The Cleveland lay – Is it leaving you short?

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In 2019 we wrote an article on the Cleveland lay and how it could be the next best thing for your station, but is it leaving you short? A Flashover reader and Australian firefighter has put pen to paper and sent us his thoughts about how effective or suitable the Cleveland lay actually is.

This post is a guest post written by an Australian firefighter. It’s intended to promote thought, discussion and above all – hightlight the importance of training and trying new ideas!

There is an old saying in the fire brigade, “As the first line goes, so goes the fire”. It means that if the first line is deployed right, moved right, staffed right, flowing the right amount of volume, at the right place the fire will run smoothly and the hard second alarm quickly diminishes into an under control no further. Therefore it is imperative that we train and develop deployment options that allow us to be fast, effective and efficient so that our first line goes “right” all the time. 

The Cleveland hose lay or Cleveland lay for short is quickly sweeping the nation finding its way onto Australian fire trucks from Cairns to Perth to Hobart and everywhere in between. It is a great system of charging 30m of hose in an area less than 2m square and is simple to make up, pick up, and deploy. If you haven’t heard about this hose method, please check out the post below.

As we all know firefighting isn’t black and white, rather it is different shades of grey. This can lead us to look for, one solution to many problems. As the Cleveland Lay becomes a firehouse staple in Australian fire brigades, more and more firefighters are turning away from traditional hose methods such as hose on the bite and traditional flake trays. The following isn’t to turn you off the Cleveland Lay at all and I personally think the Cleveland lay has merit, especially in the rural settings and in urban areas with tight space limiting deployment options. The following is more to persuade you to not just choose the easy option thinking that you will save time or that the Cleveland lay is advantageous in every scenario. 

The origins of the Cleveland Lay

To start with, where did the Cleveland lay come from? It may surprise some, but the Cleveland lay was not developed by, nor used by the CFD, but rather was developed as a progressive hose deployment method in the Cleveland National Forrest, California, by wildfire firefighters. It was adapted to the urban environment many years later with mixed results. While it has a purpose and comes into its own in the rural area, and the urban area such as the multi-title residential area, where long lays with 38mm leaders are ideal, or in tight alleyways littering the old working suburbs’ of Australia’s major cities, it still must be used with caution. These problems include restrictions to pressure and flow, higher hose staffing to navigate the pull and manage the hose, and do not work well with larger diameter hoses required at larger fires. 

To understand the scenarios that this hose lay is suited to, we need to understand friction loss and pumping principals. We also need to understand the environments that we are operating in. 

Friction loss and Hydraulics

As this is a discussion of hose lays and not pumping principals I will not delve too deep into the principals of friction loss. Friction loss is a principal of hydraulics. It is said to be the loss of pressure or head due to the friction between the pipe (hose) and the fluid which ultimately affects the flow. There are many rules of thumb with friction loss, such as doubling the diameter quadruple the flow, the more length the greater the friction loss, and the more bends in the hose the greater friction loss. To overcome volume loss due to friction loss we are required to increase pumping pressure.

Through mathematical equation, and proven through testing by flow meters to flow 500lpm through a length (30m) of 38mm hose, the pump operator should allow for around 350kpa per length of hose. However, as stated above, more bends mean more pressure to gain more flow. A coiled Cleveland lay requires roughly 450kpa to flow 500lpm when fully coiled. Now, this pressure requirement will be reduced as the line is straightened however it is something to think about, especially when operating off standpipe hydrant systems. 

Australian Standards on installed hydrant ring main, standpipe and sprinkler operations state that the minimum pressure requirements for a system are 5l/s at 700 kpa (this is the minimum acceptable number, however, most hydrants will flow a minimum of 10l/s at 700kpa – AS 2419.1:2017). Even with some services introducing 3 bar branches 30m of Cleveland coil is still unable to supply the flow. To be able to flow maximum flow one length of Cleveland lay fully coiled plus a 3 bar automatic branch requires over 700kpa. This increases well above 700kpa when you have 60m of 38mm hose and automatic branches requiring 700kpa. Even if we used a larger diameter Cleveland lay, they can kink and restrict flow. 

Now some people will argue these buildings are sprinkler fitted (some are, some are not, especially buildings built to design) or compartmentalised and will never require the flow of 500 plus lpm. It’s not a risk I personally want to take. I personally would like to see larger diameter hose folded in the Denver lay or New York lay with smooth bore or low bore branches, buts that another discussion. The main take away point is that the Cleveland severely increases the pressure required to flow optimal flow to a fire. Therefore, while they may be good in some residential environments off pumping appliances, they are not the solution to your high rise needs. 

Taking the hose with you

The other large issue that the Cleveland lay poses are that you don’t take the hose with you, or if you do, it requires more hands-on management to move around friction points inside buildings. It does charge great in the back yard, and it advances well in a straight line. It is manoeuvrable and offers options of charging in restricted space, but how does it navigate friction points when compared to a flaked hose pulled in the M tab method (a basic minuteman load, branch operator takes the branch, the midpoint and the coupling of the first length from the flake tray and moves to the objective, the heel/backup/tic firefighter chases friction points and kinks, it allows for the branch person to take the branch and the TIC firefighter to take the midpoint of the hose inside the structure meaning that they take the hose with them).

Do you train for this? Moving hose lines is one of the most basic skills a firefighter needs to be proficient. Deploying, moving and flowing is the basic principle behind fire extinguishment. How often do you or your crew train for moving hose? It’s simple, use cars, appliances or dirty area of the station to practice moving low and fast. There are plenty of tutorials online to find great examples of movement and navigation techniques to ensure you always have enough hose and can make a quick push. 

Is the Cleveland Lay for you?

The Cleveland has a place, but it is not the be-all and end-all of hose deployment techniques. A broad range of hose management will increase success on the fire ground so that BA teams are extinguishing fires efficiently and effectively maximising the protection of life and property. Take caution using the Cleveland off hydrant and standpipe systems, ensure that pressure and flow are there to be able to extinguish the fire and not simply match its heat release rate.


So, what are your thoughts? Does this change your opinion on the Cleveland? We would love to hear from you, use the chatbox at the bottom right, or drop us an email using the contact form.

Check out this sweet Cleveland Roller!

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I founded Flashover to promote Australian Firefighting. I've been a volunteer and a paid firefighter but now I spend my time chasing up leads, promoting good mental health and making the occasional Grumpy Firecom comic!

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