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Video: 5 great ways to load and deploy fire 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

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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 (Florida) 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 hosebed 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 hosebed and all “Dutchmans” are smooth and consistently located across the hosebed.

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 (Michigan) 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.

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 (Indiana) 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.

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 (Kentucky) 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.

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 Bumper Load

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 Department bumper load only requires about 50 feet of separation from the pumper to have the line ready for water.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Final thoughts

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% of the building fires you could encounter in your primary response area?
  • What hosebeds 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 hosebeds that can be reached easily from the ground for quick and easy deployment.

Remember: Getting the hoseline 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.

This article, originally published in 2013, has been updated.

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Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an 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’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.