Apparatus, Pumpers

Reachable Locations and Deployment Ease Dictate Apparatus Handline Placement

Issue 3 and Volume 20.

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By Alan M. Petrillo

Fire attack hoselines traditionally have been placed close to the pump-at one time almost exclusively on top of it.

But, apparatus manufacturers heard from firefighters about ergonomics and the need to easily reach hoselines without having to stretch above their heads or step up on a running board to stretch the line. Thus, handlines now can be found almost anywhere on a pumper. Where they are located is usually determined by close communication between the manufacturer and the fire department. Scott Oyen, vice president of sales at Rosenbauer, says departments “are giving a lot more thought to having boots on the ground when it comes to preconnected hoselines. They don’t want their firefighters to have to step onto the bumper or a running board to get the hose.”


Ryan Slane, pumper-tanker product manager for KME, says that although KME has done some unusual handline locations, it typically focuses on the ergonomics facet of reaching for and pulling hoselines. “We lowered our crosslay to 66 inches off the ground, which puts the hose load at shoulder level for most firefighters, so they should be able to reach it from the ground,” Slane says. “It’s 42 inches above the running board, which has become our standard and is the majority of what we sell.”

However, some departments want even lower handline lays, he notes, as with a pumper KME built for the Vancouver (WA) Fire Department. “They wanted to improve the ergonomics and had us build crosslays that were 32 inches above the running board, which put them 54 inches above the ground,” Slane says. “We also built a pumper for Citizens Fire Company, in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, where the crosslays are 42 inches above the running board, making them 66 inches off the ground.”

Chad Trinkner, director of fleet management for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce has been proactive in getting crosslays lowered on apparatus. “The big issue is firefighter safety,” Trinkner says. “Departments don’t want any cut hands or sprained ankles, and they want all firefighters on the ground pulling hose and not having to take a step up to do it.”

Trinkner says Pierce has lowered its standard crosslay by nine inches and can go lower based on a department’s needs and what equipment and discharges it wants on the apparatus. He notes that Pierce’s Pierce Ultimate Configuration (PUC) product has crosslays at shoulder height. “About 50 percent of our pumpers have crosslays, 30 percent speedlays, and the rest at the rear or elsewhere,” he points out.

Summit Fire Trucks president Joe Messmer says that although the locations of handlines on pumpers he’s been building have not changed much, how they are carried on the vehicle has changed. “The biggest thing we’ve been doing is enclosing the pump panel with the crosslays in there too,” Messmer says. “It’s a grand idea because we are using vehicles for a lot more than fighting fires now, and 70 percent of the time when a pumper leaves the station, it doesn’t even get put into pump gear. Having the hoselines enclosed behind roll-up doors makes the vehicle easier to clean, and the hoses and nozzles don’t get road grit on them.”

Marion Body Works national sales manager Shane Krueger says Marion makes the RPM rescue-pumper that places the pump under the cab seats above the frame rail and notches the cab around roll-out extension crosslay trays. “Some departments cover the compartment with a mesh netting while others have a door on it,” Krueger says. “The compartment can handle two crosslays of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose, and it’s a very ergonomic load where the firefighter doesn’t have to climb to repack hose.”


In standard practice, crosslays go over the top of the pump, although they can be located elsewhere, while speedlays generally are placed in front of the pump. “Speedlays are the lowest lays you can get,” Trinkner says. “You can start a speedlay stack 24 inches off the ground at the running board. But, the disadvantage to speedlays is that you increase the wheelbase of the vehicle.”

For the Edgartown (MA) Fire Department, KME built speedlays that hold a polypropylene tray, which can be removed, set on the ground, reloaded, and then locked back in place. “It greatly improves the ergonomics of reloading handlines,” Slane observes.

Trinkner notes that pump manufacturers are getting strategic in packaging their pumps and pump modules to accommodate lower crosslays and speedlays. “Hale Products and Waterous have found ways to package speedlays in shorter lengths,” he says,” where they can put them in with a 52-inch-wide pump house.”

Although some departments like to use speedlays and the removable trays that often come with them because of the easier method of repacking, Trinkner notes departments must consider concerns about space for the handline nozzle. “Task Force Tips, Elkhart Brass, and Akron Brass have been aggressive in making nozzles that will fit into speedlay slots,” Trinkner says. “As a manufacturer, we have to be in tune with what the nozzle makers are doing because we may want a low speedlay height, but we have to fit the nozzle in there too.”

Most of the pumpers E-ONE sells are side-mounts and typically carry a speedlay stack between the pump and the cab, Grady North, product manager for pumpers, tankers, and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) for E-ONE, points out. “That’s the standard configuration on our eMax pumper,” he says. “It measures approximately 48 inches from the bottom to the top of the speedlay compartment.” Such configurations usually are accessed by removable trays to make reloading hose easier, North adds.

Rich Suche, president of Fort Garry Fire Trucks, echoes the popularity of speedlays among fire departments. “Nearly 50 percent of our pumpers have speedlays now because departments want their hoselines down low,” Suche says. “They don’t want anything more than 68 to 70 inches from the ground and usually want removable trays. The majority of our pumpers have three speedlays, usually stacked three high to make the pump panel smaller and the vehicle shorter.”

In terms of speedlays, Grant Spencer, general manager of Spencer Manufacturing, points out that some departments love them, while others hate them. “Some firefighters feel speedlay trays are harder to pack,” he says. “Also, you can lose an inch of width if you use a half-inch-thick polypropylene tray.”

Bumper Lines

North notes that fire departments have been coming up with different places to put their preconnects. “The trend we’ve seen is going toward speedlays and getting them down as low as they can,” North says. “Also, we are seeing more departments asking for full crosslays of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose in the front bumper of the pumper and even some in the rear step, although the rear location isn’t seen as frequently.”

Donley Frederickson, Rosenbauer’s national sales manager, points out that Rosenbauer has built an array of pumpers with crosslays in both high and low traditional positions, speedlays, with 200-foot 1¾-inch crosslays in a front bumper, and the same configuration in a rear bumper. “We recently built a pumper for the Crooks (SD) Volunteer Fire Department that has a double donut roll preconnect stored in a rectangular compartment, about two feet square, on a slide-out tray,” he says. “They grab the nozzle and deploy the hose. If they don’t roll the hose all the way out, the pressure will roll it out for them.”

Marion also makes a front bumper extension that can carry two crosslays of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose in angled trays. “We cover the crosslays with a vinyl cover that’s hinged at the front so it flops forward and down out of the way,” Krueger says.

Bill Scherer, an engineer at 4 Guys Fire Trucks, says most firefighters want handlines that are easy to pull and easy to repack. “When crosslays are built across the front bumper, they are not the easiest to pull or repack,” Scherer observes. Scherer also serves as deputy chief of the Cover Hill (PA) Volunteer Fire Department. “If you have 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose up there, it’s not an easy pull at just above knee level. Most firefighters prefer a hoselay as close to the shoulder as possible, which makes it easier to walk away and not tangle up the hose.”

Scherer says 4 Guys recently built a mini pumper/brush unit for a fire department in West Virginia that has crosslays in the back bumper. “Of course, there’s still the issue that the hoselines are down pretty low,” he says, “and if they need to get on the step, the bumper is pretty high because of the crosslay compartment, so they need an auxiliary step to get on the back of the unit.”


E-ONE also has done a lot of hosebed preconnects with dividers. “Usually they are set up for three-inch or 2½-inch handlines, in addition to the crosslays or speedlays,” North says, “although 1¾-inch preconnects at the rear also are used regularly. The hosebed preconnects are either connected at the front of the hosebed or at a discharge on the rear of the vehicle.”

Two combinations of hoselines that E-ONE does often, North says, puts two or three speedlays of 1¾-inch hose and one 2½-inch crosslay near the pump, while the second combination might be the same speedlay configuration with a rear discharge preconnect.

Many departments want shorter pumpers but larger front bumpers, Suche observes. “They want better ergonomics in the vehicle, so they’ll put in two handlines up front,” he says. “Sometimes a department will put a third handline off the back, a 1¾-inch line, but usually it’s a 2½-inch back there.”

At Unruh Fire, apparatus consultant Todd Nix says his company has been building a lot of small pumpers recently, typically on Ford F-550, International 4400 and 4500, and Peterbilt chassis. “That size pumper with a 12-foot body is our bread and butter,” Nix says. “If we’re putting a midmount pump on the vehicle, the fire department has the choice between crosslays or a rear hose deployment. Some departments choose to have a single crosslay near the pump and a second handline at the rear, along with their supply line.”

In all installations, Nix says Unruh Fire tries to keep hoselines and all equipment on its vehicles as low as possible for convenience and firefighter safety. “If you can have 80 percent of your firefighters walk up to the pumper and be able to pull a hoseline while standing on the ground, you are doing well,” he points out. “It’s much safer than climbing up on the truck.” He adds that Unruh Fire also builds a number of pumpers with pump-and-roll capability. “Usually they are rear-mounts with standalone pumps, but we have mounted some in the crosswalk area. In either case, we can do crosslays or handlines coming off the rear hosebed.”

Departments seem to still favor a 2½-inch discharge at the rear of their side-mount pumpers, Messmer says. “Some departments put a small monitor at the back of the vehicle on the end of a 2½- or three-inch hoseline,” he notes, “so one firefighter can deploy it and get it up and running.”

Spencer says his company recently built pumpers for the Pittsburg (PA) Bureau of Fire where all crosslays and hosebeds were deployable from the ground without having a firefighter take a step up. “The hosebed height is 56 inches off the ground,” Spencer says, “while the crosslays are 62 inches high.”

Some fire departments simply can’t get enough handlines on a pumper, Scherer observes. “We just delivered a pumper on a Spartan chassis with a 2,000-gallon-per-minute pump and a 1,000-gallon water tank to the Avondale (PA) Fire Department,” he says, “that has three speedlays near the midship pump, a booster reel on the front bumper, and five preconnects on the rear hosebed area. That’s a different example of hoseline placement.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.