Establishing Engine Company Success by Estimating the Stretch
As the first arriving engine on scene to any working fire, you can set the tone for success or failure right from the stretch, literally. Determining the length of hose to pull from the bed first is a skill set that comes with education and experience that is earned and gained out in the field.
With many aspects of our job, every repetition on the fireground makes you a more effective and efficient firefighter by creating psychomotor skills that with time are done out of nature and habit. The cognitive learning from performing size up and understanding building construction also play a part in making an accurate estimation when getting the first line in place.
The following are a few tricks and helpful clues that can be implemented into your daily response or training regimen on shift that will assist you with creating a precise estimate:
(All tips have been passed on through training, education, and networking and are NOT ideas of my own)
Fence Posts: Property boundaries for residential and commercial structures utilize fencing to secure their properties as well as to create some curbside appeal. Whether it be vinyl privacy fence or metal chain-link fence, the standard distance from post to post for most fencing components run every 8’.
While pulling up to the structure from your apparatus to perform a size-up, counting the number of fence posts from the Engine to the door can help estimate and determine the proper length of hose that needs to be pulled from the hose bed in order to successfully make the stretch.
Having common knowledge of building construction (Ranch, Cape, Colonial, etc.) combined with the number of fence posts presented is a great indicator of how much hose will be needed to reach the seat of the fire.
Parking Spots: As the Chauffeur or Company Officer arriving on the Engine, you can easily count the number of parking spots at a location during your approach and size up to better estimate the needed hose stretch from the apparatus to the fire floor.
The minimum size for a standard painted parking space is 9’ in width and 18’ long per spot which can make for an easy estimate and round up for determining if your 200’ pre-connect will make the reach.
Bucket of Rope: Acquire a 200’ length of ½” Kernmantle Rope and tie a Butterfly Knot every 50’. Place the rope into a 5-gallon bucket and stage at the pump panel of your Engine wherever the Chauffeur has parked, or the Company Officer dictates it to be placed.
Stretch out the rope from a discharge port to the front door or area where access would be made to combat a fire.
Each Butterfly Knot is in place at the 50’ mark to act as a coupling. This is a great cost effective and quick training evolution that can be performed repetitively without having to strip the hose bed and taking the Engine out of service should a call for service arise during training. Repacking the rope into the bucket makes for less down time during training as well as helping to get more repetitions in and capitalizing on the training opportunity at hand.
Get Out and Train: The best way to better prepare yourself for making the stretch and to become proficient with determining the needed length is to get out in your first due and practice the above noted tips and training as time permits.
The next time you are ready to clear a routine alarm response, take a moment and look for indicators on scene that could be implemented in the size up and utilized to estimate the needed hose stretch. Finding new construction and developments in the immediate area are great training opportunities to practice this skill set as well as to get a look at the construction components prior to it being covered with roof decking or siding.
AB Turenne is a 22-year veteran of the fire service in Eastern Connecticut. As a Certified Level II Fire Service Instructor, AB's training curriculum has proven to be conducive with the operational needs of those he teaches and in turn has improved the human capital knowledge of many. A graduate from the Master of Public Administration program at Anna Maria College, AB has continued his efforts in training and education by contributing to the Fire Engineering Training Community.