August 24, 2018

If you’re reading this guide to buying fire hose, it’s likely your department’s current hose inventory is either old or worn out and needs to be replaced. That’s OK. Better safe than sorry. Not to be dramatic, but equipping your station with the right fire hose can have life or death consequences for the firefighters who will be using it.

As the person in charge of purchasing your department’s fire hose, you want to make sure you’re choosing wisely and properly. Those on the frontline will be trusting their lives with the selected fire hose, so a bit of research and homework is required to pick the best possible hose while staying within your department’s budget.

At first glance, fire hoses may seem like a simple enough product to choose, but there’s more that goes into selecting the right hose than just length and cost, although those are indeed two of the factors.

So what other factors play a role in your selection? Let’s take a look:

  • Durability
  • Kink resistance
  • Construction materials
  • Storage
  • Diameter
  • Length
  • Cost

It can be easy to forget about inspecting the condition of your hose, but they do become worn and frayed over time, so it’s wise to put in a replacement plan so that when the time comes, your budget is set and you know what you need to make a smooth transition from the old to the new.

Classification and Diameter

 In the simplest terms, fire hose can be broken down into two categories – supply and attack. Supply hose are larger in diameter and are used to supply water from a hydrant to a fire pumper, and are often used to send that water over greater distances. Attack hose supplies water from the fire pumper to the nozzle to knock down or suppress the fire. 

 The main difference between the two is their diameter, with supply hose typically ranging from 3 to 5 inches, while attack hose typically ranges from one to 1 to 3 inches in diameter. You’ll also find some large diameter hose branded as dual-purpose, meaning it’s able to be used for both supply and attack.

 It’s important to select the correct size line to begin with for effective water delivery, but what determines that size?

  • The size of the structure
  • The type of fuel load you’re dealing with
  • The size of the fire

 A general rule that’s easy to remember is that a small fire equals small water and a big fire equals big water. Small diameter hose is usually considered 1” to 1 ¾” and delivers on average a water rate of 150 – 200 GPM (gallons per minute). Conversely, a large hose diameter of 2 ½” to 3” can increase the average water delivery rate to 200 – 325 GPM with minimal increases in pump pressure.

 If you’re unsure about which size line to pull off, remember that the increased water delivery rate of the larger diameter hose may be the difference between a quick and easy knockdown of the fire.

 So the first thing you need to ask yourself is what purpose is the hose being used for and what diameter you need.


 Selecting the Right Jacket

 Past fire hose jackets were typically made of natural fibers, however, they lacked durability and the natural fibers did not hold up well over time. In modern fire hose, the two common types of jackets are:

  • Rubber
  • Synthetic woven

The rubber jacket is typically used for supply hose, while the synthetic woven hose is used for attack hose due to its abrasion-resistant coating which promotes durability.

Fire hose is available in both single- and double-jacket. Supply hose is usually single-jacket, while attack hose is often double-jacket. The reason attack hose is double-jacket is because due to its extra layer of woven fabric, it’s better protected from burns and other damage that it’s exposed to.

Adding that extra layer of protection will also add an extra cost, so if you aren’t using the hose for a heavy-duty application, then a lower-cost single-jacket hose may suit your needs adequately. Also, if the hose needs to be carried up or over greater distances – for example in a wildland fire – then the lighter-weight, single-jacket makes sense.

Fire Hose Linings

The three most common fire hose linings are:

  • EPDM – Ethylene propylene diene monomer
  • Thermoplastic
  • “Through the weave” – Extruded polyurethane or nitrile rubber

EPDM linings have been the most common, often because they are easier on the budget. Their two main characteristics are durability and a resistance to chemicals. However, because they are applied with an adhesive, a deterioration of the materials of the lining is not uncommon, although it is hard to test for and detect.

Thermoplastics are also applied by adhesive, but because of their lighter weight material they don’t seem to suffer as much from deterioration. However, that same lighter weight material also means they can be prone to faster burn-through, another unwanted problem altogether.

The newest liner technology is the aforementioned extruded polyurethane, or as it’s commonly called, “through the weave.” This liner is manufactured by applying the liner in a liquid state to the fabric in which it seals itself to the inner jacket of the hose. The end result is a hose liner that is virtually inseparable. Of course, this process and type of lining tends to come at a higher dollar cost.

Fire Hose Coatings

To help protect your fire hose, which as you know will take its fair share of wear and tear, it’s a good idea to choose a hose with a protective treated coating. This helps protect it from hot embers, hazardous materials and oils, as well as simple abrasions, snags, and cuts.

Fire Hose Length

You’ll notice that when deciding on fire hose, you have several options for length. In your pre-purchasing plan, you should think about the types of situations your department faces and what sizes will be right for you.

Typically, attack hose come in 50’ and 100’ lengths. The 100’ length hose is a bit more cost effective due to only having one set of couplings compared to the 50’ and its two sets. The other benefit is that because of one less set of couplings, the 100’ tends not to snag as easy when being pulled around corners or through buildings.

However, 50’ length hose also includes the benefit of being easier to roll and store, as well as allowing for more flexibility when mixing and matching hose lines for specific circumstances. This is why it’s critical that you do your homework before picking out hose so that you know your typical situations and can choose the hose that will work best for your particular department.

Couplings

Couplings, or fire hose end connectors, are made of either brass or aluminum. Aluminum are noticeably lighter in weight, and therefore often a preferred option for firefighters, especially for high-rise packs. On the other hand, brass are less prone to cracking if dropped, especially in extremely cold conditions, and therefore may be a wise choice for departments where winter conditions last quite a long time.

Other Factors to Consider

  • Consider the manufacturer’s warranty, including its length and what it includes. What’s covered and what is not covered?
  • Before making any purchases, you’ll want to look at the latest NFPA 1962 standards for care, use, inspection, service testing, and replacement of fire hose, couplings, nozzles, and fire hose appliances. Stay up to date on these standards and the latest updates which may affect your current crop of hoses and hardware. If, according to the NFPA standards, your hoses do not meet the requirements, it’s time to put your replacement plan into action.

Ultimately, you want to ensure you’re choosing fire hose of the highest possible quality, the greatest durability and longevity, and the most cost efficient for your department’s budget.

When you’re ready to upgrade your fire hose and hardware equipment, CHIEF always stocks a full line of top-quality hoses, including best-selling hoses like the FIREQUIP Combat Master Flow Hose and the FIREQUIP Hydro Flow Fire Hose.


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