On almost a daily basis I receive questions and requests from firefighters across the fire service regarding high-rise operations and equipment. This is long overdue, but from time to time, I will now start providing information and posts regarding some of these equipment items and resources.
I hope that this information will be beneficial for my fellow firefighters out there who are working to enhance operations in your corner of the fire service. Keep in mind, I am not the marketing director for any of the companies that build and provide tools or equipment that I recommend. However, when a valuable piece of equipment is identified, and I have had the opportunity to use it and verify it’s operational value, I will share that information with you.
Many years ago, in approximately 1992, we were in search of a hosepack strap to utilize with our 2 ½-inch high-rise / standpipe hose packs on the Denver Fire Department (DFD). At the time we were using anything we could find, including seatbelts from old cars, rope, bungee cords, duct tape, etc. None of these were good options.
We needed a better, more effective tool and method to hold the hosepacks together. Ideally we needed something that was lightweight and didn’t contribute significant weight to the hosepack. We needed something that was durable and would last. We needed something that would not come undone during transport, such as a seat beat buckle when it struck a doorjamb, etc. We needed something that would hold the hosepack together, tightly. And we needed something that would be reasonably priced.
We eventually designed a strap and a company out of Oklahoma built and sold the straps to us. These original straps worked OK, but they did have some deficiencies. Specifically, these straps were built with a very weak, plastic component (ring) that would eventually break when the hosepack was being tightened. Furthermore, the cost of the hosepack strap continued to increase, to the point that we needed to make a change.
Little did I know, there was an answer right in my own department. It was brought to my attention, that a firefighter on the DFD had the ability to build a hosepack strap based on the same design, but one with a stronger metal ring, and a much better and more reasonable price. So, that brings us to where we are today, in a much better place.
Let me introduce Firefighter Brian Jenkinson, who is a Veteran Professional Firefighter on the DFD, assigned to Rescue Co. 1. Brian is a very talented guy, and a very hard worker. Brian and his wife own and operate a company called Turning Out Solutions. Whatever you might happen to need, with regard to logistics for your emergency operations, Brian can probably design and build it for you.
For our purposes here, we are taking about the 24-inch, Red Tap Hosepack Strap, designed for use with 2 ½-inch, High-Rise / Standpipe Hosepacks.
Welcome back, and thanks for staying engaged. In a previous post, I addressed the concept of proper weapon selection, and the critical need to choose and utilize 2 ½-inch hose for most high-rise / standpipe operations. Far too many well intentioned fire officers, choose their high-rise / standpipe attack weapon based on a one-dimensional size-up. That is, they choose the weapon based on fire conditions alone. The fire conditions showing upon arrival may in fact be fire conditions that can be quickly and safely controlled by a properly supplied 1 ¾-inch attack line. However, and more specifically, that would be a 1 ¾-inch attack line, supplied by our pumper and pump operator (engineer), and within immediate reach of the fire area. Our most frequent fire, in a single-family dwelling, first floor, easily accessible by a 200-foot pre-connected attack line is a prime example.
However, we must be multi-dimensional thinkers as we size-up a fire problem, and make a conscious decision regarding weapon selection, especially at high-rise fires and standpipe operations. The critical factors to make a multi-dimensional decision are:
Standpipe System Pressure, which has a high probability of being Low Pressure.
Modern fuel loads, with their rapid heat release rate.
Reflex time, which will likely be significant at high-rise building fires, and any fire that requires the use of a standpipe system.
Put these critical factors together, and the synergistic effect will guide us toward accurate fireground decision-making. The logical weapon selection choice being our high volume, low-pressure weapon, the 2 ½-inch attack line for most high-rise / standpipe operations.
So, as you look up from the street and see fire showing from a 25th floor apartment window, remember, you must be realistic, especially regarding your reflex time. What you see showing from the street upon arrival, might just be the “tip of the iceberg”. Because of significant reflex time at a high-rise fire, conditions on the fire floor could be much more significant by the time you get up there.
Given ample oxygen and fuel, the fire is going to grow exponentially, likely doubling in size every half minute. On your best day (or night), your reflex time to get to the 25th floor, properly stretch a line, get water, and initiate attack, could be twenty or more minutes. Remember that single-family dwelling fire we talked about previously? What if, at our next single family dwelling fire, we arrive on scene, the engineer (driver) sets the air brake, but instead of immediately going to work, we stay inside the pumper for 20-minutes. Ridiculous? Yes, I know. But the point is, what’s that dwelling fire going look like with no fire department intervention for 20-minutes? Now put it back up on the 25th floor. Not so ridiculous, is it? Don’t forget, your 25th floor fire problem is obviously going to require a standpipe system, and low system pressure is highly probable. There you have it, the multi-dimensional approach necessary for proper weapon selection at fires in high-rise and standpipe equipped buildings.
Keep in mind, much of our time and work associated with training on 2 ½-inch hose, is spent trying to convince the masses that 1) we need to use it, and 2) we can move it. So, with that said, if you believe it’s a necessary weapon, we must take the steps to make it doable.
In my textbook, I address several keys to success when using 2 ½-inch attack line. One of those critically important items is:
User-friendly high-rise / standpipe hosepacks.
Specifically, a high-rise / standpipe hosepack should be:
Tight and compact
Easy and comfortable to carry
Easy and quick to deploy
The high-rise / standpipe hosepack used by the Denver Fire Department (DFD), the “Denver Hosepack” meets all of those criteria. The development of this hosepack started over twenty years ago in 1992. Since that time, the “Denver Hosepack” has undergone numerous revisions and minor alterations to enhance and improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
Let’s start with weight. The weight of a hosepack is one of its most important characteristics. Historically, many fire departments across the fire service have employed a one size fits all hosepack. In other words, there is often a very large, bulky, heavy hosepack, usually consisting of several sections of hose, and all of the other tools and appliances necessary to mount a fire attack using a standpipe system. There are countless gimmicks and methods on the “Web” suggesting how to carry and deploy a standpipe hosepack. In some cases suggesting that we cram everything, including the kitchen sink, into a large, body bag like container, and call it a hosepack. Have you ever weighed any of these ridiculous hosepacks on a scale? I certainly have. And in my research, I have found some of these hosepacks to weigh in excess of 100-pounds. Who’s carrying these gigantic packs up to the 25th floor? Yes, I know, the junior guy. Or we have a dolly for the hosepack. What happens when the elevators are out of service? Crazy!
One of my recommendations regarding high-rise / standpipe hosepacks, is rather than having a so-called “one size fits all” hosepack design (and one size does not fit all), I recommend that you assemble, and utilize a modular equipment package. Specifically, the hosepack is not a single hosepack, but rather several hosepacks, and an associated standpipe equipment kit (tool bag) of which, a fire attack group, or team of firefighters, using teamwork, carries all of the equipment up to the point of operation, in small, manageable, and lightweight pieces. By doing so, we can take all of the necessary and appropriate equipment, but we are dividing the labor of carrying it up to the 25th floor.
Specifically, on the Denver Fire Department, a DFD Engine Company is equipped with four, 50-foot sections (total of 200-feet) of 2 ½-inch hose, all four assembled into “Denver Hosepack” configurations. In addition, there is a canvas tool bag, with all of the necessary and associated tools and appliances to safely and effectively carry out engine company standpipe operations. Keep in mind, not all four sections (hosepacks) will be taken into the building every time. Usually only three hosepacks (150-feet) are taken into the building, which can easily be carried by three firefighters, along with the standpipe equipment kit (tool bag). In addition, I recommend pairing your engine companies together, so two engine companies will work to carry the necessary equipment into the building and up to the point of operation, and then stretch, charge, and advance the attack line.
To properly assemble the “Denver Hosepack”, you start out 32-inches from the outside of the female coupling. At this point you bend the hose, and start assembling the hosepack into a horseshoe type configuration. It is important to stop your hose folds short of the coupling, and don’t go past the coupling. In addition, the folds should be staggered, one long, one short, similar to the old style accordion hose bed load. This helps keep the hosepack tight and compact (See photos).
When you have made all of the folds and come to the end of the hose, you should ensure that the male coupling ends up on the opposite side of the hosepack from the female coupling. At this point, you should have enough excess hose to attach the male to the female coupling, and tighten, but only a couple of turns is necessary. This serves primarily, to protect the male threads from damage during our day to day operations, such as carrying hosepacks, numerous times in and out of buildings on fire alarms, burnt food, etc.
Lastly, most of the time, you may have some extra hose left over after making all of the folds and attaching the couplings. This extra hose, or slack in the hose, is pulled back to the opposite side of the hosepack, and tucked back into the hosepack between folds. This keeps the extra hose captured tightly into the hosepack, and prevents it from coming loose during transport.
The Denver Hosepack is held together and finished using three, lightweight Velcro straps. Keep it simple here, and once again, avoid crazy gimmicks and expensive gadgets that are all the craze out there. The very best lightweight Velcro strap in the industry was designed and is built by a Brother firefighter from the DFD. Firefighter Brian Jenkinson builds a excellent hosepack strap. It is reasonably priced (lower cost than any other straps I have seen out there), and it is very durable. Brian can be contacted at:
I’m not Brian’s marketing director, but just someone passing out resource information. The strap in question is the 24-inch long, red tab strap, designed for use with 2 ½-inch high-rise / standpipe hose packs (the “Denver Hosepack”).
Always rotate the finished hosepack up onto the flat side before attaching the hosepack straps. Doing this makes it easier to attach the straps properly. Specifically, it allows you to use your body weight to push down on the hosepack, compressing the folds, and makes the hosepack as tight and compact as possible, before attaching the hosepack straps. Ultimately, the hosepack straps will be very tight.
The three straps are placed on the “Denver Hosepack”, with two at the bottom of the hosepack, one on each side, and one near the top, on the same side as the male coupling end of the hose. This is very important, remember; place two straps on the male coupling side, one near the top of the hosepack and one at the bottom. The reason behind this procedure will be comprehensively addressed in a future post, when we complete an “Apartment Stretch” for fire attack.
When placing the straps, remember to always place the bottom straps as close to the end of the hose as possible. This procedure will keep the hosepack tight and compact, and ensure that hose folds at the bottom don’t come loose and cause the hosepack to start coming apart before deployment. Also, train your firefighters to orient the straps in the same position when placing them on the hosepack. This makes it easier to quickly remove the straps during deployment, thus cutting additional seconds from our overall reflex time. A few seconds might not seem like much, but several seconds, here and there, add up to perhaps shaving minutes from our reflex time, thus, we get water on the fire faster.
Of the four recommended hosepacks for an engine company’s high-rise standpipe equipment, three of the hosepacks can and should be assembled as previously described. In addition, I recommend that one of the four hosepacks is assembled into a nozzle section “hosepack. That is, one of the hosepacks should be assembled with the nozzle pre-attached, thus shaving reflex time. When assembling this hosepack, it is built in the exact same manner, except the nozzle ends up in a static position, on the opposite side of the hose pack from the female coupling. And, just like the regular hosepacks, any extra hose should be pulled back around to the female coupling side of the hose pack, and then tucked back into the hosepack between folds
So there you have it. That’s how to properly assemble a “Denver Hosepack”. Once again, just to summarize, I recommend a total of four, 50-foot sections, assembled into four separate “Denver Hosepacks”, with one of the four hosepacks equipped with a nozzle, pre-attached. Use the recipe of 32-inches from the outside of the female coupling to start the pack, don’t go past the couplings with the folds, stagger the folds, and attach the couplings to protect male threads. Rotate the hosepack up onto the flat side to attach the hosepack straps tightly. Two straps on the male coupling side, one on the female side. Straps close to the bottom of the folds.
Give this a try, and let me know if you have any questions. Next time, we will deploy the hosepacks for an “Apartment Stretch”. Stay low!
Below is a short video to tie the whole thing together. Special thanks to the Top Shelf Professional Firefighters of Denver Fire Department Engine Co. 3 who helped me make this short training video. Lt. Phil Miller, Eng. Tommy Martinez, FF. Jim Remley, and FF. Mike Aragon, the Best of the Best.
Here’s the video on how to properly build the “Denver Hosepack”. Please take a look.
There is a long list of strategic and tactical priorities for firefighting operations in high-rise buildings. However, as with all fires, the need to get water on, and control the fire as quickly as possible, is by far the most critical component to a successful operation. At high-rise fires, our fire attack almost always requires the use of a standpipe system. There are several factors, many of which we have little or no control over, that can negatively affect our high-rise fire attack operation. Ultimately, getting water on the fire quickly (at a high-rise) is often times much easier said than done.
My first piece of advice for firefighters, company officers, and chief officers who respond to and operate at high-rise and standpipe equipped buildings, is to be very skeptical of the buildings built-in fire protection systems, most specifically, the standpipe system. Upon arrival at a high-rise fire, or any fire in a multi-story building that will require a standpipe system for fire attack, there should be a huge question mark at the forefront of our fireground size-up analysis. That question is: Will this standpipe system perform as required to aide and assist us with fire attack, or will there be system failures, which might lead to operational failure? In many cases, part of the failure involves the size of hose that is brought into the building, on the false assumption that it will work in conjunction with the standpipe system.
Take just one moment to do a quantitative analysis of the potential problem. Let me use my city as an example. In the City and County of Denver there are over four hundred high-rise buildings (75-foot or greater above lowest fire department access). In addition, there are hundreds of other standpipe equipped, low-rise buildings. All totaled, this represents a significant number of standpipe-equipped buildings, similar to what might be found in many large cities across the fire service.
Now, taking this a step further, within these hundreds of standpipe equipped buildings, there are thousands of individual standpipe system hose valve outlets throughout each of these buildings. The specific standpipe system hose valve outlet on the tenth floor, a completely different one on the fiftieth floor, and countless others in between. Do you have any idea how each of these individual hose valve outlets are going to perform in the “heat of battle”? Specifically, what will be the outlet pressure and flow (gpm) from any specific hose valve outlet? Unless you have flow tested a specific hose valve outlet, you simply have no idea what the flow pressure and volume are going to be, usually only discovering the facts of flow and pressure on the night you have a fire in that building.
It would simply be impractical to conduct a thorough analysis of each and every hose valve outlet, within each and every standpipe-equipped building in most cities. However, the bottom line is this, make no mistake, the volume and pressure may or may not be sufficient enough to combat a serious fire.
Although we cannot conduct a flow test of each individual hose valve outlet, we can utilize several pieces of reliable information to make an educated guess regarding the likely hose valve outlet pressure and volume. We can begin to understand the low pressure design of standpipe systems by taking a closer look at NFPA #14, which for years has served as a guide for fire protection engineers when designing and installing standpipe systems. In a nutshell, for NFPA #14 required a flow pressure of 65psi at the topmost (or the most remote standpipe system hose valve outlet) with 500gpm flowing, specifically for buildings built prior to 1993. There are a whole lot of high-rise and standpipe equipped buildings out there in our fire service world, that were built prior to 1993, with standpipe systems designed around that criteria. In addition, NFPA #14 requires 100psi at the top most outlet with 500gpm flowing, for buildings built today, and all buildings built post 1993. One need not be a hydraulics expert to clearly understand that there is a finite amount of pressure, and that limited amount of pressure might not be enough to overcome the friction loss in small and medium diameter hoseline (1 ½ and 1 ¾-inch) and achieve the necessary nozzle pressure in order to ultimately produce a safe and effective fire stream.
In addition, there are numerous other factors that are for the most part out of our control that may also negatively affect standpipe system hose valve outlet pressure. Not the least of which are standpipe system pressure regulating devices, specifically, standpipe system pressure reducing valves (PRVs), and standpipe system pressure restricting devices (PRDs). Add to this the long list of potential human error within the design and maintenance of a standpipe system, and you have a serious potential problem, that we are left to discover and deal with in the heat of battle.
Utilizing the analogy of the fire triangle, I instruct firefighters, company officers, and chief officers to make their high-rise / standpipe operational size-up as simple as possible. I call this the Standpipe Operations Triangle. At the base of the triangle, serving as the foundation of the triangle is Standpipe System Pressure. Once again, this should be a huge question mark, of which we simply don’t have the precise and accurate information regarding pressure and volume at a specific hose valve outlet, unless we have previously flow tested, that specific hose valve outlet.
Forming the right hand leg of the triangle is modern Fuel Loads. The dedicated firefighter, who spends time studying and learning “how to do the job”, is keenly aware of the fact that the fires we fight today are more dangerous and complicated due primarily to modern fuels. Specifically, the plastics and hydrocarbons that make up much of the modern fire environment create a situation where the BTU production is much greater and there is a much more rapid heat release rate than ever before.
The last component of the Standpipe Operation Triangle is time, or specifically, Reflex Time. The time needed to get a handline in position and in-service, delivering water, in the form of a safe and effective fire stream, onto a fire on an upper floor of a high-rise building. How long does that take? Ask yourself the question, and give an honest answer. From the time your engine company engineer/driver sets the air brake at the street level, until the attack team is putting water on the fire on the twentieth floor, how long is that? It could be twenty minutes or longer.
As I said at the beginning, perhaps part of this overall failure can and should be addressed by choosing the proper weapon to utilize when operating off a standpipe system. We’re talking high volume low-pressure weapon selection. Ultimately, my final recommendation for you is this; due to all of these low-pressure factors, we must equip ourselves properly, with the appropriate weapon, in order to have the greatest chance for success and safety during high-rise fire attack when utilizing a low-pressure standpipe system. Our greatest chance for success and safety requires the use of 2 ½-inch attack hoseline. It’s as simple as that. Yes, we’ve all heard it before from the naysayers who have convinced themselves and others around them that 2 ½-inch attack hoseline is too hard to move. They make statements like “this isn’t New York”, or “we don’t have enough manpower to do that”. Please stay tuned. In my next several articles, I will give you a proven recipe for success with 2 ½ -inch hose for high-rise / standpipe operations. And yes, you can do it! But first you must believe, and then you must train. Next time I’ll introduce you to the “Denver HosePack”. Stay low!