Proper storage and care of fire hose are necessities in prolonging the life of the hose and making sure that it is serviceable when firefighter and civilian lives are counting on it to perform as designed.
Hose storage and cleaning vary at fire departments around the country, but there are many similarities in how hose should be stored and how it should be cared for.
Washing and Care
Mark Lighthill, Southeast regional manager for Key Fire Hose, says that storage of fire hose falls into two distinct categories: new hose and hose off of a piece of apparatus, which includes spare hose at the station to replace apparatus hose. “The hose made today is based on its filament, which can be polyester, rayon, a nylon mix, or pure nylon,” Lighthill says. “You’ll also see cotton filament used, but mostly we find it being fielded in forestry and wildland situations as well as PVC nitrile hose (rubber hose).”
|1 Superior Fire Hose recommends keeping fire hose coiled for storage after it has been inspected, cleaned, and dried. (Photo courtesy of Superior Fire Hose.)|
Polyester and nylon filament hoses don’t mildew or mold, Lighthill points out, but once used, cotton filament jacketed hose and rayon filament hose can get material embedded in its filaments that can cause mold. “With cotton jacket hose, it has to be dry before it is put away in storage,” Lighthill notes. “Once cotton jacket hose is dirty, it needs to be inspected to be sure there are no burns or tears in it, washed with a mild detergent, dried, and then put on a rack for storage. And with PVC nitrile hose, it still has to be cleaned if it has been dragged through something dirty or abrasive.”
Lighthill observes, “We don’t want to see hose drying on hot asphalt out on the fire station apron, because the heat will bake the hose and cause it to dry on only one side because of the overexposure to heat.” Lighthill recommends drying hose on a rack, table, hanging facility, or hose tower. “There are pull-up racks and flat layout racks that allow air to get underneath the hose and dry it out better,” he says.
|2 Various types of fire hose made by Superior Fire Hose include double-jacket polyester rubber-lined hose as well as synthetic nitrile rubber hose that is resistant to fuels, chemicals, oils, heat, cold, and environmental pollutants. (Photo courtesy of Superior Fire Hose.)|
Richard Bergeron, president and general manager of Superior Fire Hose, says that the first recommendation he makes to fire departments about fire hose is to follow National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1862, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing, and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles, and Fire Hose Appliances, to the letter. “Unfortunately, some departments don’t always have the staffing or time to follow the recommendations as they should,” Bergeron says. However, he points out, applying common sense to the care, cleaning, and storage of fire hose is the simplest solution. “Always store your fire hose dry, preferably at room temperature if you can,” Bergeron notes. “Don’t use solvents to clean fire hose because they will penetrate the yarn to the liner-whether the liner is plastic or thermoplastic-and start dissolving it. Instead of solvents, use a light solution of dishwater soap to clean your fire hose.”
In addition, use of solvents on fire hose could have the effect of washing off a protective coating for abrasion resistance and water repellency on fire hose, Bergeron says. “So, solvents can reduce the life expectancy of fire hose or cause premature failure of the liner,” he adds.
|3 Key Fire Hose makes the Combat Ready hose for fire attack with a woven outer jacket of polyester yarns over an inner liner of extruded through-the-weave nitrile/PVC tube. (Photo courtesy of Key Fire Hose.)|
Lighthill points out that Key Fire Hose recommends that fire hose be either coiled or rolled for storage. “Donut racks are standard in the fire service,” Lighthill says. “Most of the racks hold the fire hose in a standing position because it takes up less space and makes the hose easier to get to. We hardly ever see hose laid out unless it is drying. If it is new hose, it is generally kept in boxes and sits flat on a shelf until it is time to put it on a fire apparatus.”
Bergeron agrees on the method of keeping hose in storage. “Keeping a fire hose in a coil is the best thing,” Bergeron says. “There are no sharp bends that way. When continually flaking out in the back of a fire truck, it gives a stress point in the hose in each bend. That can develop problems in five to 10 years, especially for plastic-lined hose, which doesn’t have the memory retention that rubber-lined hose has. Those bends could cause delamination some time down the road for the fire department.”
|4 The Dura-Flow rubber-covered attack hose made by Key Fire Hose is a nitrile/PVC through-the-weave rubber-covered construction. After cleaning and drying, it is recommended to store it in a coil. (Photo courtesy of Key Fire Hose.)|
Bergeron points out that some fire departments use different colored hose for different functions to determine which type of hose wears out faster. “For example, a department might choose a red fire hose off its pump manifold, green hose to go into a building, or blue for a backup line,” he says. “If they use the same color all the time in the same application, the department will soon recognize which application wears out faster and can program a rotation to allow for longer wear time for its fire hose.”
When hose is produced, it is tested to 800 pounds per square inch (psi) in the factory, Bergeron notes. “There’s a slow deterioration of fiber over time, so fire departments only test to 400 psi because a hose’s burst pressure drops over time,” he says. “So, a heavy duty truck running over a pressurized hose in the field is something to avoid because it can exceed 800 psi and cause premature failure of the hose.”
Lighthill’s advice for fire departments in terms of the care, cleaning, and storage of fire hose is simple. “Inspect your fire hose after each use,” he says. “Test it if necessary. If it is dirty, clean it and dry it, then roll it and store it in a well-ventilated area. You’ll prolong the life of the hose.”
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.