Some Pointers For The Smaller Fire Department
Heating Apparatus in Quarters—Recharging and Keeping Batteries in Order—Care of Hose and Ladders—Training the Men
THE problems in both of fire-fighting and maintenance of the smaller fire departments are fully as important and fully as vexing as are those of the units of more populous centers. The following paper gives some good suggestions as to some of the phases of this class of work that should be of help to the chief of such departments:
Two of the most important phases in the operation of smaller fire departments are the care of apparatus and the direction of fire streams.
The necessity of the former should be most apparent to any one, and yet there are many cases where it is seemingly not recognized.
Often in small towns the transition from hand drawn apparatus has been directly to motor equipment. The method of procedure, frequently, is for money to be raised by public subscription and a combination hose and chemical or perhaps a triple combination car purchased.
The novelty of the new outfit keeps department members interested for awhile, and then they will begin to pay the same amount of attention to this that they did to keeping up the hand drawn equipment.
Problem of Heating Apparatus in Quarters
One serious problem for many small departments is in keeping the apparatus warm enough in the winter time so that it will always start when called upon to do so. In places where some source of constant heat is not available it is a good plan to burn a bank of carbon incandescent lamps under each car’s hood, with a blanket cover over the hood to conserve the heat. An extension cord with a plug in the line that may be pulled apart will enable the supply to be instantly detached.
Keeping the Batteries Charged
Keeping up a storage battery for each motor is also necessary as in most cases small town apparatus are not operated enough to do this by self-charging. The engine of each car should be run a little while twice every day, and the car taken out and run every other day.
A small rectifier that will utilize the electric light current to charge storage batteries may be purchased for less than twenty dollars and is a very good investment.
Protect Hose from Soda-Acid Tanks
Of course such matters as keeping electrolyte solution in the batteries, gasoline in the fuel tanks and the motors and running gear lubricated are simply matters of attention and should very obviously be always cared for.
With regard to chemical apparatus it is not a good plan to have soda-acid tanks mounted over a car hose body where the hose folded in the body will be situated under them, even if they are protected by a pan beneath. If chemical tanks are thus situated it is worth while to put a partition across the body so that the folded hose will not come under the tanks, even though this arrangement will sacrifice some of the space available.
Any one who has ever experienced a leaking tank coupling or a chemical hose coupling on a reel or in a basket will readily appreciate this statement, especially when the apparatus is likely to be operated by men who are not professional firemen.
Care of Hose and Ladders
The essentials of the care of fire hose are so well known that it seems hardly necessary to mention them, but too much cannot be said about washing and drying the fabric of every section after use, taking care of the couplings, shifting hose on the apparatus when not laid often and running water through it to prevent the rubber lining losing its life.
In a community where one piece of triple combination apparatus is available a double male and double female coupling set will be useful, so that hose may he laid from the fire to the plug when pump pressure is needed and the other way when hydrant pressure is sufficient.
The care of ladders should be exercised in every small town department, especially where they are not used often, to guard against dry rot. In connection with the operation of extension ladders by volunteer firemen it is never advisable to use one when a straight ladder is available, and by all means it should be made sure, when raising an extension ladder, that the fly ladder hooks are securely caught before men mount it.
Necessity for Proper Training of Men
Their degree of expertness in operating fire streams will largely determine the working efficiency of any department. There must be a certain decisiveness about coming to close grips with the fire that only disciplined men can have, and there must be overcome by training the natural impulse in men to direct water where the most indications of fire are externally visible.
Let us suppose that a small department upon answering a call finds that a large two story frame residence has its shingle roof and loft well involved, with no outside exposures.
This is one of the simplest situations that is likely to occur, and is given to illustrate that there arc several ways that a department may go about handling any fire, according to their extent of training,—
First,—Streams may be operated from the ground, upon exterior of roof and into upper windows. Untrained and inexperienced men will do this as certainly as the sparks fly upward.
Second.—Lines may be taken up ladders and streams operated from one story front porch roof, from roof of one story kitchen wing, or from ladders reaching to main roof. Partially trained and yet aggressive men will generally operate this way.
Third,—Lines may be taken up interior stairway to second floor, with controlling nozzles closed, and operated from short ladders into loft through ceiling scuttle or after pulling ceiling. Well drilled volunteers or professional firemen will follow this plan. The first method, unless high pressure and large volume are available, will seldom put out a fire before the house concerned is gutted, and even then will cause severe water damage.
The second is better, but involves the disadvantage of having pipemen operate from wet and sloping roof surfaces and of directing water upon the exterior of the fire.
The third method, unless dangerous chimneys or other unusual circumstances make the upper floor untenable, will enable the pipemen to hit the fire from below in its most vital points, and should quickly kill it.
In this situation, and in many others where the proper operation of fire streams is essential to success it may be necessary to undergo punishment from smoke, hot plaster, falling woodwork and scalding water, which will mean the exercise of a certain quality referred to by a short and expressive word meaning alimentary canals and possessed by disciplined men.
Use of Small Sized Hose
The use of 11/4 or 11/2 inch hose, as practiced in many city departments is equally of value to small organizations. A single section, with a nozzle, may be carried in a roll on a car’s running board, or in a chemical hose basket, and after the larger lines have knocked the fire down the controlling nozzle on one of these lines may be closed, the tip unscrewed, and the small hose coupled to this and put in operation. The light stream is also useful for smaller blazes and has the advantage, compared to a straight chemical line, of having a charged 21/2 inch line available if the fire should begin to get away.
The writer has had the experience of introducing the use of 11/2 inch hose into the practice of two different small departments, and has found this to be of constant and frequent usefulness and advantage.
Hard to Improve on N. Y. Fire College Methods
Their proficiency in directing fire streams is one of the most salient reasons why a few paid men can do better work than a large crew of volunteers. Disciplined men are the result of experience and training and where actual fires are few more training by drill methods is neccessary. The proper method of obtaining this will depend upon the circumstances attending the operating of each individual department.
It has been the writer’s experience to use a modification of the company drills given in the New York Fire College course when training smaller departments, and it is hard to improve upon this system of evolutions.
Small town fire officers will find all that has been written by experts regarding the operation of great city departments of some value to them, and the study of much of this of very great value.