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Don’t Come Up Short!

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Hello brothers and sisters! In this article I would like to give you another “nugget” of information that can be used for your high-rise/standpipe operations, as well as your ground-based operations—a simple, effective and efficient method to extend a 2½-inch attack hoseline.

No matter how much training you do or how much experience you have, from time to time, you might find yourself operating in a situation where you come up short with your attack hoseline. You are particularly susceptible to this when stretching off a standpipe, specifically when the exact location of the fire is unknown. Examples: a “stairwell stretch,” any time you stretch off a standpipe, and ground-based operations where it’s difficult to immediately determine the extent and precise location of the fire.

So, here are some tools, tips and techniques to help you quickly recover and continue with an effective fire attack if you ever come up short.

An extension hosepack with all appliances necessary to safely extend a 2½-inch attack hoseline. Photo Dave McGrail

The Basics
Before I get into the specifics, a reminder: As with all our hose stretches, door control is of paramount importance. Like the dry apartment stretch into a fire floor hallway or a dry stairwell stretch up past a fire floor landing, these procedures can only be completed in a non-IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) atmosphere. We must have control of the entrance door to the fire area, it must be controlled by our people (fire attack group firefighters/truck company personnel) and it must be kept closed until we have a charged attack hoseline and are ready to commence with fire attack.

Procedures for extending a hoseline are no different. We must be able to stretch out the extension section or sections of hose as safely as possible, and that involves an evaluation of the environment we are in (heat and smoke), along with door control.

The extension hosepack is stretched out on the safe, non-fire side of the original attack hoseline. Photo Dave McGrail

Let’s talk about the tools necessary for this procedure. In my previous article, I recommended that you carry a 1½-inch by 2½-inch increaser in your standpipe kit. Without this essential piece of equipment, extending an attack hoseline becomes a cumbersome and dangerous operation. In addition to the increaser, there is obviously a need for the extra hose, in the form of an additional hosepack or hosepacks. Finally, there will be a need for a second nozzle, which will be placed on the extension hose; hence, one of the reasons for a secondary nozzle in the standpipe kit.

These tools—increaser, hose and nozzle—can and should be assembled together prior to arriving at the point of operation—the point where the nozzle team is operating and have come up short of their objective. Clearly, this is going to be in a smoke-filled, IDLH atmosphere. The real equalizers here that determine whether or not an extension can be safely completed are heat and control of the door to the remaining fire area.

The extension hosepack fully stretched out, with the increaser attached to the original nozzle. Photo Dave McGrail

We simply attach the increaser to the female end, and a nozzle to the male end of a standard hose pack—or better yet, have a second nozzle hosepack already set up with an increaser attached. It’s critical to have all the necessary tools and equipment together, in one piece, prior to making entry into the smoke-filled environment.

Many excellent engine companies carry this so-called “extension hosepack” already assembled and ready to go—of the recommended four Denver hosepacks to be carried on a pumper, one is the primary nozzle section, two are standard packs (hose only), and the fourth is set up as a nozzle hosepack, with the increaser added, specifically threaded on to the female end of the hosepack. This set-up creates a tremendous amount of versatility and allows for even faster, more efficient standpipe operations. Remember: Standpipe hosepacks can and should be used when needed for ground-based or any non-standpipe operation as well.

When to Extend

The extension hosepack fully stretched out and attached to the original attack hoseline via the increaser. Photo Dave McGrail

When an extension of an attack hoseline has to be made, it is often in a situation where fire attack has already occurred, but final and complete fire control/extinguishment has not yet been achieved.

Example: a fire in an apartment where the occupant left their door open upon fleeing their apartment. Because of their haste to get out, the fire is no longer compartmentalized; rather, it is now in the public hallway. This scenario will require a stairwell stretch, and it will usually be difficult to pinpoint the distance to and the precise location of the fire apartment. Knock-down of a large body of fire can usually occur quickly (if wind is not part of the equation), but we may come up short of the fire apartment. In this situation, once again, control of that fire apartment door is key to being able to safely and effectively extend the primary attack hoseline. Yes, we want a back-up line, but extending the primary attack hoseline can be completed by a well-trained, physically and mentally prepared team of two engine companies, usually before the third and fourth engine companies can get a back-up line in place and operating.

A hosepack strap can and should be used to secure the nozzle bail in the open position to prevent an unintentional closure of the nozzle and subsequent interruption of water flow. Photo Dave McGrail

Let’s stick with this scenario. We are, let’s say, 15 feet short of the fire apartment door. Knock-down and control of the fire in the hallway have occurred, and our truck company firefighters have been able to identify, close and control the door to the fire apartment. Once again, at this point it’s a judgment call for the officer in charge of the fire attack. Should you hold your position and wait for a back-up line, or is it safe to execute an extension of your primary attack hoseline?

Remember: There are numerous, built-in safety factors that make the extension a very safe operation. Specifically, we are not shutting down the attack hoseline to complete this extension, so we will never be without water. If necessary, the original hoseline/nozzle can be opened up to cool the atmosphere or knock down any areas of fire that flare up. The original nozzle firefighter never leaves their position, and is always ready to flow water if ordered to do so by the officer in charge.

Step by Step
The decision has been made to extend this hoseline. The forward-thinking and proactive engine company has brought an extension pack with them and placed it in the stairwell on the fire floor landing, against the wall and out of the way. This extension pack is retrieved by two members, who bring it up to the point of operation, which is next to the nozzle of the original attack hoseline.

From here, the extension pack is stretched out, behind, and on the safe side (non-fire side) of the nozzle. [Remember: Dry hose is never stretched out past the nozzle toward the fire area. It is always stretched out, behind and on the safe (non-fire side) of the nozzle.] One of the two members completing this stretch will firmly grasp the nozzle (male end) and female end of the extension pack. The other firefighter will stretch this extension pack out fully, toward the stairwell and on the safe side (non-fire side).

This operation is done in a smoke-filled, zero-visibility atmosphere, so firefighters will have to rely solely on their sense of touch. Good communications is critical, and once again, the firefighter holding onto the nozzle and female coupling must do so with purpose. If either side is pulled out of their hands and away from them, it becomes difficult to find the loose end(s), recover and safely complete the extension.

Once the extension hosepack is fully stretched out and in a “U” shape, we are prepared to complete the extension. Once again, good, loud, precise communication in this smoke-filled, zero-visibility atmosphere is a must. The firefighter holding the nozzle and female coupling of the extension hosepack will remove the increaser and prepare to hand it to the original nozzle firefighter.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! This firefighter will tell the original nozzle firefighter to remove the smoothbore tip from their nozzle. (That nozzle firefighter should place the nozzle tip in their pocket.) He will then ask for the original nozzle firefighter’s hand, and he will place the increaser into the original nozzle firefighter’s hand, 2½-inch side down, and 1½-inch side up.

This allows the original nozzle firefighter to immediately thread the increaser onto the original nozzle without needing to make any adjustments and potentially dropping the increaser in this dark, smoke-filled hallway. Remember: Even with the smoothbore tip off, if necessary, this original attack hoseline/nozzle can still be opened up and water flowed. The stream will be broken, from the 1 3/8-inch waterway, but you can absolutely deliver water and cool the atmosphere should the need arise.

Once the increaser is on the original nozzle, the female coupling of the extension pack can be attached to this original attack hoseline at the increaser. The original nozzle firefighter holds the nozzle with the increaser attached, firmly and with no movement. The firefighter who handed him the increaser will then attach the female coupling of the extension hosepack to the nozzle/increaser.

At this point, we are ready to fill the extension hosepack with water. First, make sure there is a nozzle firefighter assigned to the nozzle of the extension hosepack. When they’re in place, they can call for water and prepare to open the nozzle, flow water and advance at the direction of the officer in charge. For this scenario, the extra 50 feet of hose will reach the fire apartment, and will likely be more than enough to operate inside a small- to medium-sized apartment to complete extinguishment.

Additional Items
So there you have it: a simple, safe and efficient way to extend a 2½-inch attack hoseline. Now, let me address just a few more items.

First, after the extension has been completed, you need to make every effort to prevent the attack hoseline from being inadvertently shut off at the original nozzle. Ideally, you can use a hosepack strap or two to secure the original nozzle bail in the open position. This is not an easy thing to do in a smoke-filled, zero-visibility atmosphere, but it can be done if you train on it ahead of time. Once you have the bail secured in the open position, or even if you’re not able to do so, at the very least, push this nozzle/increaser (extension location) against the wall to make it less of a target to be struck and shut off by other operating members as they move down the hallway. If you lose water after an extension, the first place you look should be at the nozzle where the increaser was attached and the extension took place.

Some fire departments utilize a larger, 2½-inch by 2½-inch jumbo ball valve shutoff for their 2½-inch and high-rise/standpipe operations. I am personally not a big proponent of this larger shutoff valve for handline operations, but for those who are, obviously you don’t need the increaser to complete the extension.

And, last, your extension will often require only one section or one extension hosepack—50 feet of hose. But don’t overlook the possibility that your extension might require more than one section of hose. Anything over two sections, however, and you should be going with the back-up line, clearly of greater length than the original attack hoseline.

Let me know if you have any questions, and stay low.

Authored By: Dave McGrail

Dave McGrail is a 30-year veteran of the fire service and assistant chief with the Denver Fire Department (DFD) assigned to District #2 in the heart of Denver’s busy downtown high-rise district. As a captain, Dave served as the company commander of DFD Engine Co. 3, and then Rescue Co. 1, two of the DFD’s busiest fire companies. He instructs internationally on a wide range of fire service topics, specializing in high-rise firefighting and engine company standpipe operations. Dave holds associate’s degrees in fire science technology/fire suppression and fire prevention and bachelor’s degrees in human resource management and fire service administration.

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