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Fire Hose Handling Tips for Nozzle Operators and Backup Firefighters

Fighting fires is a marathon, not a sprint. Those tasked to operate a hoseline not only have to be smart about the way they suppress an inferno but also manage how they handle the hose–in the hopes of avoiding rapid fatigue. BullDog Hose has compiled a few reliable techniques that nozzle operators and backup firefighters can utilize to keep exhaustion at bay. 

Effective Techniques For Nozzle Operators

Handling and maneuvering a hose line as a nozzle operator can be demanding and strenuous. A charged attack hose (e.g. BullDog Firepower II™, Hi-Combat II™, or Ultima™) pushes back with significant force, and fatigue can quickly set in if the firefighter’s body isn’t positioned correctly for hose control. Nozzle operators can employ some different techniques to reduce fatigue while maintaining control of the line in exterior and interior settings.

One reliable stance firefighters use is a low kneeling position where the underside of the hose is grasped by both hands (at arm’s length from the nozzle), a friction point under the armpit, and another friction point on the inside hip. In this position, the arm that is pinning the fire hose needs to have its elbow creating a contact point on the leg closest to the line. This technique grounds energy in three ways: through the kneeling outside leg, elbow down to the interior leg, and back out through the hose line.

Example 1. Using BullDog’s Hi-Combat II attack hose, a nozzle operator demonstrates the kneeling position with proper contact and pinch points for countering nozzle reaction. 

The reason for hands being set an arm’s length away is that it enables the nozzle operator greater directional control of the hose and quicker access to the bail. A position like this one works well in exterior spaces and sets a strong foundation. 

For interior fire attack, grounding the nozzle reaction requires utilizing the space around you to create contact and friction points for reducing fatigue. Butting up against door thresholds, interior walls, and even furniture allows the operator to transfer the energy to solid structures rather than through the body. 

Effective Techniques For Backup Firefighters

The job of a backup firefighter is key to having a successful attack line. With the task of supporting the nozzle operator and hoseline movement, backup is positioned either next to or touching the lead operator. Both firefighters need to work and communicate together as a team.  

A charged hoseline wants to maintain its weight on the ground. When the nozzle operator opens the bail, and the water starts flowing, the nozzle reaction energy is going to push back on the operator. The backup firefighter needs to direct that energy back down towards the ground (Example 2). 


Example 2. The backup firefighter here is supporting the operator in multiple ways: directing a majority of the nozzle energy towards the ground, acting as a solid point of contact for the operator (reducing fatigue), and creating additional hose pinch points with both legs and arms (allowing the operator more hose control).

To accomplish this task, there are a few techniques to use. One method the backup can use when stationary is kneeling on top of the hoseline with the inside leg closest to the hose. Another way to anchor the hose is to press down on the hose firmly with both hands. 

If the hoseline needs to advance, the backup firefighter’s responsibility is to help drive the hose and operator forward so the nozzle firefighter can focus on fire suppression. The backup can mirror the position that the nozzle operator is taking to move together in unison. A common technique used by both firefighters for this movement is the hip and arm pinch approach (mentioned earlier). 

The backup should stay low while moving the line. This helps create a strong, more secure base for maneuvering and ensures the nozzle reaction goes to the ground, and the nozzle can remain pointed up. 

These are just a few of the various techniques that can be used. No matter which one you decide to adopt, rigorous training and repetition are needed to know how to perform your chosen approach when suppressing a fire. 

For more information about the attack hoses mentioned in this article, visit BullDogHose.com