Engine Company Operations — The Second Hoseline

There are many functions that an engine company must accomplish on the fireground. As mentioned in a previous edition of Carolina Fire, getting the first hoseline right on the fireground is a critical element to civilian safety, incident stabilization and saving property. However, once the first hoseline is correctly positioned into operation on the fireground, a second/backup hoseline should be stretched and in position as quickly as possible. This article will discuss some of the elements of the second hoseline.


What is the Purpose of the Second hoseline?

The simple answer is firefighter safety. The second hoseline is put into operation to back up the initial hoseline. In many instances this is how some departments establish the initial RIT team until the fire goes out, the second hoseline is needed inside or another company arrives and assumes the RIT function. The success of the second hoseline is dependent upon where it is positioned for the situation and its need.

Who is Responsible for Placing the Second Hoseline into Operation?

That depends on your agency. For career departments, the second-in engine company is responsible for getting the second hoseline stretched and into position. Additionally, the second-in engine company should be assisting the first-in with securing the water supply, which is needed when placing the second hoseline into operation. On the volunteer fireground the second hoseline is typically stretched when sufficient personnel arrive on scene. This could be members that arrive on the scene into the incident or it could be handled by the mutual aid department. It is important for a department to identify who handles stretching the second hoseline through operational guidelines.

Where Should the Second Hoseline Be Positioned?

There are numerous factors that could potentially affect its position. The preferred location is behind the first hoseline. This is the operational priority of the second hoseline. If the second hoseline is needed on the interior or for another function, then another hoseline needs to be positioned quickly to back up the hoselines operating inside. The second hoseline can potentially be positioned to operate on the floor above the fire floor, it could be stretched into an adjacent building or store, or for exposure protection. These said positions would be dependent upon the situation and the available resources.

The second hoseline is typically stretched from the same engine as the initial hoseline. On most fires the engine company deploys the initial hoseline from a preconnect location on the apparatus. For most agencies it is a crosslay from behind the cab, but there are several departments that only have preconnects from the rear of the apparatus. Typically, the second hoseline is a second preconnect from a location near where the first hoseline was stretched. So, for example, a front preconnect crosslay is stretched for the first hoseline, the second hoseline comes from the rear preconnect. If the preconnects are stretched from the rear, the preconnected hoselines are on the left and ride side of the hosebed. These are just some examples of where hose is typically stretched from on the apparatus.

When using preconnected lines the second hoseline will in most instances be the same diameter and length as the first hoseline. Problems begin to arise when courtyard/liter hoseline operations (2.5 inch or 3 inch hoseline supplying 1.75 inch or 2 inch hose) are employed or when stretching from a static hosebed. In these types of hose stretches, the engine company that is stretching the second hoseline must know the length and diameter of the first hoseline or if it is a courtyard/liter hoseline operation.

I have observed that many times when an engine company deploys a courtyard/liter stretch, a gated wye is typically used and without fail the second line has been attached to the other side of the gated wye. This is not a true second hoseline. If the supply line fails, the 2.5-inch or 3 inch supplying the gate, both hoselines attached to the gated wye will fail.

Make sure that if your company is stretching a second hoseline and there is already a courtyard/liter line in operation, the second hoseline should match the first hoseline. It requires more effort and work to accomplish but it is imperative that the second hoseline is a second 2.5 inch or 3 inch hoseline in these types of operations.

One last point about courtyard/liter line operations; avoid using a gated wye if possible. When using a wye the supply line cannot absorb the kick back. Also the two lines off of the wye are constantly robbing each other while flowing. If possible utilize a cone reducer or a break apart 2.5-inch nozzle.

Firefighters assigned to the second hoseline must remember not to crowd that initial attack line. However, they can assist the initial hoseline by slacking the hose at the entry point and policing kinks. It can’t be overstated enough that when operating the second hoseline the firefighters should be ready for battle. The second hoseline should be charged and the firefighters should be masked up ready to go on air should the second hoseline be placed into operation. Additionally, chase kinks, estimate the stretch correctly, perform flawlessly all the fundamentals of a good hose stretch which will equate to a smooth advance. I can promise you that the initial attack team will thank you for it! Especially when it helps them!

Stay Safe!

Richard Ray, a 25-year veteran of the fire service, has both volunteer and career experience. He is a member of the Creedmoor Vol. Fire Dept. (NC) where he is a captain. He is also a career firefighter with the Durham Fire Dept. (NC) where he is a captain and an adjunct instructor for the training division. He has presented classes at conferences across the country and written articles for Fire Engineering Magazine. He is a certified instructor and instructs live fire, officer development, strategy and tactics and also engine company operations.

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