The Rural Hitch: Operations and Equipment Needed for Success

The rural hitch is a good way to provide water for a fire flow without having to drop a dump tank, but it requires a lot of coordination and communication.
In this rural hitch, both apparatus are set up to supply tank water to the fireground.  Photo courtesy of Nashua (NH) Fire and Rescue.

By Bill Adkins

Some firefighters dread placing a dump tank on the ground. Some apparatus are not designed to make dump tank operations easy. Because of this, some departments do all they can to prevent using dump tanks. One operation makes this possible. It is “The Rural Hitch.”

The Operation

The rural hitch uses a gated wye attached to the first due apparatus’s supply line. The wye will connect via hose to the next due apparatus to supply their tank water to the first due apparatus. Once the supply apparatus is empty of its water it will disconnect to go refill and return to repeat the process. The gated wye allows for multiple supply apparatus to be connect to the first due apparatus at the same time. This allows little to no interruptions in water supply.

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Gate valve with various size connections.  This works well if you have mutual aid departments that have different size supply hose.  I would recommend a clapper valve instead of ball valves.  This eliminates a firefighter to control the valve

The rural hitch has a lot of moving parts and requires a lot of communication between the operators. To prevent interruptions in water supply during this tactical operation a water supply officer is usually needed so there can be clear communications between the apparatus operators. When the second apparatus is close to empty, the third apparatus can start their relay at the same pressure as the previous apparatus. When done simultaneously, firefighters should not feel a surge or loss in pressure at the nozzle.

2 1/2 X 4 to a Storz 5 inch supply line.  

Once the first due apparatus starts receiving water from the relay apparatus, start filling up your tank. This gives us safety water incase the shuttle does not meet the demand on the fireground. If the shuttle is running slow you will need to open the tank to pump and shut the intake valve until additional water arrives. This usually requires the need of more resources to keep up with the demand on the fireground.

The Rural Hitch Equipment


5 -inch Storz Clapper valve. No firefighter needed at the valve to operate.

Whether you use 2 ½ , 3, 4, or 5 inch hose the rural hitch can work for you. Something you must consider is what supply your mutual aid companies use as well. The appliance you use at the end of your first due supply line must be able to match up with all apparatus in the shuttle. One way to combat this issue would be to provide hose packs from the wye to the second and third due apparatus.

To make the flow run smoothly the wye should be a Siamese with a clapper valve. This eliminates someone needing to stay at the valve. If your department does not have a Siamese with clappers, a firefighter will need to be at the valve to control the flow from various relay apparatuses. An inexpensive appliance would be to use a 2 ½ gated wye with some double females and double males.

2 1/2 X 2 to a storz 5 inch supply line.

Of course, the apparatus used must contain a pump large enough to keep up with the demand on the fireground. If you live in an area where your neighboring department’s tankers are without pumps this system may not be best for you. Like I mentioned before, there are a lot of moving parts to this operation.

Another Option

Another option to prevent using a dump tank is, what I call, a modified nurse tanker operation. The nurse tanker operation I have written about in the past places a dump tank at the nurse tanker so other tankers showing up can dump their water to keep the water shuttle moving. However, if all the apparatus responding to your nurse tanker operation have pumps then you can easily conduct this operation without a dump tank.

This operation starts with the nurse tanker relay pumping its tank water to the first due apparatus. Once the next apparatus arrives, it can relay pump its tank water to the nurse tanker via the direct tank fill valve. The goal now is to keep the nurse tanker’s tank full. As apparatus tanks empty, they disconnect and return to the fill site.

Summing it up

Dump tank operations can be labor intensive. Sometimes cleaning up from a dump tank operation is the worst part of the incident. If you want to prevent using dump tanks all together, the rural hitch may be the tactical operation for you. The “Modified Nurse tanker” operation is another option.

Either option you choose will take training, not only with your department, but with your mutual aid departments.

BILL ADKINS is a captain with the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department Training Division/Maintenance Division.

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