m a c k A s the engine company officer, you are respon- sible for the fire attack and, before that, the hose stretch for that fire. Part of your fire
size-up must include an estimate of how much hose
will be required to reach the fire. Stretch estimating
encompasses three basic segments of measurement:
the distance to the building, the distance within the
building, and nozzle reach. Remember, with each
segment of the stretch, there is a minimum amount of
hose required. If you don’t get the minimums correct,
you’ll probably stretch short.
When you are estimating how much hose will be
required, you have to break down the estimate into
rapidly recognizable elements that you can quickly
add up to get to the minimum amount of hose you
need to complete the stretch. A minimum is a benchmark measurement; it should follow a standard of
The most common hose length is 50 feet, so that
is the measurement we judge our travel distances
against: how many lengths of hose it will take to cover
a certain distance. All of this matters not only to have
a chance at a successful fire attack but to make sure
your hoseline is pumped correctly.
Certain known and common distances can be
standardized to assist in the hoseline calculation. Typically for a flight of return stairs, one length of hose
will be used. Remember, there is no such thing as
half a length of hose, even if that’s all that’s physically needed; we always add up to the next length.
Certain staircases like scissor stairs or straight stairs
found in many homes will only use a portion of one
length of hose on the actual steps but will use more of
that length on the next flight or landing, depending
on what you have. The point to remember is that all
the examples use one length of hose to complete the
distance traveled between one floor and the next.
All hose stretches are local, and using lot widths in
your area will help you estimate how much hose you
will need on the street if you spot several houses from
the fire. If your lot lines are 25 feet apart, then for
every two houses you’ll need a length of hose on the
How much do you need for the fire floor? Of
course, it depends, but usually it’s one length of hose.
That’s a minimum, so having at least that much not
only provides you with a standard and a guide but
also gives you enough hose for most floors in a home
or apartment. Of course, if buildings are larger in
width or depth or your entry points are distant for
those buildings, then going up to two lengths will be
Nozzle reach is often overlooked as part of a stretch
estimate, but it’s very important in the fight to cut
off extension and final extinguishment, including
overhaul. When a fire has breached an area, such as
a void space in the fire compartment, you’ll need to
get to that spot with the nozzle and direct the stream
into that space. This is often impossible from a
distance; the nozzle must be close and in line for the
stream to work.
How Much Hose?
Getting the minimums right
With each segment of the stretch, there is a minimum amount of
hose required. If you don’t get the minimums correct, you’ll probably stretch short. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell.)