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When to use a large fire hose line for advanced conditions

By default, many firefighters are prone to pulling a smaller fire hose line, but sometimes a larger diameter is necessary


Consider fire conditions, location and defensive operations when choosing fire hose size.


When do we pull the 2 ½” fire hose line for defensive or offensive operations? This is a good question to ask as we find ourselves facing structural fires that require a larger handline and large amounts of water.

The majority of fire departments will have pre-connected hose lines on their fire trucks that will consist of 1 ½”, 1 ¾” and 2 ½”, about 150 to 200 feet in length. The default fire hose that we pull off is usually the 1 ½” or the 1 ¾” hose line. While this size line will suffice for most situations involving fire, it does not always. There are times that we need a larger hose line that will deliver larger volumes of water.

Apply the ADULTS acronym ADULTS when determining what size fire hose line to use:

  • Advanced fire conditions on arrival
  • Defensive operations
  • Undetermined location of fire
  • Large/compartmented areas
  • Tons of water needed
  • Standpipe operations

We want to achieve a quick knockdown so that the fire will not get the upper hand on us. This can be accomplished by dumping large volumes of water on it right from the start. The amount of water that can be applied is differs greatly when comparing 1 ¾” and 2 ½” nozzles and hoses. The 1 ¾” handline and nozzle (automatic) will flow on average 150 to 180 g/pm, where the 2 ½” nozzle (automatic) and handline will flow between 250 to 300 g/pm, sometimes more, depending on the type of nozzle and pump operations.

The habit of pulling the smaller handlines for everything needs to be broken so that we can gain the upper hand. Training will help breaking the habits and defaults that we develop and rely upon for everyday operations. Training on the larger fire hose line will familiarize each person with its use and getting used to handling it for advancement.

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.