Make Your Own “Can” Strap

By PATRICK T. HARPER

No one will deny the benefits of the 2½-gallon water extinguisher or the ‘can,” especially when it comes to putting out small, incipient-stage fires or controlling a fire until the hoseline arrives. Many truck companies assign one member to carry the can as part of his tool assignment. The problem here is physically carrying the can. Without some form of assistance, the can’s 22-pound weight can make it a cumbersome piece of equipment. Carrying it by the handle with your arm extended downward by your side—with it often striking you in the lower leg—is often uncomfortable and tiring, especially if you have to climb numerous flights of stairs to reach the fire floor. Because of these reasons, the can is often left on the apparatus.

There are many commercially produced extinguisher straps available, but in these times of tight budgets, purchasing them may be difficult. My ladder company, Ladder 13 (L13) of the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department (IFD), tried many configurations before coming up with an inexpensive alternative.

IFD L13 is one of two ladder companies that respond within the high-rise district of downtown Indianapolis. Often, this means traipsing up and down many high-rise office and residential buildings each shift for building alarms and small fires. We found that commercially made straps and narrow tubular webbing were too narrow and often dug into the shoulders of the firefighter carrying them. Often, the straps didn’t fit properly on all the extinguishers and needed constant adjusting. After consulting with some other fire departments, we came up with the strap we currently use.

MAKING THE STRAP

To make the strap, you will need the following materials:

  • A seat belt from an abandoned vehicle (we took several from a car that had been used in extrication training).
  • Black electrical tape.
  • Two large hose clamps.
  • Two corrosive-resistant bolts and two corrosive-resistant nuts.

Use corrosive-resistant bolts so that the nuts and bolts don’t rust together. There are several obvious reasons for this. First, one of the advantages of making a strap this way is its ability to change out one or two components quickly. Having to deal with a rusted-together nut and bolt can be frustrating. Second, a good seat belt is often more durable than the metal hardware, even when exposed to severe weather conditions. Third, if your can is kept on the outside of your apparatus, it could also be exposed to road salt and further wet conditions.

Don’t use a bolt that is too long—keep it small (between 1⁄2 inch and one inch). Using a bolt that is too long will either dig into the firefighter or, if installed incorrectly, into the can. Use the right length of bolt so the nut has minimal thread exposed when properly tightened. We’ve used acorn nuts so the threads are covered and to prevent the threads from digging into a firefighter. Although my company didn’t feel it was necessary, you can use a washer or lock washer on the nut side. Some firefighters use two bolts at the top so the strap lies flatter and doesn’t begin to get a memory/form after repeated use. It all depends on how much the can will be used.

1 Wrap the two-inch-wide electrical tape completely around the base of the extinguisher (photo 1). Because you will have metal on metal, the tape helps give some grip to the hose clamps and prevents the clamps from sliding. If your can is so old that it does not have a plastic base, bolt the strap directly to the extinguisher’s base. The procedure we use works on cans with and without plastic bases. Note that after using this method, always inspect the can’s lower bracket to ensure that it’s still secure and hasn’t loosened or moved during operations. Although we haven’t seen the lower bracket move, it’s still a good idea to check the bracket before putting your equipment back into service. IFD does not use tube holders for its extinguishers; the clamps add to the diameter of the can, so you will want to check to make sure that the diameter with the strap on the can doesn’t make the extinguisher too wide for the tube holder.

(1)Photos by author.

2 Create a loop on one end of the seat belt. This loop should be about two to 2½ inches in diameter. Make one hole in one end to create the loop. Make the first hole approximately one inch from the end of the seat belt. Some departments sew a loop into the seat belt at one or both ends; if they sew only one end, they will use a girth hitch at the top bracket to eliminate one set of bolts. We found that the best way to create the holes for the bolts was to first mark the spots with a permanent marker and then use a utility knife to make the cuts (photo 2). Bring the end of the seat belt over itself and create a loop about two to 2½ inches in diameter; this is where you make the second hole. After the holes are cut, place the nut and bolt through the holes and create the loop (photo 3).

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3 After you create the loop, attach the two hose clamps over the black electrical tape. Run the hose clamps through the newly created loop. Be sure that the seat belt is in line with the wall-hanging receiver on the top of the extinguisher; then, tighten the hose clamps down.

4 Measure the seat belt so that the strap will be of sufficient length to be comfortable. The length will depend on the average height of the members carrying the extinguisher. On average, the seat belt needs to be between three and 3½ feet in length between the two loops. Remember, too long of a strap allows the can to ride low and strike a firefighter in the leg while he carries it (photo 4).

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5 Run the seat belt through the wall-hanging receiver on the top of the extinguisher. First, mark and cut the holes for the bolt and nut. Once these holes are created, you can secure the seat belt to the extinguisher (photo 5). Photo 6 shows the final product.

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This modification has been very useful to the members of IFD L13. If the can is damaged or has to be placed out of service, the bracket can quickly be removed and installed on the new can. There are many other variations fire departments have used to create extinguisher straps; whatever variations or modifications are made, this is an inexpensive and quick solution to carry the can easily and safely on every emergency response.

PATRICK T. HARPER is a 15-year fire service veteran. He joined the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department in 2003 after having previously served on both volunteer and career departments. He also serves as a district training coordinator for the State of Indiana.

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