is eliminated as a stressor to advancement and your firefighter can then concentrate on the second turn.

It is unfortunate that we see firefighters who are indifferent to a good hoseline layout. You must care enough to find solutions instead of just using brute force. If you lay out your lead attack length in-line with the entry doorway, you’ve relieved your first hoseline management issue. Will the line have to turn inside the structure? Yes; however, when we line up our hose for a straight run, we are making our battle easier from the start.

We must not allow firefighters to dump their attack hose and expect others to fix their mess. The issue is a firefighter’s inability to see the issue; there is also an issue with the officer for either not seeing it or seeing it and not working on a solution. We must be mindful of what works best and then figure out how to attain that in a time-compressed situation.

No More Mistakes

You may hear that it would take too long; however, it’s not a time issue, it’s a desire issue. There will be no desire to improve if the people behind you are always fixing your mistakes. If the nozzle firefighter is only thinking about getting the nozzle to the door and not what’s going on behind him, that’s a problem waiting to happen or it becomes your default operation.

The nozzle firefighter is responsible not just for his arrival at the fire door but also the hoseline—and especially the attack length. The firefighter backing up the nozzle firefighter has his own duties and, while that includes removing kinks, it is not to fix the lead length; that is the nozzle firefighter’s responsibility.

A firefighter working the “door position” on the hoseline primarily works to advance hose through doorways and around turns. However, if the initial use is often to fix a bad hose layout, that is a waste of time. Your stretch shouldn’t need major fixes.

By Ray McCormack

Ray McCormack is a 36-year veteran of the fire service and is a lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). He is a panel member for both the UL Fire Stream Attack Study and Coordinated Fire Attack Study. McCormack gave the Keynote at FDIC International in 2009. He lectures on tactics, leadership, and culture in the American fire service. He can be contacted at and Twitter @LtRayMack.

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