You may have noticed Brentwood Fire and Rescue’s trucks occupying parking lots around the city with their hoses stretch out, even though nothing seemed to be on fire and nobody was spraying any water. Most likely what you were witnessing was annual hose testing. Every year all of the department’s hose must be accounted for, catalogued and pressure tested. While the process is fairly straightforward, it is quite labor intensive as each piece of hose must be deployed and closely inspected before being loaded back onto the truck or hose rack it came off. Recently, BFR E1’s crew tested all of the 4 inch, or supply hose, that it carries. This is the biggest hose that BFR utilizes, and its purpose is to connect the truck to the fire hydrant so that it won’t run out of water at a fire scene.
The first piece of hose is pulled off the truck and laid on the ground. Don’t mind the school bus; this round of testing was performed in an otherwise empty parking lot at Brentwood High School on a Sunday morning.
Next, the driver is instructed to drive forward slowly. The hose is neatly deployed on the ground in a straight line. This process is very similar to how the hose would be deployed at a structure fire.
Once all the hose being tested is laid out, each piece is catalogued by recording its unique number on a hose record form. This form tracks which hose was tested, when, by who as well as which apparatus the hose is on.
Each coupling is marked with the current year. This eliminates any doubt that the hose has been tested this year.
Supply hose in action; the next step is to ‘charge’ the hose with water, which requires a fire hydrant connection.
Once the hose is full, the air must be bled off before the test can begin. The hose will be pressurized, and while air compresses under pressure, water does not. If air was left in the hose it could cause ruptures or inaccurate results.
The pressure in the line is increased to 250 PSI, higher than what is generally used in firefighting operations. This pressure will be maintained for 5 minutes. During this time, firefighters will ‘walk the hose’, inspecting it for leaks, bursts, bubbles bulges or any other sign of damage.
The hose on the left has failed; it is bulging and can no longer be trusted in an emergency. Looking at the coupling, it becomes obvious that this hose is several years old due the wear and tear on it as well as the numerous years of hose testing dates recorded on it.
Once the five minutes are up, the pressure is reduced to zero and the excess water must be released from the hose.
Once the pressure has been sufficiently reduced, each section of hose must be uncoupled and fully drained before being reloaded on the fire apparatus.
Any hose that fails the test is rolled and loaded into the back of the station’s squad. Back at the fire station this hose will be tagged as being out of service. At the end of hose testing, any damaged hose that can be repaired is, while hose beyond repair is taken out of the system and discarded.
This is probably the end of the line for this hose, and it’s definitely the end of this episode of Station Life. If you are out and about and see firefighters hose testing, be sure to say hello!