Do YOU go in wet or dry? Why?

Helmet cam video of this Pennsylvania house fire drew some comments from readers about entering with an uncharged hoseline,

"Hmm one question....why would you go into a burning building without a charged hose line? A empty line will do nothing for you, especially if no life was in danger. Unnecessary risk." Shane Reed

"I would have gone in with out the line charged. it looked like 10 cents worth of fire, a dry line is a lot easier to lug around than a charged one." Timothy Dexter, Jr.

Every fire and size-up is different. How you might do something will vary from someone else based on training, staffing, alarm assignment, size-up, ect.

In their article "Dry & Wet Hoseline Stretches" Mike Kirby and Tom Lakamp look back at where and when you need to charge that line before the initial attack. They also look at a related line of duty death from their own department.

When does your nozzle team call for water?

What conditions influence you decision to stretch dry?

How much does staffing play a part of your decision?

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Okay so which is it?  You say you aren't accusing me in particular of being unsafe and then go on for 2 paragraphs defining how my actions were unsafe.

You see out here in the sticks we do this thing called size up and we build our action plan based on that information.  The officer can choose to dry stretch or stretch charged depending on circumstances.  I never said we always stretch dry, but it would be an untruth to say we never stretch dry.

As for the damage comment I only responded to your "what's wrong with banging against stuff" comment.  If the situation calls for it we go full bore and charge in.  If we can be more careful about belongings we are.

I don't mean to paint you as someone who operates unsafely. I am speaking generally here. Not all firefighters are as experienced as you are. The perception of what constitutes "very little fire" can change from person to person and fire to fire. My fear is that people can get too comfortable doing something and then have it bite them in the ass. Sometimes things only work until they stop working. Fire conditions can be unpredictable and rapidly changing. We all know this and should operate accordingly. Even the best firefighters can be caught by surprise and one way to deal with surprises is to have a little built in safety factor.

This has nothing to do with the FDNY. Several non FDNY members have posted here in agreement with my position. I don't think dry lines inside private dwellings are potentially unsafe because FDNY says so. I think it's potentially unsafe because rapidly changing fire conditions and unforeseen water supply issues can place firefighters in dangerous positions. Sound firefighting tactics should not be based on staffing. Staffing should be based on sound firefighting tactics. FDNY staffing is not, as some believe, overkill. We have a very densely packed population. In my particular response area the vast majority of buildings are attached for the lenght of the block. There are no rear alleys. They are all NFP construction ( about a 50/50 split between class 3 and class 4. Three to five story buildings that are 100-150 years old. They are often reconfigured to get more than the originally designed for amount of occupants to live there. We can have a full first alarm assignment that most guys would kill for and still have issues that are unable to be immediately addressed. 

Back to private dwellings. As I've said before, the distance from front door to base of stairs is rarely more than a few yards. Even with a two firefighter stretch there is not a huge gain in time or effort in waiting until the line is at the base of the stairs to charge it. IMO, and speaking generally, the risk is not worth the reward.

This site is a pain in the butt. My second to last post wasn't showing so I posted the similar sentiments again. Then it popped up.

I have no doubt that you do size up. Part of your size up at the vast majority of private dwellings will indicate a short distance to the base of the stairs. Due to normal use of the home and the resultant traffic patterns, the path will probably not be obstructed all that much. Never say never but the conditions I've described are very typical. We've gone back and forth a bit here but you haven't addressed my main point. That being the time and energy saved by charging at the base of the stairs vs the entrance door is not all that great. So I ask flat out, do you disagree with that point? How much time and energy did you save at that particular fire?

The stairway was at a 90 degree angle to the door, with a 180 degree landing.  We had furniture and a wine rack in our way.  Because of the obstacles, the stairway, and the small amount of fire, we made the decision to go dry to the base of the stairs where we stockpiled enough dry hose, and flaked it out, to make the second floor.  

Did we save anytime?  Perhaps not, but it was easier and we did no collateral damage to belongings.  Did we save energy?  I believe yes, we did.  Not a lot perhaps but it was easier to bring the line in dry and flake it out before charging and it made for a much easier advance up the stairs. 

I can tell you after the initial knockdown of the fire we placed a salvage cover on the wooden stairway to prevent debris and water from damaging the stairway during overhaul.  That lack of damage and standing water was mentioned and appreciated by the homeowner.  We did extensive overhaul pulling walls and ceiling.  The fire started in an electrical junction box and spread up the wall into the attic space.  All in all less than 5 minutes of water application during the initial attack and probably not much more than that during overhaul.

I am not comparing tactics or our buildings when I talk about manpower.  But the truth is you have the ability to overpower a situation with manpower and equipment, we do not.  It is one of the reasons we use 2 inch hose, it offers higher flows and not much more work than moving 1 3/4inch hose.  We adapt, innovate, and overcome, within our resources and the resources of our mutual aid partners. 

We don't have high rises but we do have huge barns and agricultural buildings, older balloon frame homes, newer light weight constructed homes and apartment buildings, stores, factories, nursing homes, and a huge county highway facility.  Perhaps this doesn't seem like much to you, but we only have 2 engines, a tender and a brush rig, and less staffing than your first alarm.  It is a far different world from my former career department and clearly different from your world.

You had alluded to our staffing compared to yours. I've seen posts from firefighters on forums like this that indicated our staffing was actually too high. I'm not saying you're in that camp but you did bring it up. I just wanted to explain why we have what we have. As I stated earlier, we have fires that can't be overcome by staffing. At least not in the time frame that is necessary due to fast moving fires in heavily occupied older NFP buildings. I had no intention of belittling your department or the structures it responds to. They all have their fair share of challenges regardless of staffing levels. 

We call them high rise when they exceed 75 feet in height.

I was not implying that you had too much staffing.  My point was simply that you made the comment that we use shortcuts and that they are unsafe.  We don't have a response of 3 and 2 on a structure fire, with 25 plus firefighters.  We have to do what we have to do to get the job done with our limited staffing and mutual aid 10 to 30 minutes away.

While fires may be the same all over the country, due to staffing and equipment, strategy and tactics are very different.  We are a very aggressive, go get the fire, type of fire department and our staffing doesn't prevent that.

According to our Dept SOP we go in with a charged line everytime.  And we are a small vol dept.  I can see both sides on this one.  Don you did a size up and determined that a dry line would be safe and and while i didnt read every post completely i assume you charged the line at the bottom of the stairs and advanced up to the fire correct?  Saved you some damage as you said to the home and still got the job done.   On the flip side I can see what Capt. getting at too.  What if you went in dry got to the fire and it hits the fan.  What if there is an issue at the pump and they cant get you water?  By that point are you in too deep to get out with out the protection of water?   Personally i feel you should charge at the door but i can also see the fire by fire decision too.   And really it shouldnt matter if its a full time or volly dept.   And im not even going to get into the high rise stuff cause my knowledge of them is very very little.


We did charge the line at the bottom of the stairs before we advanced up. Let's be clear I am not advocating at anytime advancing right up to the fire room or area with an uncharged line.  I have stated in other topics about moving as close as possible while remaining in a safe area before calling for water.  If you are in that safe area and any of the difficulties you mention occur you can easily and safely retreat. 

Never thought you were advocating advancing right up to the fire with a dry line.   At the end of the day everyone went home safe and you did as little damage as possible to the house.  Thats what its all about.  On the flip side there have been a few LODD because of entering with a dry line.  So its not the best choice but IF it can be done safely then go for it.

Don Catenacci said:


We did charge the line at the bottom of the stairs before we advanced up. Let's be clear I am not advocating at anytime advancing right up to the fire room or area with an uncharged line.  I have stated in other topics about moving as close as possible while remaining in a safe area before calling for water.  If you are in that safe area and any of the difficulties you mention occur you can easily and safely retreat. 

Our guy on the nozzle will make that call. I personally when going to the second floor will normally go in dry depending on fire load and guy that's on line with me.

 Stephen Duffy:

i suppose we can all think of times we have committed to a house without a charged line....but best practice has to be we charge, and that's the way we should train, conditioning the firefighters to this being the norm and a requirement.

where we are dealing with high rise or complex structures.....well that's different.

I'm sorry, but I disagree with your "Best Practices" line about always going in charged and that's the way we should train.  We train in the options we will use and one of the options we use, based on the officer's size-up, is advancing into a structure with a dry line.  I would not tell you to do what we do, because I have no idea of your staffing, equipment, experience levels, or structures.  I do know our staffing, equipment, experience level, and structures.  Based on all those we pick an attack strategy and the tactics to accomplish it.  Sometimes that means advancing as far as we can with a dry line.  

And mine is do what works for you, and given an experienced officer making the decision wet or dry, we will continue to do what we do.

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