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Engine Company Officer Fire Ground Management with Limited Staffing: Hand line Management

In the last installment we delved into the importance of rapid yet descriptive size ups, and how this not staffing plays a critical role in determining hand line selection. In this article we will discuss hand line management with limited staffing, while still performing company officer functions.



Couplings are the key component to hand line management. While couplings are the best way to move large amounts of hose into a fire building, they are also the thing that prevents hose from being moved when stuck on corners, stairs, etc. Failure to manage couplings can destroy any hope of efficient hand line advancement.

Couplings are also a great form of unspoken communication. They usually indicate a way out for lost firefighters however for a company officer with limited staffing performing a dual role (officer and back up firefighter) having visible couplings at the entry door can speed hose deployment into the fire building. This gives the company officer/back up an easy indicator as to how much hose will be deployed into the building in 1 pull. Also with the information gathered by the 360 scene survey tells the company officer/back up that 50 feet may not be enough, so deploying the 100 foot coupling into the fire building, or splitting the difference may be more appropriate. No matter the case coupling management is key to hose line advancement to the seat of the fire.


The Bear Crawl

As if moving a hose line in a fire building was not hard enough, when stairs are thrown into the mix it can become even more difficult especially for a limited staffed engine company. However, this can be overcome by using the “Bear Crawl” method. This method allows for the nozzle firefighter and company officer/back up to rapidly deploy the first 50 feet of hose up a set of stairs to the top together. Staying together allows the company officer/back up to ability to still supervise the advance to the fire room, and manage the hose advance.

The company officer/back up places themselves at or just in front of the first 50 foot coupling.


As the company officer/backup enters the stair they get low in the stairwell utilizing leg muscles to pull 50+ feet into the fire building. This also allows the company officer/back up to get below any heat or smoke layer that could be in the stair well.



Once at the top of the stairs the nozzle firefighter and company officer/back up can determine a direction of travel, or open the nozzle and utilize stream reach to being fire extinguishment.



Effective hose line management and advancement is the final piece to successful fire extinguishment and management of the fire ground. Limited staffed companies are at a manpower disadvantage, but this should not dictate their ability to perform efficient and effective engine company operations. Realistic training, pre arrival assignments, rapid and descriptive size ups, appropriate hand line selection, and efficient hand line management should be your blue print to effectively manage the fire ground in your fire department.


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