Blog by Jason Hoevelmann 
Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with Sullivan Fire Protection District
Firefighters carry webbing for many reasons, including:
  • To search a large area
  • As a harness for themselves and other firefighters during rescue
  • To carry tools and saws

All of these situations, and others not listed, are appropriate and important. This article will focus on staying in contact with the hose line while using a length of webbing to search.

The typical length of webbing is between 20 and 30 feet. In most cases, these are tied into a loop using a water knot. This makes for more versatile webbing and eliminates the difficulty of tying the knot while in low visibility conditions with gloves on. However, everyone needs to be able to tie simple knots and hitches in poor conditions with gloves on.
In most areas of the country, the first-attack line simultaneously searches for fire and victims. Resources usually are not available to do separate functions and doing both is the most efficient use of manpower. One problem is when in large buildings with large rooms, searching with the line can be cumbersome. Using the webbing is a fast and safe way to search off of line without losing your contact with the line.
The simplest way to do this is to tie a girth hitch around the hose line with the already looped webbing about 10 feet behind the nozzle firefighter. This is an easy hitch to tie and untie and can be loosened to move up and down the line.
Before you fan out across the room, wrap the webbing about four times around your contact arm and move toward the nozzle firefighter and then fan out off of the line holding onto the webbing until your back on the line. Unwrap the rest of the webbing and fan out again performing your search. You can continue this method as you advance the line.
In addition to the fan method, you can search cubicles and other confusing floor plans using this method. The webbing gives you a direct line back to the hose line and keeps you from getting out of voice contact with your partner.
Remember, these methods must be trained on and practiced. Follow your department’s guidelines and policy. Stay safe.
About the Author
Jason Hoevelmann is a Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department. Hoevelmann is also a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County. His experience spans more than 20 years and he has been an instructor for more than 15 years.
* This blog was originally published by TargetSolutions in July of 2011