The Second Line…

Attack lineWhen arriving as the second engine company on a working fire, besides laying a second supply line, you will obviously have to stretch a second handline too. The question for most officers is “which” handline should we pull? For some companies, the question seems to be “whose” handline should we pull?

Those officers are the ones who, for some odd reason, like to pull the second handline off of the first engine. Those officers will often say that by doing this, they have less to pick up after the fire, thus getting them ready for the next one. If you have this mindset, then you are focusing on the wrong fire! The only fire you should be worried about is the one you are pulling up on.

Here are some things to consider. To make an effective stretch, and an effective attack, there are two things that a good officer, and engine company, will want to know ahead of time:

  1. How many feet of hose do I need to get me there?
  2. What nozzle do I need for the best attack?

If you’re an officer who likes to pull your line off the other engine, then you will get this information seconds before you begin your attack. If the officer of the first engine decided that he needed 200’ to reach the fire, then guess what…if he was right, then you will get 150’, and likely won’t be able to get to the fire to back them up.

Another thing to consider is if the nozzles on the other engine have been maintained.  If you are in a busy company, then your hose and nozzles likely get exercised enough that you know if they are working properly.  Can you say this for sure about the companies you are running with?  What if the pipe you pulled off the other company has a nozzle with a badly broken stream. Maybe it has a rock in it from the last fire. Maybe the bale is broken.  Once again, this is not the time to find out.

One more thing to consider.  NEVER pull a second handline smaller than the first handline.  In other words, if the first-in officer felt that the fire would require at least one “big water” line, then by pulling a 1 ľ” handline, you have second guessed that officer, changed the game plan, and possibly the outcome of the fire.

And remember, most engines only carry one 2 ˝” handline, so, as with all handlines…BRING YOUR OWN!


  • Nick says:

    The paid-on-call department I’m with has a medium-sized town with municipal water and then covers two townships without municipal. So we have some decent hydrants in the urban area with heavy retail and sing-fam dwellings of varying sizes and constructions, and then (possibly) drafting and water shuttle in the rural areas with single family dwellings.

    Our SOGs for the rural areas involve the first-in engine to determine where they intend to drop the driveway hitch and 3-to-1 appliances. Then we lay in with 5″ LDH. Oftentimes the narrow streets only permit one engine in, and the single LDH line restricts us to have only one pumper at the firefront. The rest of the engines are required to be the nurse engine or water-supply engines.

    Urban, we still function off the single pump. So we have had two 2.5″ lines with 250 GPM each, two 1.75″ with 125-175 GPM each, and maybe another line to top it off. that usually covers a structure with large fire followed by one or two exposures. We try to keep our pumpers in good shape, bhat happens if that fails?

    Line-wise, it depends on what the task is. For backing-up the attack team, it’s always a line of the same size (gallonage). Depending on exposure involvement, it is usually smaller.

    Nick D.
    Brighton, MI

  • fdtraining says:

    Thanks Nick — All the more reason for solid training! You have multiple lines (but you didn’t mention configurations) so a couple of training sessions should involve pulling an attack and a backup, maybe one with the same size backup and one with the larger one. If the attack runs short will the backup be able to do its job? If the attack is outgunned will the backup be able to do its job? As for the smaller backup line, well…

    Large departments and early mutual/auto aid departments are usually able to bring their own line with them. Departments like yours are faced with manpower issues before you ever show up. If the solution is to pull the line off the same engine then make sure everyone knows what’s on the engine, and where additional lengths are if needed.

    While it would be great to have enough manpower and apparatus to have the second line come up with its crew we realize it’s not always possible — so identify the potential issues and run through the scenarios on the training ground — before it happens on the street.

  • Marques Bush says:

    What a great topic.I often hear firefighters question the same and I agree with most of what was said.

    For our incident operations we require the second engine to support the hydrant so they can not pull off their piece. However to overcome the issue of knowing how to deploy the handline, all the proactive officers ensured that their companies met with automatic aid companies and drilled on the different hoseloads, deployments, advantages and disadvangtes and best practices to overcome those problems. As for nozzles being checked that is up to the professionalism of that company. I can only speak for myself in the fact that we have trained for the broken bale and how to overcome it. As for the rock or trash in the nozzle if the proper bleed was done before entering the door I would say that should have been found. Good nozzle mechanics and engine training proper ensuring you have a proper stream and good flow before you enter the structure.

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