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Back to Basics: May 2015

Securing and advancing a hoseline using a standpipe system in a building is an important aspect of engine-company operations. Standpipe systems are found in buildings that have multiple storeys or that are very large, such as warehouses or factories.

April 20, 2015
By Mark van der Feyst

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A standpipe system is designed to supply water to a fire department’s hoselines from within a building. When the fire is on the 20th floor of a building, or in a large factory, the standpipe helps crews in the attack.

In February, I helped conduct highrise training for the Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department in New York at a casino in its response area. The casino has seven floors and is equipped with three standpipe systems. Crews were able to use one of the standpipes and access one of the hotel rooms to practise making the stretch. The mock fire was on the fourth floor in a room near the standpipe, which made the training realistic in terms of actually stretching a hoseline to a room. It is important for a department to work with its local building managers to obtain these types of opportunities.

In a department’s highrise kit, there should be a pony length, 7.6-metre (25-foot) section of 65-millimetre (2 1/2-inch) hose, which goes to a gated wye, along with a 45-degree elbow that prevents kinking of the hose when coming off of the standpipe, a pressure gauge, multiple hose adaptors, a spanner wrench, a pipe wrench, a mallet and a spare wheel for the standpipe gate valve.

Photo 1 shows how the hose is connected to the standpipe using the 45-degree elbow and the pressure-gauge sleeve. The pressure gauge is important as it allows crews to see if there is enough pressure in the system to operate the hoseline. A problematic standpipe forces crews to go to Plan B, which may include providing their own standpipe system. This is accomplished by using a well stretch, or a well-hole stretch, inside the stairwell, or by putting an aerial ladder up to a window or balcony and connecting a hose to a discharge outlet on the ladder or platform.

If opting for a well stretch, start by checking the space between the stair rails to make sure there is enough room for the 65-millimetre hose. A firefighter can quickly check by making a fist and then inserting the fisted hand between the rails. If the fist fits, then there is enough room for the hose. The hose then runs vertically up the stairwell to the staging floor to connect to the hand lines. The hose is then secured with hose straps or webbing so that it does not fall back down the well.

In Photo 2, the gated wye is used to make a connection between the standpipe and the hand lines. It is important two handlines are connected to the standpipe system for a fire attack; one handline is the primary attack line and the second is a back-up line or additional attack line. The gated wye is attached directly to the standpipe outlet after the pressure gauge sleeve, if a pony length of 65-millimetre hose is not used. The gated wye should be on the ground so that it is easily found in a smoke-filled environment. The downside to this system is the possibility of the gated wye being accidentally kicked closed. Notice how the gated wye and the supply hose are located on the outside walls of the stairwell.

Photo 3 shows how the hose is placed on the stairs to allow a clear pathway while at the same time providing the water supply to the handlines. The hoseline is a tripping hazard so avoid placing it in the middle of the stairs.

The attack lines are also flaked out and run along on the outside wall. One firefighter advances the nozzle and 15 metres (50 feet) of hose up to the fire floor and then up one more flight of stairs. The standpipe is always secured one floor below the fire floor to provide a safe haven for the attack team and also to allow the connection to be made without any hindrance from smoke, heat and flames. In Photo 4, the attack line is looped at the stair landing one flight above the fire floor to ease hose advancement during the attack. Gravity helps pull the hose down onto the fire floor as opposed to firefighters pulling it up the stairs.

Once the hose is flaked out, make sure that all kinks are removed and all sharp bends are rounded out before charging the handline. If the hose is caught under stair railings or pinched between stair treads or risers and is charged, the crew will have to shut down the line, drain the hose, re-advance and then recharge. It is better to take the extra second or two to make sure that the line is flaked out and ready for charging than to repeat it.

At this point firefighters are ready to make entry and attack the fire. In part 2 of standpipe operations in June we will look at the advancement of the attack line into the room.


Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a full-time firefighter in Ontario. Mark teaches in Canada, the United States and India. He is a local-level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and an instructor for the Justice Institute of BC. He is also the lead author of Pennwell’s Residential Fire Rescue book. Email him at Mark@FireStarTraining.com


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