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One of the many fire service debates: To lay in or not!

As you can tell by the title this topic has been and will probably continue to be a hotly debated topic for years and years. So while we may not solve anything here either I figured why not put my opinion out there for the world to see.

I am in the camp that likes to lay hose, or lay into the fire. Whatever you like to call it if it’s a call that someone “smells smoke”, “smells something burning”, “see’s fire”, etc. I am putting the hose on the ground. Some people may view this as a “conservative” action but I feel it is at the height of aggressive firefighting. Much like coming off the rig “masked up and ready to go” (a topic for another post) I do not think you can go wrong with putting it on the ground. The problem with the term aggressive is that people think it means you location to the fire. In my opinion being close to the fire with no water supply plan, improper sized hose line, and not dressed appropriately is not aggressive its DUMB! Aggressive firefighting is a lot more than your location to the fire, it has a lot of front end stuff (training, preplanning, water supply, etc.) that you must master or plan for first.

But I digress…..Its as simple as this….water puts out fire. We need a lot of water to put out big fires, and quite frankly even room and contents fires are reaching temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees farenheit, due to high heat release rates of low mass synthetic material. In order to support the proper sized handlines, and necessary flow it is required to establish a continuous water supply.

We run with three people on an engine company (Driver, Officer, and Firefighter) when we lay out we have the driver get out, wrap the hydrant get back in and drive up the street. The next engine can then hook it up and either pump to us or leave us “in line” (just connected to the hydrant). If the second engine never shows (MVA, lost, etc.) It’s already on the ground so the driver can run back up the street to turn in on, the truck company can turn in on when they make the block, the ambulance can turn it on, yes even the chief can turn it on (lets face it no one can do their job with out it). Engine companies that rely on the “2nd engine” to establish their line for them take a huge gamble, because there is no guarantee that they will show up. Now your parked in front of the house with no line on the ground…..what do you do now? The simple answer is have another engine do it, but the simple fact is some departments do not have another engine coming for a while. Today I am working at my part-time FD and we got put out on a commercial structure fire as the 2nd engine. The chief marked on with “heavy smoke showing” the first engine did not lay out. Ten minutes later we finally arrived to complete the water supply. Had it been more than a piece of machinery smoking they would have exhausted there 500 gallon tank long before our arrival. Especially if utilizing a 2 1/2 or portable master stream which is recommended on commercial fires. Also if the second engine lays to the first engine it now takes 3 engines/units to complete the water supply instead of 2 (unless the driver of the second engine is going to run up the street and turn on the hydrant), not to mention the possibility of needing that third engine to pump to you from the hydrant.

Lets talk a little about apparatus positioning. If you don’t lay out and have another engine lay from the hydrant to you now you have 2 engines parked near the house. If you have small streets, or city blocks with cars parked on them were does the truck company go? Stopping short may work, but in a cul-de-sac there is typically only room for two pieces of apparatus and you just took it up with 2 engines when in reality if you layed in it would have only taken one. If you pull past look how far past you have to pull down the street to accommodate 2 engine companies in order for a truck company to have room. It just doesn’t make sense.

I think the best practice is to lay it out, if you are going to continue to utilize your second engine to lay your line for you, then consider reverse laying. Have the second engine come to the scene and reverse lay to the hydrant. This way you are not blocking critical fire ground real estate, and you now have the option of an engine being able to pump to you for larger fires.

I saw live by these rules:

1. First in lay in

2. Be self-sufficient with your water supply

3. When in doubt lay it out

4. Communicate your water supply plan to in coming units. Let the other engines know exactly what you are going to do, and what you want them to do BEFOR you get there. This will keep you from having to do a lot of coordinating during the point in the incident when you will be working.

I am really interested on what you guys out there are doing in your departments. Please leave some feedback in the comments section, and as usual spread the word about the blog.

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