SIMPLE ALTERATIONS IMPROVE FIRE FLOW EFFICIENCY
The alterations only cost $50, yet the department realized four benefits that it called “invaluable.”
The need to increase the initial fire flow and efficiency of first-due engine companies prompted the Town of Menasha, Wis., Fire Department to make simple, low-cost alterations to their pumping apparatus. Although the idea of making inhouse alterations to apparatus is not new, we felt that we wanted to share our successful idea with others. The goal of increasing our engine companies’ efficiency was our major objective. However, the cost savings realized in making the alterations in-house must be considered a major benefit of the project.
Prior to these changes, our engine companies ran with two preconnected 1 1/2-inch hand lines. Our community fire problems, ranging from heavy industry (mainly paper manufacturing) to dairy farms, with a large shopping center and many garden apartments, made it obvious that the two preconnected hand lines limited the tactical options available to our first-due engines. Based upon the dual goal of increasing our preconnected fire flow and increasing the number of attack options available to the engine officer, we established the following objectives:
- To provide additional hand lines of greater gpm flow than the presently carried 1 1/2-inch lines.
- To provide a means of extending the fast punch of the preconnected line beyond our present limit of 200 feet.
- To use appliances presently carried on department apparatus.
- To provide a standardized arrangement of preconnected lines on each of our three engine companies.
The first step in this project involved determining what flows were available to our first-due engines. We did not want to find ourselves adding lines to increase our fire flow when our method of supplying this flow to the engine was inadequate. To accomplish this we asked four important questions of our proposed water supply method:
- Is it rapid? Can we establish a water supply in an amount of time which would complement the “fast attack” theory of preconnected attack lines?
- Is it efficient? What is the setup time and effort as compared to the gpm result?
- Is it expandable? Can we readily increase the gpm flow of the initial supply lines, with a minimum of effort and time expended?
- Is it uninterrupted? Can the water supply be expanded without interruptions such as closing down a hydrant to allow the connection of a second or third-due engine?
In 1981, our department began using the four-way hydrant valve manufactured by Humat, Inc. Each engine is equipped with a Humat valve and 3-inch supply hose with 2 1/2-inch couplings. The supply lines are loaded so that each engine could act either as the attack engine (forward lay) or the supply engine (reverse lay). Our experience in using the Humat valve, the 3-inch hose and the second or third-due engine in relay, would provide the rated capacity of our first-due engine (1000 gpm) within minutes of arrival at the scene. The one item which we found that could improve the operation would be the use of a larger diameter supply line by the first-due engine (3 1/2, 4-inch or larger). However, one of the objectives of the project was to better use the equipment which was presently carried by our department.
When we had completed this phase of the project, we proceeded with planning for the additional preconnected lines. After considering a number of options, including costly hose bed alterations and plumbing additions, the following changes were made:
- The ladder bracket was raised approximately 5 inches. The space now available on top of the side compartments was used to store a 150-foot. 1 3/4-inch hand line, which is preconnected to a 2 1/2-inch side discharge. This hand line is equipped with a midrange variable gallonage nozzle that is set at 200 gpm.
- The brackets that hold the hard sleeves were raised approximately 10 inches. The space under this bracket was used to load a 150-foot length of 3-inch hose with 2 1/2-inch couplings. A water thief is attached to the male coupling of this line. This line is also preconnected to a 2 1/2-inch side discharge.
All preconnected lines are loaded using the “minuteman” load. This method permits fast advancement of these lines and minimizes the physical effort needed on the part of the fire fighters. To secure the lines, a series of eye-bolts and rubber cords were used. To maintain standardization, each engine has the newly added preconnects attached to identically numbered pump discharges.
The addition of these preconnected lines has provided the following benefits:
- The engine company officer now has the option of choosing four preconnected hand lines of three different sizes (1 1/2, 1 3/4 and 3-inch — by removing the water thief and attaching a 2 1/2-inch nozzle).
- The engine company now has the ability to extend preconnected lines to the rear of structures previously beyond our preconnect reach, by extending the 3-inch line with its water thief and attaching other 1 1/2-inch or larger hand lines. (Tests conducted during training found that our four-man crews could stretch the 3-inch line to the rear of a building, attach two 1 1/2-inch lines and have water flowing in an average of 60 seconds, while wearing full gear and breathing apparatus.)
- The 3-inch line can be extended to quickly place the portable deluge gun in operation, with other lines extended and attached as manpower becomes available.
- The method used to load these lines allows us to use the preconnects as standpipe packs, which will improve our efficiency when working at our large industrial occupancies.
The alterations were made to the apparatus with a total expense of approximately $50. The labor was donated and the benefits so far are invaluable. As other departments have found, we now realize that making simple and inexpensive adjustments to our apparatus can provide big results in fireground efficiency.
The Department and the Community
The Town of Menasha Fire Department is comprised of 49 paid-on-call members and one full-time fire prevention officer. The department operates three engine companies, a truck company with a 100-foot aerial ladder, a vehicle which carries compressed air cylinders for at-scene refilling of breathing apparatus, and a fire prevention/command vehicle.
The Town of Menasha includes an area of 12.5 square miles, with a resident population of nearly 13,000. Industrial, commercial and warehouse facilities comprise the major part of the community’s $400 million property value. The town presently possesses a Class 5 Insurance Services Office classification.