Pumping From The Hydrant

1Pumping from the hydrant is an operation that has been done for many years. It involves placing the pumper at the hydrant, making hookups with short supply hose and pumping through its discharge lines to either another pumper, water delivery appliances, or handlines. The latter is most common when the hydrant is close to the fire.
The main reason, at least hydraulically, the engine pumps from the hydrant is to create enough pressure to move the water to the discharge delivery point when the hose layout from the hydrant to the discharge point is so pressure restrictive that it is not able to produce the required streams. The restrictions can be the diameter of the hose, length of the lay, low hydrant residual pressure and/or the volume of water, all of which cause pressure loss. In the olden days before Large Diameter Hose (LDH) 2-1/2″ and 3″ were the norm for supply line evolutions. Depending on the capacity of the hydrant system being used, pumpers on the hydrant were quite common even in low flow house fire scenarios. When the water requirements were high, it was also common to see multiple supply lines being pumped from the hydrant.


A 3″ supply line supporting a house fire

With the coming of LDH, fire departments realized its low friction loss capabilities and hydrant pump operations faded away to the point where most hose evolutions did not include it. Basically we got spoiled. In fact on large flow fires it is very common to just lay LDH supply lines from not only the close hydrants initially used from the first alarm, but even the farther ones brought in from hundreds of feet away.


This 600′ 5″ supply line is powered from hydrant pressure. It would have performed better being pumped from the hydrant.

Well guess what, even LDH, as good as it is, has friction loss that has to be overcome from a positive pressure source. Hydrant systems, even the hot ones, are limited in their pressure capabilities. In fact, when a supply line supplied directly from a hydrant is pushed to the max and can’t provide any more water it’s usually not because it ran out of water, instead it’s because it runs out of system pressure. An important point to remember is that a hydrant pressure starts at static which is the water in the system not flowing. The static pressure is often thought of as the pressure that moves the water and this is incorrect. Once the water starts flowing the pressure turns to residual and starts dropping. The more you flow, the lower the pressure gets. This happens until you can’t get any more water because the pressure will not deliver it through the supply line. As an example a hydrant has a 100 psi static pressure but after flowing 1000 GPM the residual pressure is 40 psi. The friction loss in 5″ hose is 5 psi per 100′. After leaving 20 psi for an intake pressure the 40 psi will only move the 1000 GPM 400′. The moral of this story is that in a lot of situations we can move more water by creating more pressure by putting a pump at the hydrant.

Let’s take a look at some things that can be done to improve hydrant pumping capabilities.

When making the hydrant hookup, it is important to get as much water as possible to support the units on the fireground. Many departments that have LDH only make the connection with a single line. In fact there are departments that only have the capability on their engines to use one line choosing to leave one of the main pump intake ports capped off. Why settle for less when you have the capability to get more. The worst thing that could happen is that you won’t need the extra water. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


Very common It does have its place


These hookups made with a single LDH lines are not getting the full capacity of the hydrant.





The most common hydrants in use today have three discharge ports. One is large, usually 4″, and the other two are 2-1/2″. Many departments make their multiple hookups with hose matching the outlets. The large outlet gets the large line and the 2-1/2″ outlet gets a 2-1/2″ or 3″ line because their 2-1/2″ couplings match the outlet. At first this sounds sensible but the true fact is that water follows through the path of least resistance. With this combination of hose, the path of least resistance is the large outlet with the large hose. The smaller outlet with the small diameter hose will not get its full potential. A simple flow test was done using a 500 GPM flow to illustrate this concept. A flow meter was placed on a 3″ line 30′ long from the 2-1/2″ hydrant port while the large port had a 5″ line 50′ long. 500 GPM was discharged from the engine and only 60 GPM came through the 3″ line. Next the 3″ line was used by itself to get the same 500 GPM and was able to provide it with a little water left over. Always use LDH on every port , even the small one.


This hook up is made with a 5″ and 3″ line restricting the flow

I recommend using at least two lines for a hookup. In most cases this will get the hydrant capacity. However, if the hydrant is known to be exceptionally good, use a third line. You might be surprised as to what this can do for you.






Multiple hydrant line hookups



Even a 2-1/2″ intake will get you some additional water.

Spotting the hydrant has always been one of the true tests for the pump operator’s skills with the objective of being able to have a kink free line after it is charged. Back in the day soft suction lines were short for reasons I do not know. It was common to have lines as short as 12′ to 15′. This did take a lot of skill to use. I am all for having well trained operators but the shortie’s just mentioned do not help in this type of operation. The use of 25′ and 50′ sections makes a lot more sense. The extra length does not affect the flow but more importantly it allows the unit placement to be simple. Basically all that is needed is to pull up in the area of the hydrant, of course within reason, and the lines will connect with no kink issues. If there are some initial kinks when the line is charged they will most likely straighten out on their own or with a little assistance.




Finally, let’s talk about actually deploying the lines that will make the hydrant hook up. One negative about large diameter hose is that it is heavy, especially if you are using the 25 and 50 footers. You don’t want to be carrying this stuff if at all possible. Single rolls of LDH require the firefighter to unroll it like throwing a bowling ball. This does not work well with the 50′ sections. Rolling the hose in a double donut roll allows the firefighter to drag instead of carrying or doing the bowling ball throw allowing the hose to deploy safely and easily.


Not easy






Very easy

Big Paulie’s Words of Wisdom On Movin’ the Big Water

1You have the Brunacinis, the Mittendorfs and the Brannigans. They all have their words of wisdom on the summaries of their teachings. They’re words to live by. Words of wisdom are not only a tribute to these great fire service educators and all of their hard work and experience, it also provides an excellent guideline to study and learn from.

Well now it’s my turn. Big Paulie’s words of wisdom on movin’ the big water. Are you ready? Here it goes.

Rule #1- Big Paulie says, tradition and pride can be hazardous to your health.

Ah yes, tradition and pride. It’s what makes the fire service go round. It’s fun, it promotes camaraderie and it’s easy. What do I mean by easy? Listen to these statements and tell me if they sound familiar.
We’ve always done it this way and the fires have always gone out.
We are an aggressive fire department, we go in and attack the fire.
Fire departments that make exterior attacks are known as “foundation savers”, they’re a bunch of wimps.
Pump 150
Smooth bore tip nozzles are the only ones that work.
Automatic nozzles are the only ones that work.
This one is my favorite: We don’t get those kind of fires here (large ones).

The list goes on an on. I’m sure all of you have your favorites. If you analyze each of these statements, you can find one common denominator, it’s easy. You don’t have to change anything, there are no studies or evaluations to do and there is no risk taking to endure, you just do the same thing over and over again. Well, guess what, the times they are a’changing. Take a look at the history of the fire service. We’ve gone from horse drawn wagons to motorized apparatus, we’ve traded in our buckets for hose. We’ve gone from no air packs sucking in all the life destroying particles to using air packs. And of course, we’ve gone from 2-1/2” supply lines to large diameter hose. I would like to have been a fly on the firehouse wall when some of these changes were made, or for that matter just suggested. Are you starting to get the picture here?

Big Paulie’s one recommendation is to please keep an open mind. Tradition and pride are a very important part of the fire service, but please don’t let it get in the way of making our job easier and more important – safe.

Rule #2- Keep it simple, dude.

Fire fighting definitely gets high marks as far as degree of difficulty is concerned both mentally and physically. Let’s face it – we are dealing with an abnormal situation that we did not create and did not get any say so in when and where it would happen. Therefore, I feel it is extremely important to make our job as easy to perform as possible. What does this mean when it comes to flowing big water? Let’s take a look.

• Get rid of the formulas
We have all been taught the formulas for calculating the required fire flow for a structure fire. First of all, who says that one person’s approximation of what the dimensions of a structure are is going to be the same, or even close, to what mine or the next guy’s is? Second, how sharp are you going to be in your estimation at 2:00 AM when you are first in and the whole world is on fire? If you are like most of us, things could be a little cloudy. Instead of using this formula, why not break fire flows down into three categories: small, medium and large.

Small fires can be, for lack of better words, the junk fire flows that require small amounts of water to extinguish (50 GPM works good). You know these types of fires, small trash and brush fires or possibly a smoldering under the hood vehicle fire. It’s the ones that we pull the booster line on.

Medium fires are for the most part the interior compartmentized structure fires where an interior attack will be attempted. Flows of 120-150 GPM seem to work well on these.

Finally, large fires are basically just that – the big one. They can be large structures where both exterior and/or interior are fully involved, large vehicle fires, etc. Basically, it’s anything that requires more than your standard small diameter handline to extinguish rapidly. What kind of flows are we looking at? As much as possible based on water supply, manpower and equipment. I would not hesitate one bit to hit a fully involved two car garage with a 1000 GPM stream from a deck gun under the right circumstances. The bottom line is – hit the fire with as much water as you can development based on the circumstances that are presented.

• Calculating Engine Pressures
Oh no, not more formulas! Yes, it’s called fireground hydraulics. There’s books written on this stuff, in fact, there are even college courses on it. Okay here’s the scenario. This time we’ll make it easier. It’s 12:00 noon, you’re first in on a ripper. The guys are screaming for water. The first evolution deployed is at least 200 feet of 3” hose wyed off to a manifold with two 1-3/4” handlines and one 2-1/2” handline. The requested flows are as follows: 1-3/4” 150 GPM each
2-1/2” 250 GPM

Now quickly, what is your engine pressure? Come on, hurry up, we need the water! We’re getting clobbered here!

I think hydraulic formulas have no place on the fireground. They are too difficult and require all of the figures to use. What if you don’t know how much hose is on the ground? The formulas will not work. One of my favorite formulas that I really get a kick out of is the one for relay pumping. You’re asked to establish an engine pressure for the source pumper based on the size and length of the hose and flow requirements. True fact – in a relay pump operation, which could be long, the amount of hose is usually not known. Sometimes it takes two or more units to complete the lay. How about the flows? Most of the time the actual flow is not known until the evolution is completely set up and engine pressures are established.

Come on you guys, let’s keep it simple. Pump charts can and should be used to develop all engine pressures. Pump charts are reference charts that have pre-calculated pressures to work with for any hose evolution your department will ever have to perform. The more exact engine pressures that can be listed, the better. For example, pre-connected handlines, fixed master streams, foam operations, sprinkler operations, high rise building fire protection systems and relay pumping.

For some of the make or break evolutions, basic math should be all that is ever needed. A listing of statistics will help this process, such as, the friction loss per 50 feet of hose for all sizes, nozzle pressures, master stream appliance friction losses, elevation gain or loss, etc.

To make a long story short always be looking for the easiest, most simple way to do a task. Can the current method be done at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, under a lot of stress and/or with minimum manpower? If not, then it’s time to reevaluate and find an easier way.

Rule #3- The water’s out there, you just gotta go get it!

How many times have you heard the excuse of a poor water supply as the reason given for losing a building to fire? I get a kick out of watching the evening news telling about a major fire where everything was lost and the interview with the fire chief put the blame on a poor water supply. What’s really funny about this when you look in the background is that you see large diameter hose on the ground and the fire building is in the middle of a major city. Major cities and even normal size cities for the most part have hydrants available for miles. How then does the water supply problem occur? What usually happens on big fires is the closest hydrants to the fire building itself are connected to supply lines. Why? Because they’re the easiest ones to get to. As the fire gets bigger, the water supply in the immediate area of the fire building gets diminished. This is where most departments, especially the ones using large diameter hose, give up and say we are out of water. If we can’t get it with 5” then there isn’t anymore. In reality, they are not really out of water within their means of obtaining more. “The water’s out there, you just gotta go get it.” Long distance relay supply line operations and water shuttle operations are two ways to obtain more water.

Preplanning of your high fire flow potential areas in conjunction with taking a good look at what your department’s equipment can produce for a big flow operation is essential for developing a plan for the big one.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are situations where true water supply problems exist. However, before throwing in the towel, look at all your options, you never know you might come up with a solution.

Rule #4- Don’t screw around, just blast it!

Elephant hunting with a BB gun, that’s what I like to call an attack on a big fire with a low flow stream. There’s a basic rule of thumb given to us by mother nature, which says it takes so much water to put out so much fire. Plain and simple! If the amount of water isn’t enough to put out the size of fire you’re dealing with, guess what, the fire won’t go out, at least quickly.

There are formulas that tell us how much water is needed for a specific size building. This is good for books, but not good for practical application. The bottom line is – hit the fire with as much water as possible based on your manpower, equipment and water supply situation with an attempt to overwhelm the fire. If 250 GPM will knock a fire down fairly quickly, then 500 GPM will be even faster.

Let’s take a look at a very common scenario that most cities deal with, a mobile home fire. Let’s say that we’ve got a full assignment responding to a mobile home fire. The first in engine company has laid a 5” supply line from the hydrant 300 feet away. They have 500 gallons immediately available from their booster tank and are faced with two immediately threatened exposures, one on each side of the fully involved mobile home. What usually happens is that the crew will pull pre-connected handlines to cover the exposures until the water supply can be established. The key here is to protect exposures while conserving the water from the booster tank. With two lines out you know as well as I do, there is a chance of draining that 500 gallon booster tank before the supply line is charged. And guess what, the fire that was creating the exposure problem is still there and probably burning with more intensity and now we’re out of water. Have we conserved water, or wasted it?

Let’s use the same scenario again but change the initial attack. We’re still going to lay the supply line but this time instead of pulling the pre-connects, we’re going to get on top of the engine, swing that deck gun around and blast the fire building with everything we’ve got (most booster tank operations can produce only 500 GPM), and knock the snot out of the fire. If we don’t knock it completely down, there’s a real good chance that we will turn it into a lazy type fire that is going nowhere instead of a raging inferno. This should take only 15-20 seconds. At a 500 GPM rate, a 20 second blast will use only 166 gallons of water. The above mentioned operation is known as a Blitz attack.

Rule #5- The only thing too much water will do is put the fire out faster.

Question – If it takes 30 seconds for a 200 GPM stream to extinguish a fire in a building, then will a 500 GPM stream take more or less time to extinguish the same fire? The answer is obviously less time. This is simple stuff. Don’t be afraid to throw as much water as possible in the given situation to put the fire out. The key to this operation is to overwhelm a fire stopping it as quickly as possible and then shutting the stream down. If done correctly, there is a real good chance the fire will be extinguished faster and with less water.

Rule #6- It’s easier to design a pumper to flow large volumes of water and not need it than it is to flow large volumes of water from a pumper not capable of doing it.

All pumpers should be designed for flowing large volumes of water. This involves big pumps, large plumbing, large master stream appliances, multiple large intakes and large diameter hose. The larger, the better. What this does is decrease the friction loss in all parts of the water delivery system which decreases the horsepower needed from the engine of the pumper. All this makes for a more efficient operation. The chances for doubling a pump’s capacity with a unit designed for big flows is extremely possible. It will easily handle the small flow needs as well.

Now let’s turn it around. How easy will it be for a unit designed with standard plumbing, appliances and hose to push the big water?

Rule #7- Pump it up!

Here is another one of those mother nature rules again. Water moving through fire hose, nozzles and discharge plumbing requires a positive pressure. High flowing and hard hitting streams can require higher than normal engine pressures to produce. We in the fire service can sometimes be paranoid of these higher pressures for fear of equipment failure and potential accidents. Well not to worry! The manufacturers of all of our fine equipment also have that fear. That is why they have designed their equipment to withstand the pressures needed for the big water operations. Take a look at this list of statistics,

All water passage components within the fire pump system of a fire apparatus have to be able to withstand 600 psi.
Most small diameter handline type hose today comes with a 400 psi service test pressure. According to NFPA standards, this pressure needs to be 10% higher than maximum operating pressure. That gives us a maximum working pressure of 360 psi.
Manufacturers of master stream appliances have given us a maximum working pressure ranging from 175 to 200 psi depending on the make of the appliance.

Now keep in mind that when these pressures were established, the guys making this stuff knew that fire fighters would be using it and could possibly mess up and over pump it, so a safety factor was built in. The above mentioned equipment can actually withstand more than the maximum pressures they have given.

So what does all this mean? 1-3/4” handlines can produce 300 GPM streams, 2-1/2” and 3” handlines can produce 600 to 800 GPM streams and smooth bore tips on master stream appliances can operate at nozzle pressures reaching 175 psi capable of producing killer streams.
Rule #8- Unless it’s written by the manufacturer, it can be challenged!

Training in the fire service is provided by hand me down information from fire service textbooks, fire department SOPs and fire department instructors. The fire service as with the rest of the world, is ever changing. We need to be able to adapt to these changes and sometimes improve or change the way we do things. For some reason the fire service, when it comes to water delivery, tends not to want to change as is evident by some of the stuff that is out there. We need to take a hard look at how we currently do things and see if there is a need for improvement. Don’t be afraid to invent new procedures and techniques that may enable us to do our jobs better. Just because it’s not written yet, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Don’t be afraid to be the pioneer. The only limiting factors in our quest for improvement should be the manufacturers guidelines that are established on the equipment that is being used.

Why Does it Always Have To Be Done That Way?


Whether it’s department SOPs, SOGs, or just the word from the old-timers, we in the fire service have rules that govern the way we do things. Especially when it comes to moving water. Some of these rules have been established from years past, while others are more recent. What are rules based on? They can be anything from fire service textbooks on water delivery to actual fireground incidents from the past that may have gone bad. Who knows? Some of you may be thinking, water flow is water flow.

Water in, water out. How or why should it change? Do you think our forefathers had the same hesitation when there was talk of trading in the buckets for hose or horses for motorized apparatus? Or, how about those darn SCBAs, only wimps use them.

Let’s take a look at different methods and techniques of water delivery that have been taught over the years based on fire service textbooks, department rules or policies, or just because. It should be noted that all techniques and operations that are going to be discussed in this article as the new alternative methods go directly in line with manufacturers recommendations for their equipment and have been used safely and successfully on the fireground.

Myth #1- The maximum flow from a 2-1/2” discharge on a pumper cannot support large diameter hose operations because of their low flow capabilities.

Reality #1- A large diameter discharge is the most efficient way to flow large volumes of water through large diameter hose. If your unit does not have a large diameter discharge, this large flow operation is still possible using a 2-1/2” discharge. The key is to use the best plumbed discharge available, preferably off the side of the apparatus with no bends in the plumbing. A large diameter hose X 2-1/2” adapter will be needed to make the connection. 1000 GPM flows should be possible at a respectable RPM range. I have been able to get 1700 GPM through a side 2-1/2” discharge with the pumper being at the receiving end of a large diameter hose relay pump operation. Yes, the RPMs needed for this operation were high, however, we did not reach the governed engine speed on the apparatus.


The 2-1/2” side discharge can flow 1000 GPM and still be an efficient operation

Myth #2- Laying a large diameter hose supply line is like taking the hydrant to the fire or like laying an above the ground water main.

Reality #2- It is this type of thinking that has gotten LDH users in trouble many times at large flow operations. Think about what that statement is saying. Basically it tells you that there is nothing that needs to be done in conjunction with the hose evolution, just lay it and it will deliver all the water that is available. This could not be further from the truth. As good as LDH is, it still needs to be used in conjunction with fire pumping apparatus, water systems and various hose evolutions. Example, a flow test was done using 500 feet of 5” hose supplied directly from the hydrant and its system pressure. A flow of 1150 GPM was obtained. We next put a pump at the hydrant to pump the water in a relay pump operation to the receiving pumper and were able to almost double the flow. We were able to produce 2100 GPM. Most departments, especially the ones using 5”, would not consider setting up a relay at just 500 feet away. They would instead just settle for what they got from the hydrant.


A simple LDH supply line evolution flow can be doubled with the use of various pump operations


Myth #3- The 2-1/2” auxiliary intake should not be used for a large flow operation.

Reality #3- I agree that it should not be used at least as the primary intake in a large flow operation, however, tests have proven flows up to 800 GPM through a 2-1/2” intake that was supplied from a relay pump operation. If large diameter hose is available, it should be used in conjunction with the 2-1/2” intake and connected by means of an adapter. The 2-1/2” intake is restrictive enough, let’s not restrict it more with small diameter hose. If all you have left is a 2-1/2” intake, use it, you may be surprised.


The performance of the 2-1/2” intake can be improved using LDH

Myth #4- When supplying a portable monitor with 2-1/2” inlets using large diameter hose, a manifold should be used at the end of the LDH line and wyed into two 2-1/2” or 3” lines for the final connection into the monitor.

Reality #4- Flow tests were conducted to disprove this myth. The first flow test consisted of 150 feet of 5” discharge line into a large manifold wyed down to two 3” lines 50 feet long and then into the inlets of the monitor. The second portion of this flow test brought the 150 feet discharge line directly into the inlet of the monitor using a 5” X 2-1/2” adapter. Both evolutions flowed 1000 GPM. The 5” by itself was able to move the 1000 GPM with 20 psi less on its engine pressure than the combination 5” and 3” evolution.



When using a master stream with 2-1/2” inlets it is more efficient to adapt the LDH line to the inlet

Myth #5- If only a 2-1/2” port on the hydrant is available, do not use large diameter hose because it will not support it.

Reality #5- I hear this a lot. As a rule of thumb, the 2-1/2” port will flow only 20% less than the large port on the hydrant when using large diameter hose.

Myth #6- Large diameter hose cannot be used on a weak hydrant system.

Reality #6- In fact it’s just the opposite. Large diameter hose would be the best choice. A weak hydrant system will more than likely be lacking good hydrant pressure, therefore the supply hose with the lowest friction loss would be the size to use to make up for the weak hydrant pressure. 5” hose has less friction loss than 2-1/2” or 3” hose.


A warf hydrant used in conjunction with LDH

Myth #7- The best supply line evolution to use on a hydrant that only has 2-1/2” ports is to siamese two short pieces of 3” hose from the 2-1/2” ports into a manifold that is connected to the LDH supply line.

Reality #7- It stands to reason that this evolution would be the most efficient, after all, utilizing two ports would flow more than one. The reality is that this type of evolution creates higher friction loss because of the short small diameter lines as well as turbulence as these lines enter into the siamese manifold. Numerous flow tests have proven that a single LDH line connected directly to one of the 2-1/2” hydrant ports will flow about the same as the evolution that utilizes two hydrant ports.



When using a hydrant with only 2-1/2” ports a single LDH line connected to one port is more efficient than siamesing two small diameter lines into one LDH line from two ports


Myth #8- A nozzle on a handline must be fully opened when in use.

Reality #8- Does this mean that if the stream is kicking your rear end on an interior attack, that you shouldn’t shut it down? The bale on a nozzle is just like the accelerator pedal in your car. The more you push on it, the faster you go. If you are heading into a sharp turn and keep the pedal to the floor, most likely you will crash and burn. The same holds true with nozzles. A gated down stream is a lot better than a fully closed stream when you absolutely need to be flowing water. Some say that the gated down stream would be broken and unusable. I say not true! We tend to evaluate streams on how pretty they look versus how effective they are. Sure a gated down smooth bore tip will produce an ugly stream, however, will that ugly stream have the reach and the volume to attack a fire? Flow tests have proven that most smooth bore tip/nozzle body combinations can be gated down to just about half way and still provide a workable stream.

Myth #9- The nozzle pressure for a smooth bore tip on a handline should be 50 psi. Pressures higher than this will produce a broken stream as well as a handline that is hard to control.

Reality #9- I’m not quite sure where this myth came from, I know it’s been around since the turn of the last century. Smooth bore tip nozzles are rated so a specific size will flow X amount of GPM at a 50 pound nozzle pressure. Successful handlines have been used with nozzle pressures reaching 150 psi. Are these high flowing lines hard to control? Standing up, yes. The key is to get on the hose in either the crouched or sitting position, thus allowing the nozzle reaction to be directed into the ground. The higher pressure smooth bore handlines are more than likely going to be used in an exterior large flow attack versus an interior attack.



500 GPM is being delivered through a 1-3/8” tip at 80# NP

Myth #10- The nozzle pressure for a smooth bore tip on a master stream is 80 psi. Pressures higher than this will create a broken stream.

Reality #10- Again, I feel that the opposite is true. Nozzle pressures higher than 80 psi can create a harder hitting, farther reaching stream that is capable of penetrating deep into the seat of the fire problem. Nozzle pressures pushing 175 have been successfully used in master stream operations. The rule to remember is to not exceed the maximum allowed inlet pressure for the appliance being used.


This master stream is delivering 614 GPM through a 1-1/4” tip at 175# NP

Myth #11- 1-3/4” handlines pumped at high engine pressures create a line so stiff that it becomes too difficult to use in an interior attack when the line needs to be advanced through hallways and rooms.

Reality #11- This may have held true years ago but with the new technology in the hose manufacturing, I think you will be surprised to see what the hose will do under higher pressures. The hose will be somewhat stiff right at the nozzle, but you won’t find a significant difference between high and low pressure line throughout the rest of the line while advancing into a structure. Try this simple test. Stretch a handline out, keeping the nozzle shut. Go ahead and throttle up to 250 psi and advance it through some type of obstacle course, whether it is in the burn tower or something you set up on the drill field. Next, try to make a real tight loop in the hose and see what you can do. I think you will be impressed.


This 1-3/4” line is being pumped at 250 psi and is able to have a 3 foot loop placed into it. Looks pretty flexible to me.

Myth #12- A low pressure nozzle used on a handline can create kinks in the hose due to the subsequent low engine pressure, which will critically restrict the flow.

Reality #12- Seeing is believing. Set up a series of flow tests to see what really happens. These flow tests should be conducted using a flow meter. Use your standard interior attack lines in conjunction with low pressure nozzles. Let’s use a 15/16” tip flowing 185 GPM at 50 pounds nozzle pressure. After reaching the flow, have one or two people place a rather severe kink in the line and then take another reading. You will find that the flow wasn’t restricted that much at all. I have conducted tests with this same scenario losing only about 20 GPM. Next, use the same 15/16” nozzle, but only flow 100 GPM and place the kink in the line again. The same thing should happen, not much change in the flow.

Myth #13- A 2-1/2” handline can flow up to 350 GPM. Flows higher than this can only be done with a master stream appliance.

Reality #13- Handline streams reaching up to 500 GPM are entirely possible using a 2-1/2” or 3” handline. A line flowing this much water should not be handled in the standing up mode, instead a minimum of two firefighters should be sitting on the line. There are several nozzle manufacturers that now market 500 GPM handline nozzles.


This 3” handline is flowing 600 GPM

Myth #14- When sitting on a handline, you must place the Keenan Loop in the hose for stability.

Reality #14- Again, seeing is believing. Set up a flow test with a 2-1/2” or 3” handline and try to get a flow of at least 300 GPM. First try it with the Keenan Loop and then without. There should be no difference at all in the stability of the line.


This 400 GPM flow does not require a loop in conjunction with the firefighter sitting to deploy the stream

It is important to have an open mind and be progressive in the fire service. The information covered in this article is just some of the ideas that I have tested throughout the years. Write your ideas down and set up evaluations to prove or disprove your theories and remember when it comes to using the equipment, do only what the manufacturer says their equipment can do.

The Triple Fold Load Designed For Heavy Hoseloads

The first part of a large handline deployment involves the actual pulling of the hose from the hose bed. Let’s use a 200’ pre-connected 2-1/2” blitz line for our example. Most hose loads used today actually pull the entire amount of the hose from the bed at one time. This in itself can be extremely heavy, making it difficult for one firefighter to pull. For example, the hose used in our scenario weighs 30# per 50’. This makes the weight of the entire line, excluding the nozzle, 120#.

To make hose deployment easy enough for one firefighter to handle, the Triple Fold load should be used. The Triple Fold load is an alternative hose load designed specifically for heavy hose deployment. Its basic concept involves peeling the hose load from the bed instead of dumping it all at once. Its design is simple. The hose is stretched completely out and then stacked evenly upon itself in three even layers. For the 200’ line, each layer is approximately 65’ long. After the hose has been evenly stacked, it can then be loaded. Treat the stack of the hose as one line and load it into the hose bed in a flat lay. The nozzle and one fold will be at the end of the load on the top layer. Deployment is simple, grab the nozzle and the one fold and peel the hose from the bed. The line will have to be pulled the full 65’ in order to clear the bed. Once the bed is cleared, the line will be on the ground with just two bends in it. The firefighter can now advance to the fire with the nozzle.


Triple Fold Load loaded with the nozzle and single loop


The firefighter grabs the loop and nozzle


Peeling the load out of the bed


The 200’ load clears the bed in approximately 65’


Loading the line involves folding the line in thirds


Stacking the three layers to make a single line from the nozzle


to the tailboard



Loading the single stack as one into the hosebed

Back to Basics, Laying a Large Diameter Hose Supply Line

1You’re probably thinking, what is there to know about laying a large diameter hose supply line? We are already at the mind-set that this big hose is magical. You’ve heard the sayings, “laying a big line is like lying an above the ground water main” or “like taking the hydrant right to the fire”. I hope I will be able to prove to you that there is a little more to this stuff than just laying it out. It must be used properly in conjunction with all other equipment, manpower and the local water system to make it perform to its max.

Well, guess what folks, as simple as it may seem, there are several things that go into the actual supply line evolution in regards to its deployment that makes for a very smooth and efficient operation.

Let’s start off with wrapping the hydrant. There are several techniques that are taught and used throughout the fire service on how to best anchor the supply line to the fire hydrant to allow the engine company to pull away laying the line. For the most part these techniques are geared towards safety. If for some reason the supply line were to get hung up and pull away from the hydrant wrap, it is very important that the fire fighter taking the hydrant stands out of the way. Throughout my years in the fire service, I have always been taught this and told of the consequences if the line were to pull away and a fire fighter were to get struck. I always thought it was one of those accidents that was always talked about but never really happened, and then it did. A firefighter on my department severely injured his leg because the 5” line that he was connecting to the hydrant got snagged in the hose bed and pulled the line out of his hands and away from the hydrant. He required surgery and 6 months of convalescence to get back on the job. A second accident caused by the same type of scenario pulled the wrap off the hydrant and struck a fire fighter in the head with the hydrant adapter on the end of the supply line, fortunately it only hit him in the helmet which protected him from injury.

Folks, these accidents can happen. Let’s not depend on remembering the proper sequence for physically wrapping the hydrant with the supply line. There is a safer method. It involves using a three-piece strap system called the Hydrant Strap. The hydrant strap is made up of a seatbelt that connects to the supply line and a 6 foot looped 1-1/2” strap that also hooks to the supply hose and is used to secure to the fire hydrant while allowing the firefighter to stand clear. Attached to the seatbelt is a tool pouch designed to hold all the tools needed for the hydrant operation. When a line is laid, the fire fighter simply grabs the looped portion of the strap, pulls over to the fire hydrant, places the loop around the fire hydrant, stands back and signals the engine to lay a line.

For best results, 2 ten-foot folds are placed at the end of the supply hose in a bundle with the adapter winding up in the middle. This allows for extra hose at the hydrant to insure that the hose will reach. The seatbelt portion of the strap system is secured just behind the coupling strapping the bundle together. The looped portion of the strap system is passed through the fold at the end of the supply line and secured through itself, thus forming the loop that is used to anchor the hose to the fire hydrant. This system allows for several different types of hose laying evolutions. We’ve already talked about laying the line from the hydrant with one firefighter. What if we wanted to lay a dry line from the hydrant and allow a second incoming unit to hook it up and charge it? Who is best suited to do this job? With just about all fire apparatus having air packs in the jump seats, the firefighters are now packing up and sometimes going on air before they even arrive at the fire, thus allowing for an immediate attack. With this being the case, it is not only safer but also faster for the driver to get out, loop the hydrant with the hydrant strap and get back in the rig to lay the line. He’s not weighted down with an air pack and there’s a good chance that he will not be wearing turnouts.

Another scenario where this strap works well is for the hose lay when a hydrant is not involved, such as a reverse or a rural application where you might be laying down a long road or driveway for an incoming water shuttle operation. The strap can be used to anchor the supply line to a fixed object or even another unit.







Finally, with our fire trucks getting taller and taller every year, it’s getting increasingly difficult to pull hose from the hose bed. The hydrant strap system allows for the loop of the strap to hang over the edge of the rear of the hose bed thus allowing for the fire fighter to pull it from the street without having to climb onto the rig, again making for a safe operation.


Now that our line is secured to the hydrant, let’s lay a line. One thing I have noticed in my travels is that a lot of departments tend to baby large diameter hose, especially 5”. For some reason, probably because of the size, they feel it is important to lay this stuff out extremely slow. This hose is pretty tough stuff. Most manufacturers offer a ten-year warranty, what does that tell you? Don’t be afraid that you’ll hurt this stuff. There is nothing wrong with laying a supply line as fast as 15 mph. The hose actually tends to lay onto the ground softer because of the line stretching out from the hose bed tighter based on the higher speed versus the hose and couplings falling straight down from the hose bed due to a slower speed. The key to the fast deployment is having an obstacle free hose bed. If your hose bed has a cross bar going across the top, is it really needed? We don’t ride tailboard anymore. If a grab handle is needed to pull you into the hose bed, look for an alternative place where a side handle can be mounted onto the rig. Let’s clear up the hose bed.

We all know how a supply line can turn into a roadblock once it has been charged. Granted, large diameter hose can be run over by other fire apparatus as a last resort as long as the unit has the clearance, however, it is best not to. If the fire is on the opposite side of the street from the water source, lay the line as far down as you can on the same side as the water source before crossing and blocking the street. This will allow units arriving after the line is laid to get as close as possible to the fire which will eliminate the need for fire fighters to carry equipment long distances.


If an LDH line should become a roadblock, a simple method has been developed to move a charged LDH line by one or two firefighters. This method involves placing a canvas strap around the charged line and simply pulling the line to the desired area.

The strap consists of a canvas piece of material about 3/4″ to 1″ wide and 8′ to 10′ long made into a big loop using a sewing machine.

When placing the strap around the charged line, straddle the line and bend down keeping your back straight. Lift the line just enough to pass the strap under it. The line can be held in the raised position by resting it between the heels of your feet. The hose will be light enough to allow it to be lifted in the above-mentioned manner safely. Next pass the strap under the hose and pull it around the hose and through the other end of the loop until all the slack is gone and the strap is tight against the hose. The line can now be pulled. Although one firefighter can pull the line, it is best to use two whenever possible. A hydrant wrench or some type of bar should be placed in the loop on the free end of the strap to help get a better grip for pulling.

Tests have proven that the line can usually be pulled around 10 feet to the side with no problems. Tests have also proven that it is more difficult to move the line in the area of a sharp bend.

This method for pulling a charged LDH line is not a cure-all but has proven to rather helpful in a lot of situations and it is safe. Give it a try and see if it can be useful for you.






Now let’s talk about making the supply line hookup to the engine. Obviously the first thing to do is pull the amount of hose needed from the hose bed to make the connection to the intake of the pump. Too often I see the firefighter that is pulling the hose to make this hookup stand at the tailboard of the engine pulling the hose straight to the ground forming a big pile of spaghetti. This mess has to be straightened out before the line can be charged for obvious reasons. I have actually seen the hose get pushed underneath the fire truck forming severe kinks totally shutting off the water supply. Don’t count on your memory, especially in the heat of battle, to remember to straighten out the kinks in a supply line after it has been connected. I recommend laying the hose out as kink free as possible when pulling it from the hose bed. It has to be done anyway, so why not do it right away? Simply grab the hose and walk straight back pulling it towards the left or right, depending on which side you’re going to make the hookup, until the appropriate coupling hits the tailboard. Next, disconnect the hose and make the intake hookup. If you do in fact forget to straighten out the supply hose, with this technique there are only two kinks that will have to be dealt with. More times than not the supply line will straighten itself out.





Ideally, supply hose, especially LDH, should be in 50-foot sections. This makes it much easier to pull from the bed making the hookup. Unfortunately, the majority of the large diameter hose out there is in 100-foot sections, making it somewhat more difficult to work with when the last coupling in the hose lay winds up being real close to the tailboard. A lot of departments carry 25 and 50-foot pony sections to complete the supply line hookup at the intake when this situation arises rather than pulling an extra 100 feet of hose from the bed. There are two ways to deal with this problem. One is to mark each length of hose at 25-foot intervals that will give an indication as to how much of the last piece of hose is left in the hose bed. This will in turn indicate whether a 25-foot or 50-foot pony is needed, or if in fact the remaining hose itself can be pulled for the hookup.

My preferred method is to only use the pony sections if less than 25 feet of the last section of hose is on the ground. It is easier and less time consuming to pull the remaining hose from the bed, having only to make one connection rather than having to pull an extra piece of hose from a compartment and having to make two connections.

When making the hookup to the intake valve, make sure that you have a wide bend in the hose to eliminate a possible kink that may not be able to be straightened out.




Large diameter hose has a tendency to twist around as it’s being charged. For those departments that use Storz couplings this twisting has actually caused the hose to twist off the intake valve when being charged creating an obvious problem. Through their wisdom NFPA recommended that locking devices be placed on all Storz couplings which when working properly does prevent this accident from happening. What the locks don’t prevent is the hose twisting in the tightening direction, which can cause it to twist up like a wet towel, totaling shutting off the water supply. I have personally seen this happen several times. The solution to both of these problems is to install swivels on all intake valve couplings, which will eliminate the twisting in the supply line whether it is in the tightening, or the loosening direction.

In the mid 80’s, my department was experiencing approximately 8 supply line failures a year, mainly in the disconnecting direction. At that time the locks were not available, however, swivel adapters were. My department installed the swivel adapters on all intake valves and eliminated virtually all supply line problems associated with the twisting.


Without the locking device and the swivel on the intake valve, the supply line can twist off.


When large diameter hose is charged from a hydrant, as the water moves through the hose it pushes air. It is very important to bleed the air out before it reaches the pump. Failing to do so will allow the air to go through the pump and into existing handlines, temporarily creating pump cavitation, which in turn will cause handlines to go limp for several seconds. The longer the supply line is, the more air there is. It is a very good idea to make sure that the air bleeder on your intake valve is always open. Don’t let it fool you, as small as it looks, it can expel air fairly quickly. Don’t rely on your memory to open the bleeder valve in the heat of battle. Make it a part of your morning check out to preset the air bleeder in the open mode.


Now that we have our complete supply line evolution laid out and connected into our apparatus; it is time to charge the line. Again, just because this stuff is big, it doesn’t mean that you have to baby it and take forever to charge the line. Your goal should be to charge it as quickly as possible while not allowing the line to violently whip around. Charge it enough to bust kinks loose but not too fast. You’re never going to totally eliminate all twisting of a supply line unless you take extremely too much time.

Remember, this water is precious. We need to get it to the engine as safely and efficiently as possible.

Most departments do not use hose clamps in conjunction with LDH. The firefighter at the hydrant is required to wait for a signal to charge the line. This can eat up valuable time, which could cause a pumper to run out of water if the operation started from the booster tank. Pre-charging the supply line can reduce the time needed to get the supply line into service. As soon as the hydrant hookup is made, the firefighter can slowly start pre-charging the supply line. The line should be charged either to a point just before the line connects to the engine, or to a point where the firefighter at the hydrant cannot visually see the hose any longer.


Through the years, one of the many skills that epitomizes the talented engineer is the ability to properly spot a hydrant with a short soft suction hose (10’ to 15′ long). Several methods have been developed to accomplish this task with some good results. Spotting the steamer connection on the pumper approximately three feet on either side of the port on the hydrant that is going to be used and about a car’s distance away, in most cases, gives a nice “S” shaped lay that will come out kink-free after being charged. The tricky part is placing the pumper in the proper position to make this nice, smooth, kink-free spot and be able to do it from either side of the pumper.

No matter how proficient an engineer become in making this spot, there’s the possibility of some kind of interference that may prevent or at least make the deployment of the soft suction difficult. The hydrant could be recessed from the curb or have a vehicle parked too closely or directly in front of it.


Usually, the first few minutes of a good working fire are the most challenging for the engineer. Crews are pulling attack lines from the pumper and screaming for water, usually as soon as the hose clears the bed. Simultaneously, the engineer is doing everything possible to satisfy the water demands while making the supply line hookup to assure that the water supply is uninterrupted.
Given the above mentioned situation, try to imagine what it would be like if the supply line being used was a short soft suction and the pumper was spotted poorly making the hookup impossible. As we all know, these things do happen on the fireground. There is one way to alleviate this problem, using a pre-connected, 50′ long soft suction line. It accomplishes two objectives:

* Being pre-connected eliminates having to remove the hose from the compartment or hose bed, which in turn, saves in set-up time. Only the hydrant connection needs to be made.

* Using the 50’ long soft suction eliminates having to make a near-perfect apparatus placement at the hydrant. The engineer simply spots the pumper in the general area of the hydrant, pulls the free end of the pre-connected line to the hydrant and makes the hookup.

Unlike the short soft suctions, if a spot is made too close to the hydrant causing a kink after it is charged, the hose can easily be straightened out. This is possible because the longer line has more room to expand or grow under pressure. More times than not, the kink will be removed on it’s own after the line is fully charged.

The key to avoiding kinks in a long soft suction line is to make wide bends whenever slack in the hose needs to be taken up.

The pre-connected long soft suction line is the answer to the troublesome hydrant spotting and is one more way of making the firefighter’s job a little easier.

The soft suction can either be stored in a flat load or a donut roll. Both loads can be pulled easily however the donut roll allows more hose to be stored in a smaller space as long as there are no high clearance problems.


A 5” soft suction 50’ long stored in a flat load.


A 5” soft suction 50’ long stored in a donut roll.



This hydrant spot was made too close to the hydrant. To avoid kinks, the hose was flaked out in front of the pumper in a wide bend thus eliminating the possibility of any kinks.


This is a normal spot using a 50’ soft suction. The pumper simply spots in the general area of the hydrant.


With a 50-foot soft suction simply pull up in the area of the water source and make the first connection,


and then the second connection, end result a perfect spot.


Recently I taught a large diameter hose basics class to a group of small fire departments that had made a combined first time purchase of 5” hose. Their plan was to get the new stuff loaded on their engines just prior to the day I was to teach so all units would be ready. Well wouldn’t you know it, two days before the scheduled class they got the big one and because the 5″ was on the engines, it was used. It worked out really good because the supply line that was needed was 1300’ long. These guys were able to move water like they have never done before. The down side of the new and exciting experience was that they now had to pick up the 1300 feet of 5” not realizing that it would be a lot different than what they were used to with their 3” hose.

The first thing that they realized was that the hose was heavier (110 lbs per section dry). After disconnecting each section of hose and draining the water, they thought that the hose could be loaded back on the engine just like the 3”. WRONG!! They soon found out that there was a little more to it than that. You see, this big stuff really can retain a lot of air. In fact they were not able to get the last 300’ of hose back into the hosebed. When I showed up the guys had this very frustrated look about them. They were wondering if they had made the correct decision with their new hose purchase. I assured them that once they learned how to work with this stuff that it would be easier to pick up than the 3”.

Picking up large diameter hose (LDH) is based on a vacuum principle, which allows water to be drained out of the hose while at the same time not allowing any air to be pulled back in. This process in turn draws the hose down completely flat and makes it very easy to reload.

The first step in this process after the hydrant has been shut down is to disconnect both sides of the line, at the pumper and at the water source. Ideally you should not have to disconnect any of the couplings in between.

After both ends have been disconnected, seal off the end of the hose that the water is going to be drained away from. This can be done by either connecting a blind cap to the coupling or by re-coupling the end of the hose back into the remaining hose in the hosebed. This should be done as soon as possible so air does not get drawn back into the hose.

After the hose has been sealed off, it can be drained by walking the water away from the sealed end. This can be accomplished by the use of either a hose rolling tool or some type of bar. Either method will require a minimum of three firefighters to accomplish. Two firefighters will do the actual drain process getting on each side of the tool. A third firefighter will stay behind keeping the hose taut thus allowing the water to drain freely. As the water drains out a vacuum is created in the hose because of the seal not allowing air to enter in from behind which in turn draws the hose down flat. As soon as the draining process reaches a point about 10′ from the end of the line, stop, leaving the remaining water in the hose. The hose should now be folded over a couple of times at that point so air cannot enter in. The small amount of water left in the hose will help seal the hose at the fold.

At this point, if the cap has been used, the hose can now be loaded back into the hosebed. Before removing the cap from the hose place a fold several feet back from the end of the hose so when the cap is removed air will not enter back into the hose. If the line as been sealed off by re-coupling it back into the remaining hose in the hosebed the above-mentioned step will not be needed.

When picking up the hose, the pumper can either back into it, straddle it going forward, or run parallel to it going forward. Some water can accumulate in the hose every so often especially on the longer lays. If this should happen, simply open the line at the next coupling allowing water to drain out. Then reconnect the remaining hose and continue the process.


An end cap can be used to seal off the end of the hose.


An alternative to the end cap is to recouple the hose into the remaining hose in the hosebed.


The backup method for loading the hose


The straddle method for loading the hose


The parallel method for loading the hose