Hose Makers Strive To Move More Water Faster

Attack lines. Large-diameter hose. Booster lines. Wildland firefighting hose. Their uses and construction vary from maker to maker, but the intent of each is to deliver the greatest amount of water in the least amount of time.

Basic hose design, whether attack or supply, hasn’t varied in many years, but what has changed are the manufacturing methods and the materials being used. Lately manufacturers have been working on new ways to combat kinking.

Charlie Genthner, president of Key Fire Hose Corp. in Miami, Fla., said his company makes a double jacketed, 1-3/4-inch hose called Combat Ready that flows 25 to 30 percent more water than traditionally-made 1-3/4-inch line.

“We designed an interior hose jacket that has a slicker waterway allowing more water to pass through it faster,” Genthner said. “And as part of the development, the hose resists kinking at an unbelievable level.”

Genthner noted that many fire departments have trended toward using smoothbore or other low-pressure nozzles, which when coupled with their lower operating pressures, often cause kinks in traditional fire hose.

“The inside jacket and its design, as well as the way we put it together, is a proprietary system that resists kinking, which really comes into play because smoothbore nozzles operate at lower pressures,” he said.

Key also makes Combat Ready hose in 2-inch and 2-1/2-inch lines.

On large-diameter hose (LDH), Genthner said he’s seen a trend toward the use of 6-inch hose instead of 4-inch and 5-inch.

“We have a 6-inch LDH that you can put a 5-inch Storz on,” he said. “The 6-inch hose will give you about 70 percent more water than a 5-inch LDH, and with the trend toward larger pumps, you’ll see a trend toward larger hose. The size of the hose will always follow the pumps.”

Kidde Fire Fighting in Exton, Pa., offers Hi-Combat II fire hose that uses an extruded through-the-weave inner tube woven to an outer jacket.

Kink Resistance

“Firefighters have told us it has many features they like, like excellent kink resistance so it can go through doorways and around corners and not lose water flow, as well as great slide-ability over the ground, which makes it easier to pull and drag,” said Kidde Municipal Sales Manager Bill Drake. “That’s because the exterior jacket has a lower coefficient of fiction, and the inner jacket alone would be able to qualify as an attack hose.”

Because 1-3/4-inch and 2-1/2-inch hose are the most common sizes used by fire departments, he said those are the sizes of Hi-Combat II that Kidde makes.

“We’re also able to weave in an identifier,” he noted. “For instance, we might weave in ‘service test to 500 psi’ or ‘made in USA.’ We’ve also woven in day-glow orange exit arrows that point the way out of the fire hazard so if a firefighter gets disoriented, he can use the hose like a lifeline. And we can weave in the fire department name.”

Drake said his company is looking at methods of adding lighting to hose, where the hose retains light and then reflects it back at the viewer.

“We’ve researched external power to light hose, but there doesn’t seem to be a demand for that type of product right now,” he said. “It adds to the cost of the hose, and with tax revenue down in municipalities, cost plays a major role in purchases.”

On the LDH front, Kidde makes 4-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch LDH single-jacket extruded through the weave hose called Hi-Vol. The jacket is woven and run through an extruder under high temperature and pressure to push the rubber into the weave, making the hose single-piece construction.

In response to the recent trend toward cost cutting, Drake said Kidde makes Angus LDH supply line that is fully compliant with the construction and design requirements of the National Fire Protection Association’s 1961 standard on fire hose.

Flexibility And Weight

Richard Bergeron, president and general manager of Superior Fire Hose Corp. in Pineville, N.C., said hose research and development is ongoing at his company.

“We want to develop lighter weight products,” he said, “hose that’s more flexible and easier to coil, and yet still gives the maximum full range required for firefighting, as well as being coated to protect it from abrasion.”

Years ago, fire stations had drying towers for rayon and cotton jacketed hose.

“That hose absorbed water like a sponge and had to be strung up to dry or it would be attacked by bacteria and mildew, which would eat up the fibers,” Bergeron pointed out. “With today’s technology, we’ve gone to synthetic fibers that have only five percent of the absorbency of the rayon and cotton hose.”

 He noted that Superior concentrates most of its efforts on making 1-3/4-inch attack lines and 2-1/2-inch hose. The synthetic hose has a coating applied after manufacture that seals the fabric from any water absorbency.

“We do a lot of work in improving the various coatings,” he said. “We still keep the costs down, yet improve on the flexibility of the hose.”

Superior uses only a rubber lining in its double-jacketed hose, which has two plies of fabric covering it.

“We’re always making efforts to go with newer and better technology,” Bergeron noted. “The newer liners we use are EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), which is naturally resistant to weather, heat, abrasion and ozone, so you don’t  have to add in any synthetic materials that can leach out and deteriorate the hose quality over time.”

Superior’s D800 (tested to 800 psi) and D600 (tested to 600 psi) hose is available in 1-1/2, 1-3/4, 2, 2-1/2 and 3-inch sizes. Its 3-1/2-inch and 4-inch LDH are available in D600 only.

Mike Aubuchon, president and chief executive officer of North American Fire Hose Corp. in Santa Maria, Calif., said his firm produces woven jacketed hose over a polyurethane rubber liner.

“The Duracord nylon 66 yarn that we use for our premium hose line is known for its abrasion, cut and heat resistance,” Aubuchon said. “We also make a line of hose using polyester for the jacket, which is a more generic hose reinforcement, but still has good abrasion and cut resistance.”

North American makes hose in sizes from 1 to 6 inches, and also manufactures hose for forestry and wildland use. “We try to provide a piece of hose for every type of apparatus,” Aubuchon said. 

He noted that 1-3/4-inch hose has been used for fire attack “for quite awhile because of the higher waterway and lower friction loss its larger diameter provides.” Lately, he said, some departments are moving toward 2-inch hose, but as the diameter of a hose increases, its tendency to kink increases, particularly when using low-pressure nozzles – something Aubuchon is seeing more often these days.

North American also makes a special 2-1/2-inch high-pressure hose called Poly-Tuff 1200 for getting water to the top of highrise buildings. The hose is used to connect from a pumper to a building’s standpipe.

“This is a bulkier and heavier hose, like a 2-1/2-inh on steroids,” Aubuchon said. “It’s beefed up and bulked up, and the metro areas with high rises, like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston, seem to like it.”

North American also makes Booster Lite 600, a lightweight fabric-reinforced 1-inch booster hose that’s used almost exclusively on brush rigs because of its light weight and maneuverability. The hose uses a lightweight polyurethane or rubber line with a monofilament filler yarn that keeps it from collapsing.

“We’re starting to see it on municipal rigs as well,” Aubuchon said.

Firequip owner Ron Stanley said his Burlington, N.C., firm is celebrating its 30th year in business, offering a “full line for every possible fire hose.”

Over the last five to ten years, he said manufacturers have been moving from using nitrile rubber to thermo polyurethane (TPE) linings in large-diameter hose because of TPE’s lighter weight and ability to pack more compactly.

Liner Separation

“While we still believe that nitrile rubber is best for the marketplace, when the market has called for lighter weight, we’ve provided the TPE,” he said. “However, TPE-lined hose is not as durable, and there have been some issues of separation of the liner from the inner jacket that develops over time due to elongation under pressure.”

More fire departments are looking for lighter hose, he said, citing “gender issues where more women are becoming firefighters, and also the fatigue factor” in handling hose. He noted that a 100-foot section of 5-inch LDH weighs 130 pounds with couplings. As a result, he said many fire departments have gone to 50-foot lengths of LDH to make the hose rolls easier to handle.


Firequip offers attack line hose with an extruded through-the-weave nitrile inner liner and a tightly-woven box-weave outer jacket.

“The extruded through-the-weave inner liner gives a larger inside diameter that provides greater water flow with lower friction loss,” Stanley pointed out. “And the reinforcement allows the use of low-pressure nozzles without kinking the hose. We’re able to provide a 1.88-inch inside diameter for 1-3/4 hose now.”

Firequip has different types of hose with the enhanced inner liner. One is Classic Victory, which uses EPDM fused to the inner jacket and then pulled through and essentially welded to the outer jacket. Another is Combat Master Flow, a nitrile extruded through-the-weave inner liner with a woven outer jacket.

“We’re seeing a shift toward larger diameter waterways continuing,” Stanley said. “All the fire departments tell us the same thing. They want low friction loss and higher gpm, especially using low-pressure nozzles. They want to put as little stress on the engine pumps as possible and still deliver the same amount of water.”

Stanley said fire departments also are seeing higher pressures out of hydrants, and some are specifying high-pressure LDH.

“In the past they may have used double-jacket LDH,” he said, “but now they’re looking for nitrile extruded through-the-weave LDH with the same service and proof test pressures as the double-jacket hose.

He pointed out the current NFPA 1961 standard states that 5-inch nitrile LDH hose must withstand 200 pounds of service test pressure, 400 pounds of proof test and 600 pounds of burst test. For high-pressure 5-inch extruded through-the-weave LDH, the pressures are 300 pounds service test, 600 pounds proof test and 900 pounds burst test.

Snap-Tite Hose Inc. in Erie, Pa., makes hose under its name and also under the National Fire Hose and Ponn Fire Hose brands.

Friction Loss

“We manufacture everything in the United States and make rubber nitrile through-the-weave hose in sizes from 1-inch to 8-inch, as well as a complete line of rubber woven products,” said Snap-Tite Sales Manager Dan Corner.
Snap-Tite launched an improvement to its Ponn Conquest hose line at last month’s Fire Department Instructors Conference trade show. It exhibited an attack hose with a very low friction loss polyurethane through-the-weave inner lining and a tight-weave polyester heavy outer jacket.

“The previous version was very stiff, and if it was run at high psi, it would kink easily,” Corner said. “The new Ponn Conquest has improved the kink resistance by 40 percent, and it packs very well and still has low friction loss.”
The improved Ponn Conquest uses the same outer jacket as in the past, he said, providing good abrasion, heat resistance and flame retardant resistance.

Kochek Co., Inc. in Putnam, Conn., said makes a full complement of supply, attack and suction hose.

Kochek Outside Sales Director Doug Bonney said the fire industry uses two main types of attack hose – with an EPDM liner or with a thermoplastic liner.


“The EPDM liner hose is typically a little less expensive, but very durable and a little heavier,” he said. “The EPDM liner that adheres to the inside of the inner jacket has such a smooth surface that it promotes a favorable friction loss coefficient. So it flows very well, is very durable and costs less money. But the downside is that it’s heavier.”

Kochek uses a process in its TPU line of hose where thermoplastic is extruded onto and into the inner jacket as the weave is coming together, making it a part of the weave itself. “Because we’ve extruded it into the weave,” Bonney said, “it produces a much smoother inner surface and we are able to get more thermoplastic hose into the same storage space than we can with EPDM lines.”

The drawback, he said, is that the thermoplastic isn’t as durable as the EPDM hose.

Kochek offers a single-jacket hose used in highrise and forestry applications, as well as both rubber-covered and thermoplastic-extruded through-the-weave double-jacket LDH in 4-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch diameters.
One of the trends Bonney has seen is changing demographics affecting fire departments. “Some outlying counties that were extremely rural became more suburban,” he said. “So they usually go to 4-inch or 5-inch supply lines to get more water to where they need it. Those that may not have had LDH at all are moving toward it now.”

But change usually comes slowly to the fire service, he noted, and that is the case with hose.

“Usually its more of the same,” he said. “For instance, rubber-covered supply hose still has been the most popular choice coast to coast because it’s very durable, isn’t expensive and it gets the job done.”

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