Few things on the fireground mess up an engine operation like a short stretch. Where have you seen this occur and why do you think it happened? Have you trained with your crew on how to avoid this error?
Great question! We actually see this happen more than coming up short on our stretches. Most of our loads are pre-connected 200' and end up with 100' left outside the structure of a cracker box house. We shortened up a bumper load to 150' to alleviate part of this problem and have been working on training the FF's to estimate how much line they need on different stretches. While it's ultimately our Engine Officer's responsibility to make sure there is enough line, it's common practice to tell the nozzle man to make the strectch without being told which line to pull. We have also played around with putting some of our old nozzle bases that have a bail at the 100' mark. They don't have the slug tip insert and give you the full flow of water allowing you to add a nozzle right there or extend a line. Only problem we've seen with this is when the bail drags the ground on advancement. Another option we have been trying is to pre-connect a wye to one of the 2 1/2" discharges and let the driver of the engine break the line and reconnect to the wye. Always looking for a better way to do things.
Another under rated and under appreciated position; the FF controlling the strech. Everybody wants the nozzle at the job, but if the stretch isn't correct you may not even reach the fire area. The person controlling the stretch should have some time on the job. FDNY uses a quick calculation of 1 length per floor plus 1 more for the fire floor. Thats from the front door, don,t forget how many you need from the Engine to the front door. If you have a well h*** the calculation 1 per every 5 floors. Don't have much experience with preconnects but what if the backup line is the same amount of lengths or less and you are going to the floor above? You'll short stretch every time.
I have been the victim of a short stretch only a hand full of times, but one incident will forever stick in my mind.
We arrived second due engine to a working fire in a second floor apartment. The apartment was a 4plex garden style with the exterior staircase opening out to the courtyard. Upon our arrival, we were assigned attack. The first due engine had just put the attack line on the ground and we went to work. The line pulled was a 200' 1 3/4" pre-connect. As we advanced through the front door, we burst a line and lost pressure. The burst was caused by the metal handrail outside the front door that was super heated from the fire venting out the front door. When we called for a second line, we were given another 200' pre-connect. This time we cooled the handrail before we entered the "RE"involved apartment. this time we made it about 5 feet deeper into the apartment (8 feet total) and ran out of hose!!! While the crews outside scurried about to extend a line, we held the fire in check. Once they got us a LONGER line, we switched and finished extinguishing the fire. With the exception of an exterior hose stream coming in from a window (another topic for discussion) things got much better.
West coast fire departments seem to be fixated on the pre-connect or crosslay handlines. Because we deal with decreased staffing, we think this helps save time. The problem with pre-connects is 95% of the time, they work. Because of this, most engine crews pull this line all the time. Unfortunately, that 5% is what bites us in the butt. The case above was a classic example of this.
Some fires at garden style apartments may be able to be handled with a pre-connect, but most likely not. Company Officers should be training with their crews on pulling dead lays of 2 1/2" supply lines into the courtyard and hooking up bundles or wyed lines of 1 3/4" for attack.
Estimating a stretch seems to be a lost art anymore. Hopefully it is just cycle. A cycle that we must work together to break.
There always seems to be a rush to get the line in place. Yes it must be done quickly, but it must also be done correctly. If the officer does not "estimate" the stretch or we just get there with the nozzle = We don't have enough line. It shouldn't be the building that gives you trouble for the estimate ( you can always figure it out before hand) it is the distance to its main stairway that guys usually mess up. There are some estimating tricks out there to help, but guys just don't pay attention.
I am sure Lt. McCormack has a lot more good info on this, but one of the best wats to practice your stretches is to get out in your district and pull line. Have you and your crew take turns estimating the stretch. Figure out how much hose it takes to reach the fire building, then how much line you will need inside. Some companies use rope instead of hose so it can be left behind if you get a run.
The bottom line, is you need to practice your estimates. There is a ton of good info out there regarding the amount of hose needed for the fire building. Items like 50' per floor for U-return stairways, etc. Perhaps that could be a new thread???
I think rope is fine for measuring but stretching the line is key because it allows for a training opportunity that the rope does not. I tried to carry OOS hose for those types of drills, leaving it behind was never a problem. As for solutions to short stretches, better and more frequent drills and good communication. Really the only options are more lengths near the nozzle or start a new line. Those two options cover both longer and shorter stretches.
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