By Bill Adams
A term gaining popularity in the fire service and apparatus industry is “FDNY-style hosebed” – obviously in deference to pumpers purchased by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). A similar phrase is “low-style hosebed.” Variants of both have been incorporated into apparatus purchasing specifications and even into some apparatus manufacturers’ published literature.
|1 One of 46 Mack CFs delivered to the FDNY in 1972 featuring one adjustable and one permanent hosebed divider. The FDNY eventually purchased more than 400 CFs from Mack and another 100 from Ward 79 built on CF chassis. The arrow points to a “dead space” between the rear of the body and the inner dual tires on both sides of the rig. Today, there would be a door on it to store something. (Photo courtesy of Harvey Eckart.)|
Everyone thinks they know what it means, but there is no written description for it. I believe the terminology describes a theory or a generic design and not a physical, measurable, and definitive feature. If so, the verbiage does not belong in purchasing specifications.
If fire departments’ specifications do not include quantifiable criteria describing the hosebed desired, it is impossible to compare and evaluate bidders’ compliance or noncompliance with nebulous descriptions such as an “FDNY-style hosebed.” It is another case where purchasers specify and apparatus manufacturers (OEMs) post bid sureties guaranteeing they will provide something that can’t be defined. It is an ambiguous description similar to heavy-duty, top-of-the-line, and severe-service that unnecessarily clutters up apparatus specifications. However, it is an interesting topic that merits discussion.
|2 A 1980 American LaFrance from the FDNY in a private collection. A second permanent hosebed divider was added. The hose load and nozzles are not the FDNY’s. About 100 of these were purchased by FDNY in the early 1980s. (Photo courtesy of Mahlon Irish.)|
I have the utmost respect and admiration for the FDNY for what it does, for who it is, and for what it has experienced during its years of existence. FDNY lineage dates back to 1648. FDNY lettering first appeared on its rigs in the mid 1800s. Operating almost 200 in-service pumpers, it has the operational experience to justify its chosen type of hosebed and the right to call it whatever it wants.
|3 Several of the Seagrave pumpers purchased after the LaFrances. Almost 500 were purchased. They featured L-shaped booster tanks. Note the slight variation in the hose loads (not the beds). The FDNY gives a degree of leeway to company captains to modify the beds to meet specific hazards in their response districts. One rig has 3½-inch hose loaded on the curb side; another has it on the road side. (Photo 3 by Chris Mc Loone; photos 4 and 5 by Mike Ciampo.)|
Contrary to popular belief and in no way disparaging it, the FDNY did not invent low hosebeds. The design has been around since OEMs began building rigs with two axles to carry hose flat rather than on a reel. With the FDNY’s experience using them, its low hosebeds are the basis for this article.
|4 Several of the Seagrave pumpers purchased after the LaFrances. Almost 500 were purchased. They featured L-shaped booster tanks. Note the slight variation in the hose loads (not the beds). The FDNY gives a degree of leeway to company captains to modify the beds to meet specific hazards in their response districts. One rig has 3½-inch hose loaded on the curb side; another has it on the road side. (Photo 3 by Chris Mc Loone; photos 4 and 5 by Mike Ciampo.)|
Making a forward lay (hydrant to fire) is not a common FDNY procedure, nor is using preconnected attack lines. The rear hosebed for a standard FDNY engine company has four beds with adjustable dividers holding static hose loads packed flat with male couplings leading off. Ostensibly from ground level, firefighters can readily access a desired number of folds and make a stretch. The specifics of how much of what size hose they carry and how it is packed is irrelevant. Likewise, their method of deployment (making a stretch) works for them and also is not a subject for debate.
A brief review of recent generations of FDNY pumpers is in order. Photo 1 shows the working end of a 1972 Mack CF pumper featuring one permanent and one adjustable hosebed divider and a booster reel recessed beneath the bed between the frame rails. Mack delivered about 400 of these, and Ward 79 supplied another 100 on the same Mack CF chassis. Photo 2 shows a 1980 American LaFrance, one of about 100 delivered. It features one adjustable and two permanent dividers and continues with the recessed booster reel. The hose load is not FDNY issue – this rig is privately owned. The Macks and American LaFrances had bulk booster tanks located ahead of the hosebeds. They’re also called vertical and rectangular tanks.
|5 Several of the Seagrave pumpers purchased after the LaFrances. Almost 500 were purchased. They featured L-shaped booster tanks. Note the slight variation in the hose loads (not the beds). The FDNY gives a degree of leeway to company captains to modify the beds to meet specific hazards in their response districts. One rig has 3½-inch hose loaded on the curb side; another has it on the road side. (Photo 3 by Chris Mc Loone; photos 4 and 5 by Mike Ciampo.)|
Photos 3, 4, and 5 show a few of the approximately 500 Seagrave pumpers that followed. They have three adjustable dividers, a small backboard compartment on the floor on the right side of the hosebed, and a 3½-inch rear discharge beneath it. The booster reel has disappeared. These rigs have L-shaped booster tanks with the lower portion of the hosebed resting above the lower leg of the tank. Photo 6 shows the hosebed on the latest FDNY standard pumpers manufactured by KME. The KME hosebeds follow the basic design used for the Seagraves.
Low or FDNY-Style hosebed?
|6 The working end of one of KME’s original deliveries to the FDNY. The hosebed is 47 inches high; however, the hosebed dividers are only 33½ inches high – by design. How often – if ever – do APCs specify the height of hosebed dividers? The FDNY’s hosebeds are not designed to facilitate single-stacked preconnects in shoulder loads. (Photo courtesy of KME.)|
I cannot find a definition for either a low hosebed or an FDNY-style hosebed. Its earlier rigs with the bulk tanks located ahead of the hosebed resulted in the hosebed floor being about 45 inches from ground level. With the introduction of L-shaped booster tanks, the bottom of the hosebed floor increased to about 55 inches above ground level. Hosebeds located on the frame rails can only be as wide as the area between the rear dual tires – around 40 inches. Above the duals, the width varies depending on the depth of the upper portions of side compartments and whether or not slide-in storage is provided next to the tank. Don’t split hairs over the dimensions because manufacturers may use different sizes and shapes of materials and have different methods of construction.
If an FDNY-style hosebed or a low hosebed is specified, does it mean one with the hosebed on the frame rail (photo 1) or one with the hosebed above the lower leg of a booster tank (photo 6)? Both are available from most manufacturers, and there is a price difference. What did you spec? What do you expect?
|7 The working end of an E-ONE pumper. While it does have a low hosebed, it also sports four discharges piped to the rear for preconnected attack lines – something the FDNY does not use. The arrow shows how high hose can be packed. The actual hose load is much less. The hose, ladders, nozzles, and hydrant makeup are low and accessible from ground level. This rig is set up to hump hose efficiently. (Photos 7 and 8 by author.)|
Emulate means to imitate, to follow, or to copy. If your fire department wants to emulate another department’s apparatus, have a field day. It could be a responsible and financially wise decision to purchase an exact apparatus – providing your response district has the same hazards, you firematically operate the same way with the same staffing, and you have similar resources available such as water supply.
|8 A KME pumper with what could be called an FDNY-style hosebed. The floor sits on the frame rails with a recessed booster line. The arrow shows the maximum height available for packing hose – one half of what is available. The rear discharge is piped above the floor and boxed in. Rescue-pumper aficionados will bemoan the lost “space” above the hosebed dividers.|
I believe the concept of having a low hosebed is praiseworthy when it achieves a preestablished goal. Unfortunately when mimicking a concept, that may not always be the case. I believe some (some, not all) fire departments will mimic a design such as an FDNY-style hosebed with no intention of using it as it was intended. Some fire departments may spec a low hosebed with no comprehension of what the decision does to the rest of the apparatus design. Those beliefs, if true, call into question the judgment of the decision-making process. It could result in a costly apparatus with a less than desirable performance.
Not every fire department mimics or copies larger departments’ apparatus. Others obviously do. Some will copy a neighboring large city – and not necessarily only the FDNY. They will purchase the same manufacturer, same color scheme, same graphics, same motor, same pump, same hosebed, etc. I commend any fire department that benefits from the experiences of larger and busier departments. However, there is a possibility a purchaser may just want to look like a big brother. I don’t know if we really need it, but they use it, so it must be good. Let’s buy two of them. A derogatory description for people talking like that is they are wannabes – a harsh but true statement.
|9 A similar FDNY-style bed. The lower arrow points to a rear 2½-inch discharge, and the upper arrow points to one of two discharges located at the front of the hosebed. They are located high and accessible – a smart idea. Some departments opt for short leader lengths for discharge connections located at the front of the bed. Compare the cost between a short length of hose vs. piping a discharge to the rear of the bus. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)|
There are many cast-in-concrete figures applicable to all fire trucks. Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. A gallon takes up 231 cubic inches. There are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot, which holds almost 7½ gallons of water. Each size and manufacturer of fire hose has a set weight, and the hose takes up a certain cubic footage of space. Ladders weigh a certain amount and occupy a given space. While seemingly inconsequential to the average apparatus purchasing committee (APC) member, such statistics are significant to apparatus design engineers. It’s all about physics. Newton’s Third Law says, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It can be applied to fire apparatus.
|10 One of two discharges located very low at the front of a hosebed. It’s obvious the hose load will be single stacked, and the width of the individual beds is about 4½ to five inches. The bed itself is probably 90 inches long, and the height of the dividers is probably three feet. How do you access that connection without unloading the bed next to it? Using a spanner is impossible. What do your purchasing specifications say? (Photo by author.)|
To illustrate, say a pumper’s booster tank is 120 inches long. If a purchaser wants a rear discharge connection, about a four- by four-inch sleeve or notch in the tank is required, displacing more than eight gallons of water. About 33 gallons of water are displaced if a large-diameter hose (LDH) connection is sleeved through the tank. Having slide-in storage through the tank for a 10-foot section of suction hose displaces 75 gallons. Similar storage for a set of ground ladders displaces 175 gallons. Where’s the water going? APC members should realize that pointing to a sketch and saying that is where they want something located may have significant and possibly costly consequences. Wheelbase, overall height and length, as well as gross vehicle weight ratings of component parts can be affected. Equally important are possible adverse road handling characteristics.
|11 A Rosenbauer rig heading to the Cincinnati (OH) Fire Department with an L-shaped booster tank. Imagine if the rear discharges were at the front of the hosebed. Vertically challenged firefighters may be reluctant to step over one of those full height dividers. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)|
Demanding a low hosebed with an L-shaped tank and rear discharges may not be as trivial as one thinks. Jim Kirvida, president of CustomFIRE, notes, “I would say that 10 to 12 inches represents the minimum reasonable height for the lower horizontal/longitudinal leg of an L-shaped tank. If a 2½-inch rear discharge is supplied requiring a four-inch sleeve, then 12 inches is the minimum height our tank vendors will allow. For hosebeds that need to be even closer to the top of chassis frame rails, there is what is called a ‘vertical tank’ where the tank is completely ahead of the hosebed cavity, which allows the hosebed floor to be as low as 45 inches above ground level. Vertical tanks usually cannot exceed 500-gallon capacity unless the side compartment depths can be shallow, in which case the tank size can be upward of 750 gallons.” Alternatives are to run piping above the tank below the hosebed, in the hosebed (photos 8 and 9), or through compartments.
|12 A Toyne pumper with a similar L-shaped tank with a single rear discharge. The majority of rigs today feature unpainted hosebed interiors. (Photo by author.)|
The water in a 500-gallon tank weighs 4,170 pounds. The tank material, fittings, and supporting substructure could weigh an additional 1,000 pounds. Some tanks are located over the rear axle. If the entire tank weight is shifted to ahead of the rear axle, a detailed weight analysis must be made to ensure the proper distribution between the front and rear axles, which in itself is hard to “find in writing.” And, the center of gravity can be affected if the tank height is greatly increased. Pundits, writers, and even some salespeople may not be able to accurately opine on those subjects. An OEM’s computer-generated weight and balance analysis will. Bear in mind it is the OEM and not a commentator, consultant, or salesperson who certifies the apparatus does or will comply with National Fire Protection Association 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus.
|13 A Spartan ER pumper headed for Ontario, New York. It features an L-shaped tank. The larger corner step and full-width intermediate treadplate step help hose loading and access to the top. (Photo courtesy of Allan Smith.)|
Many APCs want the maximum compartment space possible on pumpers as well as to fully enclose ladders, hard suctions, and pike poles. That set of ground ladders displacing 175 gallons of water when stored through the tank can take up 33 cubic feet of space when stored between the tank and half-depth side compartments. A low hosebed design can inadvertently result in wasted space in the bed itself. An FDNY hosebed (photo 6) is 59 inches wide by 45 inches high by 82 inches long, containing about 126 cubic feet. Don’t get excited – the figure is deceiving. The blueprint for the FDNY rig shows the hosebed dividers are 33½ inches high. The result is a usable hosebed capacity of 94 cubic feet – 25 percent less than it could be. That is by choice. FDNY dividers are spec’d that height. Purchasers can unintentionally reduce the usable hosebed space by not specifying the height of their dividers. Write your specifications carefully.
|This shows the rear view of a pumper denoting the distance from the ground to the top of a hosebed. That measurement “means something” to the firefighters who may have to access a nozzle or a butt end of a supply line located on the top of the hosebed. Specifying the distance from ground level to the bottom of a hosebed has, in my opinion, no redeeming value. (Photo courtesy of KME.)|
The hosebed on the E-ONE pumper with an L-shaped tank in photo 7 is 48 inches high by 70 inches wide by 90 inches long with a capacity of 175 cubic feet. It also is deceiving. The actual hose load in any bed can only be as high as the top of the lowest divider (arrow). Almost half the hosebed on this rig is lost. But, it also could be by design. This pumper appears to be set up as a firefighter-friendly hose-humping machine. It has four beds with preconnects connected to rear discharges, a large LDH storage bed, and two beds with static loads; everything is reachable from ground level. In my opinion, the lost space in the hosebed is insignificant and probably justifiable. If the bean counters in city hall or fiscal hawks complain that the fire department lost one half of the hosebed capacity the city paid for, I would tell them they are out of line.
|14 The rear end of a KME with five hosebeds. It appears the tank has been notched for the two discharges on the left side. The right discharge is run above the tank in the hosebed. There may be price variations for notching a tank to run pipe vs. a sleeve through the tank or running pipe above the tank boxed in in the hosebed. The three beds on the left side can only be packed to the height of the dividers. (Photo by author.)|
I believe the justification for a low hosebed is to enable a firefighter to walk up to the rig and access hose from ground level. Some purchasers emphasize and specify the distance from the bottom of the hosebed to the ground. That could be a misleading dimension. It may be inadvertently negated by packing hose where the nozzle rests on top of the bed or also by leaving the butt end of a supply line on top. Figure 1 is a blueprint showing the height from ground level to the top of a packed hose load. That makes sense and should be a specification requirement.
I have no preference for any particular hosebed style. Do what is best for firefighter safety and efficient fireground operations. Bear in mind, the FDNY-style hosebed is specifically designed for static hose loads. If you require multiple rear preconnects, rear discharges, perhaps rear LDH suction and discharge connections, and a large-capacity LDH bed, why specify a hosebed not specifically designed to accommodate them? If slide-in storage for ground ladders and hard sleeves, a rear step compartment, and full-depth side compartments are desired, why specify a hosebed not conducive to that overall design? FDNY’s hosebed design wasn’t the subject of debate. Trying to make its design work for you was. Good luck.
|15 A rig from the Good Intent Fire Company, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. There are four rear discharges with preconnects beneath the main hosebed loaded on slide-out trays accessible from ground level. There are three single-stacked and one double-wide – all shoulder loads. This is a unique way of achieving the same results as a low or FDNY-style hosebed. Access ladders on each side of the bed facilitate reaching the supply line. Thinking outside of the box, rather than emulating another department’s design, may have benefits. (Photo courtesy of KME.)|
BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.