The Hose Mule Hose Retrieval System

By now, I think we all know the benefits of large-diameter hose (LDH).

Besides moving more water than the 2½- and three-inch hose used in the past, in a sense it’s easier to pick up because less hose has to be used. However, there is no getting around the weight of this hose-especially five-inch. Let’s not forget that the hose is picked up after the fire, when firefighters are exhausted, making the task even more difficult.

Clint Baker, fire engineer with the Temple (TX) Fire Department and CEO of Baker Fabrication, has developed a machine that has made packing LDH in the hosebed easier and safe. It’s called the Hose Mule. Throughout Baker’s career, before the coming of the Hose Mule, he realized the advantages of LDH as well as the disadvantages, the main one being the repacking of the hose into the hosebed.

1 The Hose Mule is mounted on top of the apparatus either in front of or to the rear of the hosebed. 2 The Hose Mule is a motorized set of rollers designed to take the place of firefighters having to manually pull the hose into the hosebed. (Photos courtesy of Clint Baker.)
1 The Hose Mule is mounted on top of the apparatus either in front of or to the rear of the hosebed.

The Device

The Hose Mule is a motorized set of rollers designed to take the place of firefighters manually pulling the hose into the hosebed. Its operation allows the hose to pass through the set of powered ringers back into the hosebed. The Hose Mule is mounted on top of the apparatus either in front of or to the rear of the hosebed. The process involves three firefighters plus the driver as well as one firefighter to perform the duties of the safety officer watching the operation. One firefighter operates the Hose Mule while two firefighters pack the hose in the bed, which mainly involves creating the folds. It is helpful to predrain the hose before the pickup operation starts, but it’s not critical that all the water be evacuated.

The operational process for packing hose with the Hose Mule involves the apparatus moving forward alongside the hose at a speed of less than five miles per hour. The crew in the hosebed should safely kneel down in the bed while reloading the hose to maintain their stability and avoid a mishap. The Hose Mule begins to pull the hose up to the hosebed while the apparatus is moving, and the remaining water can easily be drained out. When a coupling reaches the Hose Mule, the operator opens the ringers by lifting a handle mounted to the top portion of the machine, and a platform mounted at the bottom of the machine lifts up at the same time, lifting the couplings to the level of the rollers. At this point, the firefighters simply pull the couplings past the roller, and the rollers are lowered back against the hose, continuing the pulling operation. The average amount of hose that can be picked up is between 50 and 80 feet per minute.

1 The Hose Mule is mounted on top of the apparatus either in front of or to the rear of the hosebed. 2 The Hose Mule is a motorized set of rollers designed to take the place of firefighters having to manually pull the hose into the hosebed. (Photos courtesy of Clint Baker.)
The Hose Mule is a motorized set of rollers designed to take the place of firefighters having to manually pull the hose into the hosebed. (Photos courtesy of Clint Baker.)

Not Only for LDH

The Hose Mule is compliant with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, for reloading LDH onto a moving apparatus with respect to having firefighters on top of a moving apparatus for repacking hose.

The Hose Mule can also pull in 1¾- and 2½-inch hose from a stationary position, which can then be reloaded directly into a hosebed. This can be very beneficial to firefighters at a wildland fire when units have to quickly reload hose and go to the next job.

The Hose Mule comes in several models, allowing hose ranging from four-inch all the way up to 12-inch LDH to be reloaded. It is powered by a 1⁄6-horsepower gear motor and runs off of 12 volts directly from the apparatus battery or can be hydraulically powered from a separate unit.

The Hose Mule is designed by a firefighter for firefighters. It is a good example of working to improve firefighter safety with its ability to do the heavy work-especially after the fire.

PAUL SHAPIRO is director of Fire Flow Technology. He is a nationally recognized instructor on large-flow water delivery. He is also a retired engineer from the Las Vegas (NV) Fire Department. He has authored numerous articles for fire trade magazines. He has been in the fire service since 1981, is author of Layin’ the Big Lines, and produced the first in a series of videos on large-flow water delivery.

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