The average complaint about the big line is that it takes a lot to advance it.
The 2 1/2-inch hoseline is plagued by myths that cause our reluctance to use it, even at times when it is needed most. The most common are that it is too heavy to advance aggressively and that it requires more manpower than that used to advance a 1 3/4- or 1 1/2-inch handline.
It is correct that the big line will not be as quickly stretched and advanced as its smaller brothers, but if you stop for a moment and consider the type of fires and settings that the 2 1/2-inch hoseline faces, then you can begin to understand that speed is not so much a requirement. Take a look at the mnemonic you should be using for deciding when to pull the big line:
A = Advanced Fire D = Defensive Operations U = Unknown Location (of the fire; smoke pushing from every crack but we can't locate the seat) L = Large Structures T = Tons of Water S - Standpipe System
Looking at these we don't see any that really require the immediate speed in stretch and advance that the smaller lines do. We are going to be quick as we can when pulling the 2 1/2-inch hoseline, but our mindset should be different. When you respond to a private dwelling fire, your hippocampus (part of the brain that deals with short- and long-term memory) is already engaged in recalling past experiences to match with the yet unseen, as you arrive. Experience combined with education teaches you that successful extinguishment of the fire will be the result of a fast stretch and knockdown. Once the parking brake is set you act almost without thinking.
But look where and how ADULTS is used.
When you respond to the Home Depot for a working fire, or the whatever-teenth floor of a high-rise, your immediate thoughts shouldn't be the quick stretch but whether or not you are bringing the right gun to the fight. It may be a fire in a rear storage room, or a kitchen fire on the 27th floor; either one, you are not going to be as quick as if you are running the 150' preconnect. You will be walking stairs, looking for the straightest path, extending a line or still looking for the fire. Combine this with the fact that the fire is growing and you should see the need for the 2 1/2.
"But I don't have the initial staffing to run the 2 1/2."
I disagree. I've been on fires where three-men engine companies have run the big line successfully and managed to make a good knockdown as other companies arrived. The reason for their success is that they trained on the 2 1/2-inch hoseline with their 'real world' staffing. It's easy for a department to say they drill on using the big line, but that is usually a whole department drill where they put six members on the line. Real world training uses real world staffing. Education should be open to all, but to stress the fact that minimum staffing can run the big line, the drill must be done with same minimum staffing.
The Nozzle Forward has two good videos showing the proper teamwork and movement among the lineman and backup man, using the 2 1/2-inch hoseline. Take a look at them, share them with others in your department and drill on stretching and advancing the 2 1/2 with real world staffing. Rotate members, three or four at a time, in simple evolutions and then repeat to gain speed in movements.
Hotel under construction. (Brian Slattery photo)
Commercial row with apartments above (David Coleman photo)
Private dwelling. (author's collection)
Photos courtesy of author and FITHP.net with permission.
Bill Carey is the Online News/Blog
Manager for Elsevier Public Safety and a former Prince George's County (MD) volunteer fire officer.