Adams, Apparatus, Engine Company, Equipment, Pumpers

Apparatus Purchasing: Preconnects for “Engine Couples”

Issue 11 and Volume 24.

BY BILL ADAMS

Years ago, at a Fire Department Instructors Conference, a couple of career firefighters from a very rural, multistation, countywide fire department down south were asked how many members staffed their engine companies.

They answered their engine couples responded with two people. Say what? Because only two firefighters were on duty in each station, they kiddingly called themselves engine couples and not engine companies. Some interesting fireground stories followed. All were sad but obviously true.

Some apparatus designs today feature speedlays on removable polypropylene or aluminum trays. If there isn’t a designated trash line, an entire preconnect may have to be pulled for a nuisance fire. Some preconnected hose loads, especially shoulder carries, may preclude pulling off just the first couple of lengths. Even if just a length or two can be pulled and connected to a side discharge, the whole tray must be removed to reload. If mounted high off the ground, it could be difficult with limited staffing. Five lengths of 1¾-inch can weigh 100 pounds, then add the nozzle and the tray itself. The speedlays on this rig are low to the ground.

1 Some apparatus designs today feature speedlays on removable polypropylene or aluminum trays. If there isn’t a designated trash line, an entire preconnect may have to be pulled for a nuisance fire. Some preconnected hose loads, especially shoulder carries, may preclude pulling off just the first couple of lengths. Even if just a length or two can be pulled and connected to a side discharge, the whole tray must be removed to reload. If mounted high off the ground, it could be difficult with limited staffing. Five lengths of 1¾-inch can weigh 100 pounds, then add the nozzle and the tray itself. The speedlays on this rig are low to the ground. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.)

Several years later, a retired career firefighter from, at that time, a two-station combination department up north told another harrowing tale about being on the job. He responded by himself from the substation to a reported fire in a commercial building. Career drivers (firefighters) responding alone on the first rig was a common occurrence for weekday calls. There was smoke showing, so he stopped, wrapped the closest plug, and laid in. He clamped the 2½-inch supply line, stretched and flaked out a 1½-inch preconnect, and charged it from the booster tank. He donned turnout gear, packed up, and went inside—by himself. The next arriving engine from the downtown station also with just the career driver pulled in a couple of minutes later. He made up and charged the hydrant, then drove up to the scene. He hooked the supply line to the first pumper, unclamped it, changed over from tank to hydrant water, and adjusted the pump pressure. He packed up and also went inside. Reinforcements arrived about five minutes later. It was another sad tale that could have had tragic results. If both firefighters rode the same rig, they too could have been called an engine couple. Two engines with one firefighter each could be called a two-piece engine couple—funny but equally sad.

After World War II, the use of 1½-inch hoselines became popular. Many departments retrofitted existing apparatus to accommodate them in homemade crosslays and on running boards. By the mid 1970s, a dual crosslay configuration was a standard offering by most manufacturers.
After World War II, the use of 1½-inch hoselines became popular. Many departments retrofitted existing apparatus to accommodate them in homemade crosslays and on running boards. By the mid 1970s, a dual crosslay configuration was a standard offering by most manufacturers.

2, 3 After World War II, the use of 1½-inch hoselines became popular. Many departments retrofitted existing apparatus to accommodate them in homemade crosslays and on running boards. By the mid 1970s, a dual crosslay configuration was a standard offering by most manufacturers. (Photo 2 courtesy of the late Joe Klein, provided by Bill Noonan.)

Unfortunately, and much to the horror of today’s safety gurus, similar scenarios probably still occur. It is immaterial if the circumstances happen in volunteer organizations and combination departments with declining memberships or in short-staffed career departments. So much for the “two-in/two-out” philosophy. Most of the time the fire service admirably makes do with what it has—both in the way of equipment and personnel. There isn’t much the fire apparatus industry can do about limited staffing, but it surely can design apparatus to facilitate fireground operations when staffing is limited. Engine couples deserve it, and the fire service should demand it.

Open running board troughs at pump houses commonly used for preconnected soft suctions are now being used for trash lines and other preconnected devices. Cost-conscious purchasers might use one of the seldom, if ever, used 2½-inch side discharges to supply them. Those who can afford an extra $1,000 for one will specify an extra discharge. The KME in photo 4 shows a 1-inch trash line supplied by a designated 2½-inch discharge. The Pierce in photo 5 shows a 2½-inch side discharge being used to supply a preconnected leader line wye in the hose trough.
Open running board troughs at pump houses commonly used for preconnected soft suctions are now being used for trash lines and other preconnected devices. Cost-conscious purchasers might use one of the seldom, if ever, used 2½-inch side discharges to supply them. Those who can afford an extra $1,000 for one will specify an extra discharge. The KME in photo 4 shows a 1-inch trash line supplied by a designated 2½-inch discharge. The Pierce in photo 5 shows a 2½-inch side discharge being used to supply a preconnected leader line wye in the hose trough.

4, 5 Open running board troughs at pump houses commonly used for preconnected soft suctions are now being used for trash lines and other preconnected devices. Cost-conscious purchasers might use one of the seldom, if ever, used 2½-inch side discharges to supply them. Those who can afford an extra $1,000 for one will specify an extra discharge. The KME in photo 4 shows a 1-inch trash line supplied by a designated 2½-inch discharge. The Pierce in photo 5 shows a 2½-inch side discharge being used to supply a preconnected leader line wye in the hose trough.

PRECONNECTS

What are preconnects, and are they mandatory? National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, sentence 3.3.139 defines a preconnect as “A hoseline that is stored on the apparatus already connected to an outlet on a pump that can be charged by the activation of one discharge valve.”

It is important to note that NFPA 1901 does not say what size or length one has to be. It infers it. Equally important is that NFPA 1901 does not say apparatus shall have preconnects. It also infers it. Pumpers, initial attack apparatus, aerials with pumps, mobile foam apparatus, and quints are required to have two areas, each a minimum of 3.5 cubic feet, to accommodate 1½-inch or larger preconnected hose. It is important to note that NFPA 1901 states the 3.5-cubic-foot hosebeds can accommodate preconnects and not that they are mandatory.

This 2019 Pierce pumper has a designated water and foam-capable 2½-inch discharge supplying a preconnect in a running board trough. Although labeled “Trash Line,” it has 150 feet of 1¾-inch hose and a Task Force Tips nozzle and can be used on much more than a grass fire!

6 This 2019 Pierce pumper has a designated water and foam-capable 2½-inch discharge supplying a preconnect in a running board trough. Although labeled “Trash Line,” it has 150 feet of 1¾-inch hose and a Task Force Tips nozzle and can be used on much more than a grass fire!

These rigs have bundled hose packs mounted on tops of low side running board compartments. Years ago, fire departments would load hose in the same location, strap or bungee cord it down, and preconnect it to a side discharge—an inexpensive preconnect. There’s no reason why it can’t be done today even with some of the hose packs. They can serve a dual purpose.
These rigs have bundled hose packs mounted on tops of low side running board compartments. Years ago, fire departments would load hose in the same location, strap or bungee cord it down, and preconnect it to a side discharge—an inexpensive preconnect. There’s no reason why it can’t be done today even with some of the hose packs. They can serve a dual purpose.

7, 8 These rigs have bundled hose packs mounted on tops of low side running board compartments. Years ago, fire departments would load hose in the same location, strap or bungee cord it down, and preconnect it to a side discharge—an inexpensive preconnect. There’s no reason why it can’t be done today even with some of the hose packs. They can serve a dual purpose. (Photos 7-8 by Ricky Riley.)

NFPA 1901 makes a couple more subtle inferences about requiring preconnects, including flows, without outright stating so. All classifications of apparatus requiring the minimum 3.5-cubic-foot storage areas are also required to carry a like number of 95-gallon-per-minute (gpm) handline nozzles—regardless if the hose in the storage areas is preconnected. All piping and valves supplying 1½-inch or larger preconnects must be a minimum of two inches in size. But, NFPA 1901 does not require a minimum flow. Interestingly, water supply apparatus (tankers or tenders) not purposed for structural firefighting are only required to have one area to store 100 feet of 1½-inch or larger hose (and carry a 95-gpm nozzle) for a “protection” line if the apparatus is equipped with a pump.

Rosenbauer’s national sales manager, Dave Reichman, says many of their wildland interface apparatus feature compartment mounted preconnects on slide-out trays with the discharge mounted inside the compartment. This rig has a 2½-inch discharge with a reducer.

9 Rosenbauer’s national sales manager, Dave Reichman, says many of their wildland interface apparatus feature compartment mounted preconnects on slide-out trays with the discharge mounted inside the compartment. This rig has a 2½-inch discharge with a reducer.

Preconnects on slide-out trays mounted below the running board compartments. It’s not too often firefighters have to bend down to load preconnects.
Preconnects on slide-out trays mounted below the running board compartments. It’s not too often firefighters have to bend down to load preconnects.

10, 11  Preconnects on slide-out trays mounted below the running board compartments. It’s not too often firefighters have to bend down to load preconnects. (Photos 10 and 11 courtesy of KME.)

This 4 Guys pumper does not have a trash line or preconnected crosslays. “Dry” electric rewind reels on each side carry 400 feet of 1¾-inch hose. The first length off is 100 feet long and the balance are 50 feet. The department “pulls and breaks” the number of lengths needed and connects to a side discharge. They’re easy to reload.

12 This 4 Guys pumper does not have a trash line or preconnected crosslays. “Dry” electric rewind reels on each side carry 400 feet of 1¾-inch hose. The first length off is 100 feet long and the balance are 50 feet. The department “pulls and breaks” the number of lengths needed and connects to a side discharge. They’re easy to reload.

SEMANTICS AND TRASH LINES

NFPA 1901 appendix sentence A.3.3.139 further explains: “A preconnected hoseline is commonly called a bucket line, crosslay, speedlay or mattydale.” It does not acknowledge or describe a trash line or a jump line, and it should not. That is a local decision. The connotation of a trash line is subjective. Some believe a trash line is for use on a grass fire, a small mulch fire, or something a hair bigger than what can be extinguished by a couple of water cans—and never on a vehicle or dumpster fire or for structural attack. But, there’s no rule, regulation, or law saying it has to be. Nor are there requirements for length, size, and flow capability. Again, that is a local decision.

Some departments might use 1½-inch or 1-inch hose or even forestry hose and low-flow nozzles. It is not illegal to do so. Others may use a shorter length of their standard size and length preconnected attack line with the same nozzle for structural attack and call it a trash line. Doing so eliminates inadvertently pulling a line not capable of handling the situation at hand. Some even pipe foam to their trash line (photo 6).

Regardless of the size, flow capability, and length or what preconnected hoselines are called, they should be capable of being efficiently deployed and repacked. If staffing levels warrant it, at least one preconnect should be specified to be easily accessible and safely repacked by one or two firefighters. Fully staffed engine companies might also appreciate it.

A 2½-inch discharge in a side compartment and four poly trays to store hos

13 A 2½-inch discharge in a side compartment and four poly trays to store hose. (Photo courtesy of Marion Body Works.)

Wyatt Compton, fleet sales application engineer for Spartan Emergency Response, provided this photo of a half depth roll-out tray on a tiller. The discharge has a valve located in the compartment—a double check to ensure the door is opened and all the hose deployed before charging the line.

14 Wyatt Compton, fleet sales application engineer for Spartan Emergency Response, provided this photo of a half depth roll-out tray on a tiller. The discharge has a valve located in the compartment—a double check to ensure the door is opened and all the hose deployed before charging the line. (Photos 14-16 by Wyatt Compton.)

A slide-out tray in a rear side compartment on a rescue-pumper. The Storz hose connection is just visible above the tray. There’s another preconnect on the opposite side.

15 A slide-out tray in a rear side compartment on a rescue-pumper. The Storz hose connection is just visible above the tray. There’s another preconnect on the opposite side.

A discharge with a Storz fitting and a small polypropylene tray in a side compartment. It is unknown how the preconnect will be laid out.

16  A discharge with a Storz fitting and a small polypropylene tray in a side compartment. It is unknown how the preconnect will be laid out.

It’s not unheard of for small rural departments to roll a tanker to a grass or car fire with just one or two people. This Summit tanker has a preconnect located on a slide-out tray above its low-mounted pump module. Easy to pull and easy to load.

17 It’s not unheard of for small rural departments to roll a tanker to a grass or car fire with just one or two people. This Summit tanker has a preconnect located on a slide-out tray above its low-mounted pump module. Easy to pull and easy to load.

This 4 Guys 4,000-gallon NFPA 1901 Chapter 7 compliant Mobile Water Supply Apparatus is used to nurse an initial attack first-in rig. There’s a discharge located inside each forward compartment supplying 200 feet of 1¾-inch preconnect—if they are required. Easy to repack.

18  This 4 Guys 4,000-gallon NFPA 1901 Chapter 7 compliant Mobile Water Supply Apparatus is used to nurse an initial attack first-in rig. There’s a discharge located inside each forward compartment supplying 200 feet of 1¾-inch preconnect—if they are required. Easy to repack.

This Crimson pumper has the nozzles and loops to pull these four preconnects that are reachable from the ground; however, repacking the load might be challenging for two people and a nightmare for one.

19 This Crimson pumper has the nozzles and loops to pull these four preconnects that are reachable from the ground; however, repacking the load might be challenging for two people and a nightmare for one. (Photo by Greg Knapp.)

Sometimes front bumper preconnects can be complicated to load.

20 Sometimes front bumper preconnects can be complicated to load.

INGENUITY AND LOCATIONS

Firefighters forever modify in-house apparatus to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Creativity could be a result of fireground experience, a decrease in staffing, a poor design, or any combination thereof. Being resourceful and creative is a necessity for cash-strapped fire departments that can’t afford any more than the bare basics at the most or used fire trucks and hand-me-downs at the least. Some safety gurus, “well-to-do” fire departments, and pundits can’t fathom or accept the reality that the first-due apparatus in many fire departments respond with only one or two firefighters. Some fire chiefs and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) may not accept that reality either—whether it is because of pride or not wanting to alienate taxpayers by asking for more resources.

Extended front bumpers, especially on custom apparatus, have become a common location for both preconnects and trash lines. Custom chassis are more likely to have bumper extensions than commercial chassis are. Preconnects competing for the same bumper real estate with front suction lines and their hose troughs and even hydraulic rescue tools and reels can result in a less than desirable storage area for the preconnect.

Historically, preconnect hose storage was located in a pumper’s rear hosebed. It appears many departments are returning to that location whether the location is “better” for their fireground operations or if another location can’t be found. When any hosebed is extraordinarily high off the ground, preconnects can be hard to pull and even harder to repack (photo 19). Repacking with two people might be possible but can be really hard for just one firefighter.

In the late 1940s, Chief Burton Eno from the Mattydale (NY) Fire Department outfitted a 1939 Buffalo pumper with preconnected hose stored transversely above the pump house. They are now known as crosslays and commonly referred to as Mattydales. Other departments, including major cities such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, followed suit (photos 2 and 3). By the mid 1970s, crosslays above pump houses were the preferred location. They were easy to repack on rigs with open jump seats. The advent of fully enclosed cabs forced firefighters on each side to stand and balance themselves on a 10- or 12-inch running board when repacking the load. When an open hose trough is provided in the running board, the task can be hazardous. Often a firefighter has to be on top of the rig to reload crosslays. Running board hose troughs also eliminate using a slide-out step to facilitate crosslay hose loading.

Today’s rescue-pumper designs can pose a challenge for trash lines and easily deployable and repackable preconnects, especially those with alternative pump locations and no designated pump house—not all, but some. Common rescue-pumper designs include full-depth double high side compartments, usually with one 2½-inch and two 1¾-inch speedlays in removable trays. Removable trays may be feasible for two firefighters to reload but are almost impossible for one to do so. Rear hosebeds are usually high off the ground, often with just enough capacity for a limited bed of supply line and possibly a bed of 2½-inch or 3-inch hose preconnected to a high-mounted rear discharge feeding a ground monitor. Hence, departments scramble to find a location for an easily accessible preconnect or trash line for use with limited staffing. Using the front bumper, rear bumper (if there is one), or running board troughs (also, if there are any) or inside a compartment for a preconnect may force departments to modify some of their hose loads from “shoulder carries” to “drop-and-drag” hose loads. That in itself may cause resistance within the ranks.

Finding a location for an easily accessible preconnect can be a challenge. A bigger challenge is getting an apparatus purchasing committee to acknowledge if there is, or will soon be, a staffing shortage. The final challenge is for the purchasing committee to specify an apparatus layout to address it. An engine couple’s crew will appreciate it. Good luck.


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 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.