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The leader line: When you need fast water

While not a replacement for the gated wye, the leader line is a great option at fires that require longer stretches


Photo/Chris DelBello


Proper hoseline deployment is a basic, yet critical, firefighter task. It is also where most firefighters will discover that they need to train and practice more often. Regardless of the hose load types on your apparatus, you should be an expert with their removal from the apparatus and the many ways they can be deployed.

Photo/Chris DelBello

For my entire career, the departments I work for have relied on a 3-inch supply line and gated wye for long hose stretches and or what many refer to as “apartment lays.”

However, not too long ago – and by no means am I implying that this is a new concept in the fire service – we started training with the leader line deployment for our initial knockdown. The intent is to use it for our three-, four- and five-story townhomes that will require longer stretches than normal, like when presenting with fire on the upper floors and requiring a little more time for us to reach.

Some may question the differences between the gated wye option vs. the leader line. The answer: With the gated wye, you should be using 3-inch supply line and you cannot flow water into the structure until you add the 1¾-inch handline on one of the discharges. With the leader line, you can flow water into the structure using a smoothbore break-apart nozzle while another member is flaking out and preparing the 1¾-inch attack line for interior operations. Once the attack line is ready to be deployed, you simply shut down the 2½-inch handline, remove the nozzle tip and attach the 1¾-inch handline directly to the nozzle bale and charge it before advancing into the structure.

The idea behind the initial leader line is fast water application on the fire while setting up the smaller line for deployment verses waiting for water application while setting up the smaller line.


In this example, the leader line is actually a 2½-inch cross-lay that will initially be an attack line. The line will remain preconnected to the apparatus. The firefighter will remove it in the standard method of carrying it as a bundle to be fed from the shoulder as they walk away from the apparatus. The line will be carried and placed into action near the point of entry and flowed onto any visible fire.

Photo/Chris DelBello

The biggest benefit of the leader line is the rapid deployment of a hose and nozzle combination capable of delivering 265-300 gpm for a quick knockdown of any substantial volume of fire. The 2½-inch handline is then quickly and easily converted to the more manageable 1¾-inch handline delivering 150-200 gpms for the interior attack.


A second firefighter, the officer or the EO can deploy the 1¾-inch attack line. The attack line is to be removed as a shoulder bundle and carried to an area for its deployment. Be mindful to keep your bundle organized while removing it from the apparatus, and do not lay it on the ground too close to the structure, as it will create deployment difficulties and increase setup time.

Photo/Chris DelBello

Keep in mind that using the leader line will require any additional incoming units to stretch their own leader line or maybe consider stretching the 3-inch supply line and set up for operations using the gated wye. I recommend considering gated wye operations for any additional stretches. The initial attack crew will have already knocked down the bulk of any visible fire from the exterior and started preparing for or even making entry for interior attack, so a second leader line in many cases would be redundant.

The leader line is not a special load, nor does it carry a special designation or take up any additional space in your hose bed or cross-lay. It is simply a 2½-inch cross-lay or flat load off the rear that you already carry on your apparatus.


Once the 1¾-inch attack line is deployed and laid out correctly with no kinks, the firefighter will bring the female end of the hoseline to the firefighter operating the 2½-inch hoseline. They will shut down the 2½-inch nozzle, remove the tip and connect the 1¾-inch attack line to the 2½-inch nozzle. Once connected, the attack line is ready to be charged.

Photo/Chris DelBello

The leader line should be viewed as simply another option in the toolbox. It is not a replacement for the gated wye as some may suggest. The drawbacks some observe are so minute that most firefighters would never notice the difference, and even if they did, it would only be for a second or two. The gated wye still has and will always have its place on the fireground as an effective device for its intended use.


At some point during operations, it would be beneficial to secure the nozzle with a strap to avoid its accidental closure.

Photo/Chris DelBello

One additional suggestion that anti-wye community points out is the need to secure the valves to keep them from closing. Well, for extended operations, it will be just as necessary to secure the valve (nozzle) for the leader line. The valve (nozzle) on the leader line could inadvertently be closed with movement, just as the gated wye could be.


The biggest benefit to this deployment option is that you can flow water while the initial interior attack line is being prepared for deployment.

Photo/Chris DelBello

Try it before you dismiss it. Train with both the leader line and gated wye operations side-by-side for comparison. No matter what you discover, do not write off either, as they are both valuable options when needing to stretch and set up for long attack lines.

Train your crew. Stay safe.

Discussion questions

  1. What are the key differences between the gated wye option and the leader line approach, and how might these differences impact the effectiveness of a firefighting response?
  2. The article describes the leader line as providing “fast water application” while setting up the smaller line for deployment. Can you discuss some situations where this might be particularly advantageous?
  3. How does the leader line method provide for a quick knockdown of a substantial volume of fire, and what implications does this have for the safety of firefighters and the preservation of property?
  4. Why should you consider gated wye operations for any additional stretches, even after the leader line has been deployed?
  5. The article suggests trialing both the leader line and gated wye operations side-by-side for comparison. What factors would you be looking at in such a comparison to evaluate their effectiveness?

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Chris DelBello is a 31-year veteran of the fire service. He currently holds the rank of senior captain with the Houston Fire Department, working in the Midtown District. He is also the district training officer, which encompasses all the stations in downtown and midtown, and holds a Training Officer II certification. DelBello also serves as a captain with the Fort Bend County (Texas) Emergency Service District. Connect with DelBello via email.