Fire Hoses and Fittings Are Firefighter’s Lifeline

Alan M. Petrillo

They are the firefighter’s lifeline and carry the water for fire suppression, yet few people pay much attention to hoselines and their fittings. In fact, Toby Mathews, director of marketing for Key Hose, says for the past 20 years or so, hose typically has been thought of as mostly a commodity-type item in the fire service. But, the industry is becoming better educated about the types of hose products being made to deliver the most water in the least amount of time to a fire.

“Fire departments should want to purchase hose that meets or exceeds the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard in order to keep up their system of delivering water to a fire,” Mathews says. Mathews, who sits on the NFPA committee revising NFPA 1962, Standard for the Inspection, Care, and Use of Fire Hose, Couplings, and Nozzles and the Service Testing of Fire Hose, notes that a revised standard, expected to be issued in 2013, will require flow testing on all attack hoselines-something currently not required.

(1) Key Hose's Combat Ready hose is one of the company's more popular attack lines, shown here being doubled over under pressure without kinking.
(1) Key Hose’s Combat Ready hose is one of the company’s more popular attack lines, shown here being doubled over under pressure without kinking. (Photo courtesy of Key Hose.)

Lighter with More Flow

Mathews says Key Hose introduced Eco 10, a new lightweight, double-jacketed, lined attack hose at the 2012 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). “Eco 10 has the same flow capability as our Big 10 hose but has a different coefficient of friction, a new design and weave technology, and is 25 percent lighter,” Mathews points out. “The new hose also has better abrasion resistance and is less likely to kink.”

Mathews notes that different hose designs have different coefficients of friction. “The more expensive hose typically has more kink resistance and the lowest friction loss,” he points out. “You need to know how the hydraulics work and how to run flow tests to be sure your hose is delivering what you want it to in terms of gallons per minute (gpm).”

(2) Key Hose's Big 10 1¾-inch attack line with a smooth bore tip is used by two firefighters during a drill.
(2) Key Hose’s Big 10 1¾-inch attack line with a smooth bore tip is used by two firefighters during a drill. (Photo courtesy of Key Hose.)

Questionable Gallonage

Dan Corner, president of All-American Hose, believes the trend toward using lower pressure on fire hoses, so firefighters at the end of the line have to grapple with less reaction force, might be somewhat counterproductive. “Our Ponn Conquest attack lines were developed when smooth bore high pressure was the name of the game,” Corner says. “With the trend toward low pressure to have lower reaction force on the firefighter at the nozzle, we question whether the fire department is truly getting the gpm it thinks it is. With lower pressures, it’s taking longer and more water to put out the fire because there is less reach and less penetration with lower pressure.”

Corner recommends that departments study their water delivery system, from the pump’s plumbing through the hose and the nozzle. “Depending on the water flow combination, they may not be getting the required gpm,” he says. “If they’re off by 10 pounds on the pressure, they might be off by 50 gpm at the tip.”

Corner says he understands the need for fire departments to do more with less, especially with fewer firefighters to staff rigs. “Chiefs want one firefighter to be able to handle a hoseline, so we’re continually improving and updating our hose products to meet that demand.”

It’s About Flow

David Lord, director of research and development for Niedner Corp., calls double-jacketed synthetic hose the most popular of all the hose his company makes and sells. “They’re all made from polyester and are provided with either a rubber or polyurethane lining,” Lord says. “But, the polyurethane-lined hose is the bulk of our production right now.”

(3) Ponn Conquest attack lines have proven effective with both smooth bore and fog nozzles.
(3) Ponn Conquest attack lines have proven effective with both smooth bore and fog nozzles. (Photo courtesy of All-American Hose.)

Niedner’s flagship line is a new hose introduced last year called Maxxum-FFC (fiber, fusion, cambric). It’s a double-jacketed hose that is made up of four layers, including a polyurethane liner inseparable from the layer it’s attached to, along with a proprietary nonwoven fabric layer and outer jacket. “The lining is extremely smooth so the hose has superior flow characteristics,” Lord points out. “The hose has thicker walls because of the extra layers but is still lightweight, extremely heavy duty, and resistant to kinking,” he adds. “It’s been well received and purchased by departments that use their hose a lot and need to go around doorways and through stairwells without kinking.” He notes that the Maxxum-FFC hose will bend through a doorway that is 20 inches wide at 75 pounds per square inch (psi) without kinking.

Mathews says his company’s Combat Ready attack line can work with lower-pressure high-volume nozzles. “It has the best coefficient of flow of any attack hose on the market today and the best kink resistance,” he maintains. Key Hose also makes large-diameter hose (LDH) in supply line sizes up to five inches in diameter, including a lightweight double-jacketed five-inch LDH, according to Mathews.


Corner says his firm also makes LDH and is addressing the issue of packability in hosebeds. “Real estate on apparatus is at a premium,” he says. “Many departments are moving to combination vehicles where the hosebed is becoming a place for more equipment. So we’re addressing packability in hose, still making 1,000 feet of hose for the apparatus, but trying to work it into a smaller space.”

(4) All-American Hose also makes large-diameter hose (LDH) and is testing new LDH designs that address packability issues in hosebeds.
(4) All-American Hose also makes large-diameter hose (LDH) and is testing new LDH designs that address packability issues in hosebeds. (Photo courtesy of All-American Hose.)

Corner says All-American Hose has products in the testing stage to address packability. “It involves new materials and a different design but will still be lay-flat hose,” he says. “Safety, convenience, weight, and packability are the issues in supply line,” he points out, “but we have a desire to get the weight out of the hose and still fit it into the real estate on the apparatus.”

Corner notes that fire departments also should ask makers where the hose is woven, extruded, cured, and assembled to be sure of a safe, durable product.

Fittings, Couplings, and Adapters

In terms of the fittings and couplings on hoses, not much has changed in recent years. Jason Riggenbach, global product manager for Akron Brass Company, says Akron makes a variety of adapters and couplings that are used to connect hose to any of its appliances, nozzles, or monitors, from ¾-inch garden hose thread up to six-inch LDH. “We make thousands of different kinds of threads and many adapters for those threads,” he points out. “Most of them are used in mutual-aid situations, and there will always be a need for adapters to go from one size hose to another.”

Riggenbach says Akron has seen a trend toward LDH fittings, specifically the Storz fitting, to the point that Akron is not only making Storz adapters in various sizes but also installing Storz couplings on some of its nozzles and monitors to connect to Storz-coupled hoselines. “That’s responding to the increased demand for a greater water flow and a much quicker connection,” he observes.

Brien Welsh, product market director for Elkhart Brass, has seen the trend toward larger-sized quick connect couplings too and also a continued need for a full range of connecting fittings-double males and double females. A recently introduced Elkhart coupling drawing attention, Welsh says, is a high-rise elbow-a 45-degree elbow coupling used to attach a hoseline into a standpipe or cabinet. “The elbow allows better access for the firefighter, prevents hose kinking, and has one of our model 114 drain valves on it,” Welsh points out.

The model 114 drain valve is also used on a supply hose coupling to a tanker used for shuttling and water replenishment duties, he says. “There are three components to the coupling-the connection to the Storz on the tanker, the 114 drain in the middle to allow firefighters to bleed off the hose and disconnect quickly, and the swivel on the end. Safety is an important element in the connector, but we’re angling for the convenience factor for the firefighter too.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer 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.

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