As the first lines goes……but how did it get there?

Many of us have heard the phrase, “As the first line goes, so goes the fire”.† But how did that first line get there?

Certainly handline operations are something that we could discuss for hours and there are many different hoseloads and techniques that exist to accomplish the same goal.† But what is that goal?

That goal should be to arrive at the fire area with the nozzle and 50′ of hose, enough for the fire floor.† The hose should be flaked out so that it can be advanced easily into the fire area, and so that it is free of kinks.† The un-stated part is that you must have enough hose to get that 50′ there.†† What techniques were you taught to estimate the stretch?† I was taught 50 for the fire floor, 50 for each floor to get there and 50 from the truck to the building.† Of course in my area 50′ might not get you halfway tot he front door anymore, as the lots are bigger and the houses set further back.

Like so many of the basics, I think we are losing some of the skills we need when it come to stretching lines and estimating the stretch.† Crosslays or mattydales have taken some choices away from us but have also simplified some operations.

How many have seen the “grab and go”? Where the nozzle firefighter grabs the nozzle and then runs to the front door, the result being a taut line from the truck to the front door.† Or the “spaghetti pile” where 150′ of hose is pulled from the crosslay and dumped in a pile on the ground while the nozzle is stretched?

We load our crosslays with two sets of loops or ears?† 1 ear is set in the bottom 50′ length so that the bed can be cleared easily, and the other is in the first 50′ so that the nozzleman can grab the nozzle and the first 50′ and stretch it to the fire.† It makes no difference in time to set our hoseloads up this way, but makes a huge difference when time is of the essence on the fireground.

So the next shift go out and look at your hoseloads.† Are they set up so that you can easily stretch your attack lines?† Practice pulling them, not only does this give you the practice, but it also allows you to determine how long it will take.† That time can be crucial when your officer is trying to think where the fire is going, not just where it is now.


  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Brother, I love pasta, but not spaghetti pile at the base of my engine, with fire showing! You hit the nail on the head. Practice, train and practice some more. Not getting it right when seconds count is not an option!

  • Chad Cox says:

    Amen to the stretch! I love lasagna over spaghetti! We have taken on the task of marking the halfway points of our hoses for getting the first hoseline flaked out properly. When we drop the 50′ with nozzle 8-12′ away from the front door, you can reach down, grab the halfway marked part of the hose, and pull it straight back. With our hose load, this enables the nozzle and coupling from that first 50′ to form a large U enabling the first section to advance into the structure with the help of the door guy. I will attach a pic of how we mark them. We have done everything from a flouresent spray paint to using a neon color duct tape. The duct tape seems to hold up the best, it stretches well with the hose getting charged, and is easy to replace.

  • truckie431 says:

    One of the priorities for the crew of the ‘second line’ or the ‘backup line’ is to make sure that the first line has been stretched properly by the initial crew. What I mean by that is, that when the second engine crew arriving on the scene they need to make sure the first line is kink-free and flaked out properly as they are making their way to the front door. This is one more way to ensure the first line is actually in service before you try to put a second line in service.

    It always kills me to see other members making their way through the front door STEPPING OVER a pile of spaghetti, and watching the first crew struggle for more hose or struggling to get more line around a corner or up the stairs without helping because they have ‘other things to do’. Now, I’m not saying they should spend a long time ‘helping’ the first crew and neglecting their assignments, but if the first line doesn’t get stretched properly, the rest of the operation will go down hill rapidly. Just a thought. Stay safe.

  • Bill Carey says:

    I think I heard something like this before…somewhere…;)

  • firestudent1 says:

    Bill think I have heard it too once or twice. Thanks for dropping by and how you come back often.

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Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Jim P.
The World is not on fire.
BRAVO. Very good observations. Thanks for writing this. Decisions/leadership based upon fear or lack of training is unacceptable. These things need to be said, to counteract the attitudes that are trying to influence future generations of firefighters.
2015-03-18 14:39:28
Ret. Capt.
The next big thing…or just another acronym?
I'm not sure how the Portsmouth, VA FD normally operates but that is an embarrassment. I am not understanding any part of why the hose team did not make entry while one other member broke out the window with an extension ladder to provide quick ventilation. From what is seen, and the conditions present, in…
2015-01-16 17:21:54
Met Fan
The next big thing…or just another acronym?
Actually it does not seem to raise the temperatures at the floor in most cases. Do you feel feel different after attack begins? Of course you do. Steam is produced when water hits the fire and you feel the humidity through your gear. This is going to happen regardless of whether the stream entered a…
2014-12-29 02:43:23
Ryan McGovern (Ladder Jack)
Ideology vs Philosophy: Are you Slicing or Dicing in the fire service trends
Marques, As I have been following this debate for the past few weeks, and looking for the best way to respond, I could find no "correct" way to join the conversation without maybe coming off as narrow-minded. The response you have here says exactly what I believe is the best way to approach the SLICER/…
2014-12-03 00:41:24
The next big thing…or just another acronym?
Though hitting a fire from the outside lowers the temperature in the room, it raises it closer to the floor. I've been a firefighter for 14 years and work for an inner city department. You'd better be damn sure there are no victims in the structure anywhere near where those heated gasses are going to…
2014-11-24 17:54:49

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