Stretching hose lines to extinguish a fire is the most fundamental task an engine company must perform. Knowing the length of hose needed to reach the seat of the fire takes hands on training, knowledge of building construction, district knowledge, and of course experience. The following are some tools you can utilize to be able to estimate the stretch on the fly (real world), and drill on it in non-emergency situations.
This is the acronym I use for estimating (guessing) the stretch from either the nozzle seat, or the officers seat. It is simple, easy to remember, and accounts for real world factors. I typically use it for occupancies I am unfamiliar with.
D: Distance (from apparatus to entrance, entrance to fire area, hose needed to cover the entire fire floor)
O: Obstacles (any obstacles that you may have to overcome that would add length to the stretch)
S: Stairs (the length of hose needed to overcome the stairs can only be determined by the type of stair present)
E: Elevation (the height of the building must be considered when estimating the hose stretch)
If you cannot remember that, an even simpler version can help. Stretch a length of hose (50 feet) for the yard, and every floor. So if you have a 2 story residence you would stretch 150ft (50 for yard, 50 first floor, 50 second floor). For multi-family occupancies, commercial occupancies, or long stretches you can double the amount.
My philosophy however is to know how much hose I need, instead of guessing or estimating. District knowledge, building construction, and experience are paramount in obtaining this knowledge. However stretching hose in every building in my district is unrealistic due to multiple factors (call load, unable to go out of service, not able to train on private property etc). In order to over-come this I recommend the following tools to help.
I carry a measuring wheel with me on the rig every day. It measures up to 1000ft prior to resetting, so it is perfect for attack line, and supply line measuring. When we go on a run fire related or not before we return to service I ask the fireman riding with me to estimate the distance from the rig to the door, then we measure to find out the exact number. On building walk through’s, I measure everything! Hallway distances, distance from standpipes, FDC to probable apparatus locations, etc. The negatives though are the wheel is not like hose, it does not flex, it doesn’t bend around corners, it doesn’t act like firehose. This can lead to numbers either being long or short depending on how you are running the wheel. Pro’s however are the deployment, and clean up are easy! Mine contracts and takes up no space.
Rope is a great substitute for hose, it is cheap, acts like hose, and can be deployed easily. You must make sure to have periodic markings (I recommend either 25 or 50 foot markings) so you can get as close to a true estimate as possible. Potential negatives relate to the length and type of rope. 100 ft of clothes line is easy to deploy, store, and recover. Conversely, 200 ft of ½ in utility rope can be difficulty to deploy, recover, and store.
No matter what you use, make sure your getting out and applying these tools and skills as often as you can. Take an extra 5 mins to do this on every EMS run, or fire alarm and you will begin to gain tremendous knowledge that you can pass on to others.
Thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!