Trending Topics

Flaking out the line: Slow down to get it right the first time

Video highlights how the first hoseline pull can impact the entire operation

Screen Shot 2020-09-29 at 8.31.45 AM.png


There is an old saying in the fire service with respect to the hoseline being pulled off the engine: “As the first line goes, so goes the fire.”

Essentially, this means that the first hoseline pulled off needs to be pulled off in a way that sets up the crew for success. If not, then there’s going to be more – likely unnecessary – work ahead for members.

Whenever we are responding to a structure fire, our hearts start to beat a little faster and the adrenalin starts to flow. Depending the number of fires to which a department responds in a year, as well as the firefighters’ experience levels, members’ reactions will certainly vary, with some feeling an extreme adrenaline surge and others a more modest response. Regardless, when the heart starts to work faster and harder, our cognitive and psychomotor skills start to decrease. This is where we see those little dominos starting to line up, leading to bigger problems on the fireground – but we can take control of the dominos by making smart choices with the initial hoseline.

In our video example, we see a situation where the first line pulled off is not set up for success. It starts with the line being pulled off and stretched out in one long stretch around a tree, then staged at the front of the gate.

What is missing here is more hose staged by the nozzle – and at least the first coupling side by side ready to go when the line is charged. We see this missing with the second hoseline pulled off and stretched around the front of the house. When the chief officer tries to pull more hose to advance a little, he is unable to do so because of the long stretch.

Prior to charging the line, the backup member or the nozzleman can check to make sure there are no kinks in the line. If there is a kink or two, it is easier to undo the kinks before the hose is filled with water. As we see in the video, there is a twisted kink in the hoseline, which hinders advancement and water delivery.

When using an automatic nozzle, the stream being discharged will look good but, in reality, it is not due to the kinks in the line. Decreased water means that the fire will gain the upper hand.

I mentioned the heart racing and the adrenaline pumping in the veins – this causes us to want to move or work faster in an attempt to deal with the situation. Slowing down our actions will aid in setting up the line for success, as this will lead to smoother fireground actions in other areas, too.

In the video, you will hear the words “slow down” said by another chief officer toward the advancing firefighter (chief) so that the hose can be untwisted. Once the hose was untwisted, he is able to carry on, but it involved extra work.

It is better to take the extra 15 seconds to ensure that the hoseline being pulled off is set up for success as, so slow down a little and flake it right!

Training time

After watching this video with your company, set aside some time to train on the following:

  • Practice pulling off the preconnect handlines, ending up with a nozzle and the first coupling side by side at the point of entry.
  • Have the backup member walk the line up to the nozzle to catch any kinks and flake them out prior to charging water.
  • Discuss ways that the hoseline could have been advanced in this video example besides the open gate.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.