Hoseline Operations for Fires in Multiple Dwellings, Part 2

Fires in large multiple dwellings often require hose stretches that exceed the length of preconnected hoselines. When an engine company determines that a fire is beyond the reach of its longest preconnect, it has two options. One option is to connect more hose of the same diameter to the preconnect. In Part 1, we examined why there is a limit to how much a 1½- and 1¾-inch preconnect can be lengthened by adding hose of the same diameter. Each fire department must make this determination by flow testing its particular brand and grade of hose.

The other option is to stretch 2½- or three-inch hose from the main hosebed and connect smaller hose near the fire. Stretching 2½- or three-inch hose gives you the ability to connect two smaller hoselines with a gated wye, but it usually requires more time and personnel than extending a preconnect. It is very important that you extend a preconnect or a smaller hose to 2½- and three-inch hose in tenable conditions, such as outside a fire building or on a floor below the fire. Hose in 50- and 100-foot bundles facilitates the extension of preconnects and connecting to 2½- and three-inch hose.

In Part 1, I explained that a company in my department that is the first to arrive at a reported fire in a multiple dwelling will begin to search for the fire and that the company is equipped with a thermal imaging camera (TIC), bundles of 1¾-inch hose, and other equipment. Say that this company finds heavy smoke on the fourth floor. It advises the incident commander (IC) and then uses the TIC from each stairway to locate the fire apartment and estimate its distance from the closest stairway. This company then connects the hose bundles and stretches the hoseline on the third floor and in the stairwell if it is relatively clear of smoke. It supplies this hose by dropping a rope to hoist hose or calling for a hose stretch.

To assemble a 100-foot hose bundle, connect two sections of 1½- or 1¾-inch hose, and lay each section side-by-side with the connected male and female couplings at one end. The bundle in photos 1-6 is a single 100-foot section, so it does not have a coupled male and female to indicate the middle of the bundle. In this case, the firefighters folding the 100-foot section into a bundle in photos 1 and 2 leave a “tail,” a fold that sticks out from the rest of the bundle, to identify the 50-foot mark. Now fold each section back on top of itself to make two stacks of flat laid hose. Connect a nozzle, and secure the bundle with straps, or carry it in a bag (photos 1-2).

(1-2) Firefighters assemble a 100-foot bundle with a 100-foot section of 1¾-inch hose. They leave a “tail” at the bottom of the bundle because there are no couplings to identify the 50-foot mark. (Photos 1-6 by Eric Goodman.)

The hose bundle can be deployed two ways: One method is to set the bundle down with the nozzle facing up. Grasp the connected male and female couplings or the tail identifying the middle of a 100-foot section, and walk it back away from the nozzle. This lays the hose out in a “U” that will be free of kinks when it is charged (photos 3-4). The other method is for two firefighters to each pick up a stack of hose and arrange it on their forearm so that the hose plays off the top of the stack as they walk and climb stairs (photos 5-6). It is important that the firefighter carrying the stack with the nozzle attached lead the stretch and does not drop any hose until the other stack is stretched completely out. Fold 50-foot bundles into horseshoes that can be placed on a firefighter’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder. This leaves the firefighter’s hands free to carry a water extinguisher or forcible entry tools.

(3-4) A 100-foot hose bundle is deployed from a gated wye by stretching the middle of the bundle away from the nozzle. This lays the hose out in a “U,” free of kinks.
(5-6) A 100-foot hose bundle is split to facilitate stretching on stairs and around corners. Note that the hose plays off the top of each stack.


Residential buildings with exterior, open-air hallways are more prevalent in areas of the country that do not experience harsh winters, but motels with exterior hallways can be found everywhere (photo 7). The fastest way to get a hoseline to the second floor of these buildings is to hook the bail of the nozzle with a pike pole and hand it up to firefighters on the fire floor (photo 8).

(7) Motels with exterior hallways are not just found in the “Sunbelt.” Here, Chicago firefighters direct a powerful solid stream that penetrates the ceiling and deflects off the underside of the roof of this motel with exterior hallways. (Photo by Steve Reddick.)
(8) A pike pole is hooked to the nozzle to get the hoseline to the second-floor exterior hallway. (Photo by Tim Chapman.)

It is seldom necessary to stretch hose on the floor below the fire in these types of buildings because smoke is not confined and is free to dissipate. When the height of the fire floor exceeds the reach of a pike pole, hoist the hoseline with a search or utility rope. Secure the end of the rope that is in a bag to the railing and drop the bag to the ground (photo 9). There, a firefighter will tie the rope to the end of the hoseline with a simple knot that can be rapidly tied and, just as important, rapidly untied from the hose when it reaches the fire floor (photo 10). Firefighters will drop their rope and raise the hoseline upwind of the fire apartment.

(9) The rope is tossed upwind of the fire from the fire floor of a building with exterior hallways. (Photo by Eric Goodman.)
(10) The rope is tied to the hoseline with a slip knot that can be rapidly tied and, just as important, rapidly untied from the hose when it reaches the fire floor. (Photo by Eric Goodman.)

Try to avoid pulling the hose over the top of the railing because it can kink there when it is charged. When possible, pull the line under the railing or between vertical members (photo 11). Don’t hesitate to hammer a vertical member of the railing out of place to allow space for the hose (photo 12). Photos of the hose raised over the top of the railing were taken at a drill at an occupied public housing building. Once the hoseline is raised to the fire floor, one firefighter will stretch it to or close to the door of the fire apartment and then pull up sufficient hose to reach every point within it. Carefully lay out hose in an “S” configuration with the nozzle against the wall. This will avoid kinks when it is charged and facilitate a smooth advance. For average-size apartments, 50 feet of hose will be sufficient (photos 13-14).

(11) Bringing the hose under the railing avoids the possibility of its kinking as it bends over the top of the railing.
(12) A maul is used to batter a vertical member of the railing to allow space for the hose. (Photo by Eric Goodman.)
(13-14) The hoseline is stretched to the fire apartment and is carefully laid in an “S” to avoid kinks and facilitate a rapid advance. The coupling laid next to the nozzle ensures that there are 50 feet of hose to reach all points in an average-size apartment. (Photos 13-14 by Tim Chapman.)

When possible, lay the hose out closest to the hinge side of the apartment door because it will typically open against a wall; this will reduce the chances that the hoseline will have to make a sharp turn when it comes through the doorway. Avoid laying hose past a window that could possibly fail and vent fire (photo 15). If this is a possibility, place the nozzle upwind of the threatening window and pull up sufficient hose to reach the door to the fire apartment from the window in addition to the hose necessary to reach all points within the fire apartment.

(15) Do not stretch hose past apartment windows that look like they could fail and vent. Set the nozzle at a safe distance from a threatening window, and then pull up sufficient hose to reach from the window to the door of the fire apartment and to reach everywhere in it. (Photo by Eric Baum.)

Before the hoseline is charged, secure it to the railing with a nylon strap or a short section of rope that has a loop tied in one end and a snap hook at the other end. This should be in the pocket of every firefighter’s personal protective equipment. Firefighters who neglect to do this in the excitement of the moment will find their charged hoseline in the parking lot. When possible, secure the rope or strap behind a coupling with a girth hitch (photo 16). If a coupling is not within reach, wrap the rope or strap around the hose a few times before passing the snap hook through the loop. This is more secure than a girth hitch because there is more strap or rope in contact with the hose (photos 17-18). Do not wrap the rope or strap around the hose too tightly because it will constrict the hose when it is charged.

(16) The hose is secured to the railing of the exterior hallway with a strap tied in a girth hitch behind the couplings. (Photos 16-18 by Tim Chapman.)
(17-18) Wrap the strap a few times around the hose when there is no coupling within reach.

Once the hoseline is charged, flow the nozzle as previously described in this article, and keep the hose between firefighters and the outside wall. The team advancing to the door of the fire apartment must not allow fire to break out of a window behind them. If that requires that they break a window that is threatening to fail and direct their stream into it, that is what they will have to do. Once the nozzle reaches the door, a firefighter must take a position there as the “doorman.” His job is to advance hose through the doorway to the nozzle firefighter. When a corner or doorway is encountered in the apartment between the fire and the door to the hallway, a second firefighter, usually the company officer, may have to remain there, at least temporarily, to keep the hose moving toward the fire.

Firefighters must be just as proficient in withdrawing hose as they are in advancing it. Firefighters who are overwhelmed by a wind-driven fire or find fire between the nozzle and their means of escape must “back out” with their hoseline without kinking it. In a “Training Minutes” video on, Fire Department of New York Lieutenant Ray McCormack presents an excellent technique that firefighters advancing a hoseline can use when they encounter fire behind them.


If an engine company arrives at a fire on the upper floor of an outside hallway building and suspects that it may be beyond the reach of the longest preconnect, Option 1 is to fully extend the preconnect and connect additional hose of the same size. A firefighter, probably the driver-engineer, will stand by with it at the base of the building (photo 19) while two firefighters ascend to the fire floor with forcible entry tools, one 100-foot hose bundle, and one 50-foot hose bundle (photo 20). The firefighters on the fire floor lower the female coupling of the 50-foot bundle to the firefighter on the ground, who will connect it to the hoseline (photo 21). The male coupling of the bundle is connected to the 100-foot hose bundle, which is flaked out upwind of the fire apartment (photos 22-24). Remember to secure the hose suspended from the building with a rope or strap.

(19) Firefighters stretch a preconnected hoseline that is too short to reach the fire. They connect extra sections of hose, if necessary, to reach the base of the building. (Photos 19-24 by Eric Goodman.)
(20) Firefighters ascend to the fire floor with tools and one 100-foot hose bundle carried on a firefighter’s shoulder and one 50-foot bundle carried on the SCBA tank.
(21) A 50-foot bundle is lowered for connection to the hose on the ground.
(22) The male coupling of the 50-foot bundle is connected to the 100-foot hose bundle.
(23-24) The firefighter grasps the 50-foot mark of the bundle and walks it back from the nozzle, forming a “U” in the hose with no kinks.

Option 2 is to stretch 2½- or three-inch hose to the base of the building and either hoist it to the fire floor or leave it on the ground and connect hose that is lowered from the fire floor as described in Option 1. If firefighters choose to hoist 2½- or three-inch hose, it is a good idea to hoist an entire 50-foot section of the hose to the fire floor because it is extremely heavy when it is charged and suspended from the building. Hoisting a 50-foot section will take some of the strain off the railing and provide a “double butt” (connected couplings) to secure a girth hitch with a strap or rope. There is an advantage to leaving the gated wye on the ground: It will make it a lot easier to supply two hoselines lowered from different floors should the fire extend to the floor above (photo 25).

(25) Fifty-foot hose bundles lowered from the second and third floors are connected to a three-inch hose. The gated wye remains on the ground. (Photo by Eric Goodman.)


In this article, the term garden apartment will refer to a building that has open-air stairways that lead to either two or four apartments on each floor. The stairs and floor area outside the apartments are commonly semienclosed in a “breezeway.” These buildings are usually of lightweight wood-frame construction with no fire-rated separation in the space between ceilings and the floor above and between the top-floor ceiling and the roof. These concealed spaces allow a fire to spread laterally from the apartment of origin through the breezeway and to other apartments. The key to stopping a fire from taking possession of a garden apartment building or the entire complex is to cut off its horizontal extension at the breezeway.

This is not easy; it requires strong and aggressive firefighters to pull “T-111” plywood and sheet metal, common breezeway ceilings found in garden apartments, and operate hoselines into the overhead. If the breezeway ceiling is too difficult to pull, move into the apartments where the fire is spreading, and pull the plasterboard ceiling. Now stand on an “A” frame ladder or on a kitchen counter and operate a hoseline into the overhead. Often, garden apartments are arranged around a courtyard beyond the reach of 200-foot preconnected hoselines. This can necessitate that firefighters hand stretch 2½- and three-inch hoselines into courtyards from apparatus in a distant parking lot. A large volume of fire can require the initial use of 2½-inch handlines and portable master streams to bring it down to the size that later can be controlled with smaller-diameter hose.

My company has been experimenting with a 100-foot hose bundle configured in a “Cleveland load” and assessing its suitability for deployment for fires in garden apartments. A Cleveland load is configured with hose coiled around the nozzle, which is in the middle of the load. When the hose is charged, it is supposed to develop into circular loops of hose with no kinks, allowing water to flow immediately. This is similar to how a booster line deploys from a hose reel. A bundle of hose configured in a Cleveland load can be deployed from a breezeway or in the limited space of a stair half-landing below the fire without first having to lay it out to avoid kinks and facilitate a smooth advance. It can be supplied by a preconnect or 2½- or three-inch hose as described in the previous section on buildings with open hallways (photos 26-27).

(26) The Cleveland load connected to the gated wye is deployed on the floor below the fire in a garden apartment. The hose in the bundle is coiled around the nozzle. (Photos 26-27 by Chris Martinez.)
(27) The hose in a Cleveland load forms circular loops when charged. The charged hoseline is advanced up the stairs of this garden apartment.

Hose configured in a Cleveland load must be kink resistant so it does not develop kinks within the circular loops when it is charged; not every brand and grade of hose is suitable. I have argued against an overall replacement of my department’s 100-foot hose bundle with a Cleveland load because it is not as versatile as the bundle previously described. My argument is that a Cleveland load can be deployed only when it is charged; stretching it dry will result in a gaggle of kinks. This makes it unsuitable for my department because of the way we deploy hose bundles.

This is not an overall condemnation of the Cleveland load. I am well aware that there are fire departments that praise it. Any fire department considering the Cleveland load must assess its suitability by deploying it in buildings and situations they commonly encounter.


In Part 1, we examined why a thorough size-up is essential before deploying a hoseline on the upper floor of a multiple dwelling. One of the most significant size-up factors is the tenability of the public hallway. If firefighters can maintain control of the apartment door and keep the hallway relatively clear of smoke, a hoseline can be stretched directly to the fire apartment. This will require substantially less hose, less time, and fewer firefighters than if it must be advanced from the floor below the fire. Remember, never stretch dry in a smoke-filled hallway because you will have no protection and it is almost impossible to see where slack in the hose will develop kinks when it is charged.

Two of the fastest and least personnel-intensive methods to stretch a hoseline directly to a fire apartment with an intact door are a well stretch from the closest stairwell and raising hose to a window with rope. As mentioned in Part 1, windows at the end of hallways are ideal for raising hose because it isn’t necessary to force into an apartment to access a window. More importantly, however, windows at the end of hallways are usually very close to stairways, which is where firefighters will escape if they should get into trouble.

After the publication of my article on stretching hoselines in multiple dwellings in 2003, a fire officer from Connecticut wrote a Letter to the Editor disagreeing with the practice of hoisting a hoseline from a window on the fire floor. His concern was that if firefighters were to lose water in their hoseline or become overwhelmed by a wind-driven fire, they would attempt to escape by following a hoseline that led to a window and could be forced to jump. He advocated that it would be much safer to stretch from a window in a stairway or up the stairway from the floor below the fire. This fire officer is right. I explained how to raise a hoseline from a fire-floor window with the assumption that the fire building had windows at the end of a center hallway that were right next to a stairway that could be used for escape. This is typical for center-hallway buildings, but it definitely is not the case in every building. So in deference to our brother in Connecticut, stretch only from fire-floor windows that are in or very close to stairways. If this is not possible, hoist the hose from a window on the floor below the fire and stretch it up the stairway.

To begin a well stretch, bring the hoseline as close to the base of the stairway as possible. Stairwells that discharge directly to the outside are ideal for a well stretch because hose will not have to be stretched into the building to reach a stairway. Lay out sufficient hose at the bottom of the stairway to reach the fire floor, to reach the fire apartment from the attack stairway, and enough for the nozzle to reach every point in the fire apartment. Have the nozzleman gather 50 feet of hose, a “working length,” and carry it on his forearm that is closest to the wall in the stairs. This will help balance the weight of the hose on both arms as he ascends the stairs (photos 28-29). As the nozzleman climbs the stairs, hose will become heavier because more of it is hanging, unsupported in the well. At some point in a well stretch, firefighters may have to position themselves on the stairs at intermediate levels to help raise hose and “lighten up” on the line for the nozzleman.

(28) The nozzleman performing a well stretch carries 50 feet, a “working length,” of hoseline on the forearm closest to the wall in the stairway. (Photo by Eric Goodman.)
(29) Firefighters well-stretch the hoseline directly to the fire floor because the closed door to the fire apartment keeps the hallway clear of smoke. The nozzleman carries a “working length” of hose, ensuring that every point in the average-size apartment is within the range of the nozzle. (Photos 29-31 by Chris Martinez.)

Additionally, a firefighter may have to remain on the ground floor to pull hose into the stairway. Whether a hoseline is raised to the fire floor by hoisting from a window or a well stretch, pull sufficient hose to reach all points in the fire apartment. Secure hose hanging in the well with a rope or strap as described in the previous section on buildings with exterior stairways. Secure hose hanging from a window with a tool as pictured in photos 30-31.

(30-31) The hose hoisted from the window is secured before it is charged. A strap is tied in a girth hitch behind the double coupling and to the pike pole positioned across the corner of the window opening.

Remember that things could get ugly in the hallway when the door to the fire apartment is opened, so evacuate all “noncombatants.” Firefighters who remain in the hallway must be ready to fight fire: Flow the nozzle, “mask up,” “hood up,” and “glove up” before opening the door to the fire apartment.

BILL GUSTIN is a 39-year veteran of the fire service and a captain with the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department. He began his fire service career in the Chicago area and conducts firefighting training programs in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. He is a lead instructor in his department’s officer training program, is a marine firefighting instructor, and has conducted forcible entry training for local and federal law enforcement agencies. He is a contributing editor and an editorial advisory board member for Fire Engineering and an advisory board member for FDIC. He was a keynote speaker for FDIC 2011.


Sep 29-30, 2011 Intelligent Firefighting “Be Aggressive . ..Don’t Be Stupid”

With Capt Bill Gustin, Miami Dade Fire Rescue Double Tree Milwaukee City Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sep 29-30, 2011 Intelligent Firefighting “Be Aggressive . ..Don’t Be Stupid”

With Capt Bill Gustin, Miami Dade Fire Rescue Double Tree Milwaukee City Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin