SYCAMORE – When a fire department needs to replace some of its hoses, it's a little more involved than going to the hardware store to pick up a coil.
So when the Sycamore Fire Department wanted to secure a new set, it spent time testing hoses to find the right ones to buy, and it applied for a grant to fund the purchase.
Assistant Fire Chief Art Zern said the department was looking for three qualities in the hose it bought: its resistance to kinking, resistance and friction on the water as it flows, and how efficiently it can pack and deploy.
"We try to balance those three things," Zern said.
They also look at flow capability, or how many gallons a minute will flow out of the hose at a given pressure.
The department hadn't bought any new hoses since 2012, Zern said, and then it wasn't enough for a full set for a truck. Most of the attack hoses are more than 20 years old, and most of the supply hoses are more than 10 years old, he said.
It can be expensive, too. For the 5-inch supply hose, which is the largest type of hose and supplies water from a source to the pump truck, Zern said it can cost more than $500 for 100 feet of hose. Each truck complement contains 800 feet of 5-inch hose, as well as another 1,900 feet of supply and attack hose.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance for Firefighters Grant the department received was for $135,228, of which $21,000 will go toward buying a hose.
Buying enough hose for a complete set for one truck will allow for better maintenance of the hose, Zern said. After a hose is used, it needs to be hung and dried in the hose tower at the station. The room is tall and narrow with a carousel at the top, which allows the firefighters to drape the hose. A blowing fan helps dry it out quicker.
If the hose isn't dried out after each use, it can rot or fill with mildew, Zern said. In the newer fire station on Peace Road, the tower is visible in the middle of the building.
The rest of the grant went toward buying a mobile training prop and an integrated air compressor/fill station/cascade system.
No one manufacturer is known for the best hose, Zern said, because so much change can happen between purchases. Instead, it's better to test a number of them and see what works best for the department. The specifications all are governed by National Fire Protection Association standards.
Most importantly, it needs to hold up on the job.
"It's very robust," Zern said. "We can't afford to have it break during a fire."