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by Robert Avsec

Video: 5 great ways to load hose

Getting the hose off the truck and ready for water is key to a quick knockdown; here are five variations worth a close look

By Robert Avsec

Deploying hose and getting water on fire is not solely an engine company function, as many departments use quints and aerials equipped with attack lines. Regardless of the apparatus type, the emphasis needs to be on hose loads that can be quickly placed in service and reloaded.

There are a wide variety of commonly accepted hose loads for attack and supply lines. Firefighters, being ingenious folks, are always looking for new and innovative hose loads to meet their needs. Keep these important points in mind when specifying the hose loads in your department.

  • Get consensus from all personnel for all hose loads and put it in policy. Every department needs to have "its way" specified and everyone needs to follow the plan.
  • Include in your policy the proper way to make recommendations for improvement so that personnel don't feel inclined to change something on their own they don't like.
  • Make sure personnel are skilled and practiced in deploying and reloading all hose loads. Emphasize reloading because any hose load is only as good as the last time it was packed.


The flat load
The growing use of large-diameter hose for supply lines makes the flat load the hose load of choice as LDH manufacturers universally recommend it to minimize impact on the edge of the drained hose. The Martin County (Fla.) Fire and Rescue Department was looking to find a hose load for 5-inch that would deploy without being caught up in their newer engine's hose bed made improvement in its LDH loading and deployment.

I found this hose load to have several very attractive features. Unlike the commonly used staggered flat load, the modified flat load is loaded in side-by-side stacks each containing of 200 feet. This allows you to see exactly how much hose is in the bed. When properly loaded, all couplings are located at the front of the hose bed and all "Dutchmans" are smooth and consistently located across the hose bed.

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As demonstrated in the video, firefighters at Martin County successfully met their objective. The hose deploys much more smoothly when compared with a staggered flat load as the LDH in each stack completely deploys before the adjacent stack starts playing out.

The firefighters also demonstrate a safer method for wrapping a hydrant with LDH.

Firefighters tend to favor the flat load for 1¾- and 2½-inch attack lines because they can use a standard shoulder or arm deployment, and it is easy to reload. The firefighter on the nozzle also can grab and flip the hose as she puts it up on her shoulder, instantly creating a minuteman load on the last section or two if deploying to an upper floor.

Here are a couple of attack line loads you might not be familiar with; each offers some improvements over the commonly employed flat-loaded cross-lay.

The Philly load
The Oshtemo (Mich.) Fire & Rescue Department compared the performance for its cross-lay hose load deployment with that of the Philly load. They produced the video as a pitch to personnel in the department to change how attack lines were loaded. 

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The pitch worked. Although their people were hesitant at the mention of changing the load, after months of use and training the consensus was that the Philly load was quicker and cleaner than the "spaghetti pile" they used to get in the front yard. Sound familiar?

The engine operator can charge the hose in 30 seconds, making for a fast fire attack. Cornering and stairwells were the primary objections to the load, but with training and experience those obstacles were overcome.

The Roundabout load
The Carmel (Ind.) Fire Department created an attack line load, which they named the roundabout. The roundabout consists of 100 feet of 1¾-inch hose coiled around the male end. This is then loaded into the cross lay, or speed lay hose compartment. The roundabout is connected to the pre-existing 100 feet of 1¾-inch that is flat loaded, for a total of 200 feet of 1¾-inch attack line.

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One of the features I liked about this load is that upon arrival at the point of attack, the entire roundabout roll is dropped on the ground and loosened up by the nozzle firefighter. Once charged, the whole thing blows up into uniform loops, the kind that make for efficient hose movement into the structure.

Front-bumper hose loads
More departments are specifying their pumping apparatus with a front discharge outlet and hose storage compartment in the bumper. These next two loads allow for safe, effective, and efficient deployment of 100 feet of 1¾-inch hose for smaller fires that only require a short hose stretch.

Firefighters Jack Trautwein and Joe Nugent of Engine Co. 2 in the Lexington (Ky.) Fire Department experimented with several traditional loads and combinations before eventually settling on this configuration.

The Lexington load consists of two 50-foot lengths of 1¾-inch hose, each rolled separately using a doughnut roll and then connected to each other. A piece of nylon webbing is run through the rolls in a girth-hitch fashion to allow a single firefighter to remove the entire load from the tray prior to deployment.

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When properly deployed, the hose unrolls into a nice S-shape pattern and is ready for charging. The Lexington load only requires about 50 feet of separation from the pumper to have the line ready for water. This configuration also allows for easy access to the individual hose rolls for use on other tasks, such as extending an attack line.

Clear AFS (Alaska) Fire Department
The folks at Clear Fire Department in Alaska developed this bumper hose load that is extremely easy to load and quick to deploy without tangling and kinking. This load is also deployable by a single firefighter and results in a 50-foot straight stretch that's ready for water about 15 seconds after the hose leaves the storage tray.

Similar to the Lexington load, the Clear Fire bumper load only requires about 50 feet of separation from the pumper to have the line ready for water. 

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Apparatus can be specified with a number of hose storage beds that can be located practically anywhere on the vehicle. Whether looking to specify new apparatus or re-evaluating current hose loads, start with the key factors that will influence your hose deployment and the degree of effort necessary to reload the hose.

  • What are your current staffing levels? How many firefighters will be available to deploy hose on the emergency scene? How many will be available for reloading of hose on the apparatus?
  • What types and lengths of attack hose do you most commonly use? Will the hose loads allow the most efficient deployment for 90 percent of the building fires you could encounter in your primary response area?
  • What hose beds are available, or need to be specified, to meet the hose storage requirements necessary to support those suppression operations?
  • Other specs may include making sure your pre-connected cross lays are closer to the ground to enable the average-size firefighter to grasp the hose from the ground without stepping on a step or side running board; rear hose loads that allow for large pre-connects of 1¾- and 2½-inch hose; and lower supply hose beds that can be reached easily from the ground for quick and easy deployment.

Remember: Getting the hose line into service and putting water on the fire is one of the greatest life-saving actions we can perform on the fireground. Make sure the hose is ready for the task.

About the author

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an active instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state, and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to be a life-long learner working in both the private and public sectors to further develop his "management sciences mechanic" credentials. He makes his home near Charleston, W.Va. Contact Robert at

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Dennis Cosgrove Dennis Cosgrove Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:04:33 AM We always used the flat load, with a skid load, Skid was 150 ft. of 1 1/2" tied to a water thief, and fed by 2 1/2 or 3 1/2". Drop off @ the door and go to Hydrant, worked very well in the city.
Jon Fernando Jon Fernando Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:08:35 AM Awesome. Saw the article on the Roudabout awhile back and couldn't find it.
Donald Catenacci Donald Catenacci Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:07:10 AM Of course if you IMPROPERLY deploy the hose load you are trying to prove isn't as good it will look bad. In the Philly load demo the FF pulling the other load is NOT deploying it properly. I sincerely doubt that the load is designed to be dumped in a snarled pile of crap like that. In fact it looks like it is intended to be shouldered and carried. I am not saying their choice of the Philly load is wrong. What I am saying is purposely incorrectly deploying the other load demeans their efforts to prove their hose load is better on it's own merit.
Donald Catenacci Donald Catenacci Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:19:58 AM For the Guys from Carmel, Indiana...Have you guys tried that with a low pressure combination nozzle, either 50 or 75 psi, or a 50 psi smoothbore? I am wondering how this load would uncoil at the lower pressure.
Donald Catenacci Donald Catenacci Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:24:48 AM The double donut front bumper load is pretty sweet. It deploys really nicely.
Donald Catenacci Donald Catenacci Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:46:56 AM The Clear AFS Alaska version of the well load is pretty slick too. We havedone a similar load using just one layer of hose at a time. We then stick our arms through the loops pull the entire load out of the well and drop it on the ground. The nozzle man takes the nozzle and moves forward. I am going to try this load on our Quin when it gets back from being painted.

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