The Volunteer Fire Department

The Volunteer Fire Department

A Series of Articles on Volunteer Fire Department Administration and Operation

Fire Department Tools Used by Volunteer Firemen

This article, the twenty-first of a series, describes a few of the common tools frequently used by volunteer firemen, and concludes the series on “The Volunteer Fire Department.”

Where Fire Departments frequently encounter frozen hydrants, it is necessary that the apparatus carry some means for thawing. The type illustrated is a steam thawing device. It consists of a two-gallon water tank, hand operated pump which forces the water from the tank into the coils which are heated by gas from a Prest-o-lite tank, and a line of steam hose and a nozzle.

When using this device, the water tank is filled through a small cap at the top, and a solution consisting of one-half denatured alcohol and one-half water is used. This mixture is used to prevent freezing when the thawing device is not in service. The Prest-o-lite tank should register at least eighty pounds pressure on the gauge, if the gauge does not show so high a reading, it should be replaced by a new one, as otherwise the burner will not have sufficient gas for thawing.

Design of a Hydrant Thawing Device

To operate, a lighted match is first placed over the gas burner through a port hole in the metal shield. The gas valve is opened slowly until the gas is lighted and then the gas is turned more full so that the flame projects eight to ten inches above the top of the device. Start pumping water from the tank into the coils immediately, by operating the force pump handle. At no time after the burner has been lighted should the pumping be discontinued as otherwise serious damage might result to the coils through overheating. The pump handle is operated at from seventy-five to one hundred strokes a minute. It is well to have the steam pipe nozzle open to the air so that one can watch the escape of steam. When the proper steam pressure is secured, the nozzle is inserted in the hydrants. Not over twenty seconds should elapse from the time the device is started until steam is issuing from the pipes.

When the device is properly operated, steam as it leaves the nozzle will be blue and transparent, condensing to a white vapor within a few inches from the nozzle. Should the steam leave the nozzle in the form of heavy white vapor, often accompanied by water and a fine spray, it is an indication that the pump is being operated too rapidly, or that the gas is not turned on enough, or that the pressure in the gas tank is too low.

Hose Clamp

Peerless Hose Clamp

lhere are several types ol hose clamps for Fire Department use designed to shut off the flow of water in a hose line without having to disconnect a hose line or to shut down on the water flow. Of the many types that have been manufactured, the Peerless is probably the most common.

The illustration shows the clamp ready to receive the hose line between the jaws of the tool. When the hose is in position, the lever handle is raised and the hose is firmly clamped between the jaws.

Hose clamps are employed to relieve the pressure on lines to be carried up ladders. If desired, the coupling can be broken and the water allowed to run out as the line is carried up. When the line is in position, the coupling is connected, and the clamp is removed so that the line is recharged under pressure. The clamp can also be used to place a Siamese on a single line, to change tips, to replace a broken length of hose or to add more hose to a line.

Combined Hose Shuf-Off and Door Opener

Combined Hose Shut-Off and Door Opener

Two tools have been combined in one with the Pirsch Hose Shut-Off and Door Opener. As a hose shut-off, the upper handle is moved over to the left. This opens up the jaws of the tool to receive a length of hose. By moving the handle back to its former position, the hose is compressed so that the flow of water is obstructed.

To serve as a door opener in the manner of the Hale Door Opener, the operator holds the longer handle on the bottom and the jaws which previously served as a clamp are now placed on the ground near the door. The other handle which was used to operate the tool as a hose clamp, is placed up against the lock of the door. The larger handle is operated and in this way the door is forced in.

A folding trussed ladder has been developed so that it can be carried on fire apparatus in the same manner as a pike pole. The ladder is provided with folding hooks so that the folding trussed ladder may serve as a ceiling, wall and roof ladder, when opened, as the occasion may demand.

Playpipe and Stick

Playpipe and stick combination is employed to handle streams from large nozzles. Due to the reacation of the nozzle which tends to drive the nozzle and hose backwards, and the tendency of the hose line to ship, it is necessary to provide a stick which is locked on the playpipe.

After the line has been brought to the desired position, and the playpipe has been secured, it is necessary to fold back the hose with the pipe from the direction of the fire, and then insert the stick into the slots provided on the side of the pipe. It is locked by means of thumb screws. The device is now brought back to its proper position so that the hose lies in a straight line behind it.

The stick resists the tendency of the line to “whip as well as to back up. At the same time it eliminates the necessity of men to hold a heavy nozzle and line when the stream is in operation. With the use of the playpipe and stick, it is possible tor men to operate a heavy stream for a much longer period without fatigue.


An inhalator is a device used for resuscitating persons overcome by gases, as well as for resuscitating persons whose lungs have become congested or otherwise affected so as to tend toward suffocation.

A victim of gas asphyxiation, smoke suffocation, etc., who is still breathing, is for the time deprived of the power to transport sufficient oxygen from the air through the lungs to the blood.

A mixture of five per cent carbon dioxide and ninety-five per cent oxygen is used in the inhalator.

Two cylinders, filled with the mixture and each holding sixteen cubic feet at 135 atmospheres or nearly 2,000 pounds pressure, are coupled to a manifold in which high pressure gauge is inserted. By operating the valve of the cylinder, the mixture flows to a high pressure reducing valve and then through the measuring dial to indicate the rate of flow. The gas mixture flows into a rubberized cloth reservoir and from there by means of a rubber hose fitted with a face mask, to the patient.

As one cylinder becomes exhausted, the supply is obtained from the reserve cylinder by simply opening its valve. If both cylinders become exhausted, the measuring valve is operated to take air from the outside without an interruption of treatment.

Waterproof Trousers

Trousers made of rubberized duck or canvas are used for protecting the wearer against ammonia or other gases which would likely cause injury to delicate parts of the body. The feet and legs of the trousers are all in one piece and a draw string is provided at the waist line to insure completed protection of the lower portion of the body when the trousers are worn.

Salvage Covers

The first salvage covers manufactured were made of canvas treated with tar, and it is from this process that the covers were called “tarpaulin.” Such covers were unsatisfactory as they had a tendency to stick when the weather was warm, and there was difficulty in spreading the covers.

The next step in the development of salvage covers, was canvas impregnated with oil, usually linseed oil. These covers, too, would stick when warm so that spreading covers became slow work.

In recent years, two types of covers have been developed, the “Shuredry” and the rubber cover. The “Shuredry” cover is made of canvas woven so tightly that it will hold water. It is not treated with oils or any other water-proofiing compounds.

Rubber covers are made of canvas impregnated with rubber. They are heavier than the “Shuredry” covers, and are not quite as generally used.

Salvage covers are provided with eyes or grommets through which rope, cord. etc. may be passed when suspending the covers or joining them together to make a larger cover. Salvage covers are used for protecting goods exposed to water at fires and they are also used on a more limited scale for covering openings in roofs caused by fire or cut by members of the Fire Department. In other words, temporary protection for holes in roofs are provided by waterproof covers to prevent damage by the elements until the roof can be repaired.

Sledge or Maul

The sledge or maul is used for breaking deadlights, driving the rivet cutter, driving in bars which are set to obstruct windows, or for breaking masonry to release bars set in the masonry’, or for similar operations.


The strainer or basket is used in connection with a suction hose line to prevent entry of sand, gravel or other abrasive and foreign material into the pump. One end of the strainer is provided with a coupling to fit the suction hose with which it is used. The strainer end generally has a ring through which a rope may be tied so as to keep the strainer free from the bed of the stream front which the pumper may be drafting water. In using the suction strainer, it should be emerged just deep enough from the surface to prevent the formation of a whirlpool when the pumper is operating.

The strainer commonly used when drafting resembles a metal tube, with a dead end, and with holes bored along its surface for the entrance of water. There is another type made of woven wire of a coarse mesh. This type is used when it is necessary to pump water from a cellar.

Spanner or Hose Coupling Wrench

A spanner might be termed a hose coupling wrench. There are a great variety of spanners on the market, some made in the form of a combination spanner and hydrant wrench, while others are just plain spanners. Since the introduction of the rocker coupling, a distinct change has been made in the more commonly used spanners so as to provide a means for coupling up hose with rocker lugs as well as with pin lugs for which the old style spanners were designed.

Hose Strap

Hose Strap

Hose straps are used to carry hose lines up ladders and for securing hose lines to fire escapes and ladders. They are also used to assist in handling lines in other ways. With a hose strap it is an easy matter to secure a line of hose on a ladder or a fire escape.

It is only necessary to pass the strap around the hose, place the hook of th.e strap over the strap, and then place the hook over a rung of the ladder or over the railing of a fire escape. The handle proves an effective means lor working the hose lines.

Hose for Suction

There are two types of suction in use, the soft suction and the hard suction. The soft suction is satisfactory where there is sufficient hydrant pressure and where the water is supplied to the pumper in sufficient volume to prevent a vacuum being created on the intake side of the pumper. Such a vacuum, should it develop, will flatten out the soft suction and stop the flow of water to the pumper. Soft suction is much easier to handle than the hard suction. It is of no use, however, for taking water from draft for as soon as a vacuum would be created, the suction would collapse.

Hard suction is made up of. spirally wound metal strips which are covered with fabric and rubber. Due to the metal strips, the hose will not collapse under a vacuum w’hile the pumper is operating. It is used for taking suction from hydrants, as well as from open bodies of water such as streams, rivers, ponds, cisterns, etc. The chief precaution to observe when using hard suction is to see that all couplings are tight, for small air leaks into the suction line will destroy the effectiveness of the. stream delivered by the engine, to say nothing of the reduction in efficiency of the pumper. Hard suction hose is manufactured in many sizes ranging from 2 1/2-inch up to 5-inch diameter.

The Volunteer Fire Department


The Volunteer Fire Department

A Series of Articles on Volunteer Fire Department Administration and Operation

Fire Department Tools Used by Volunteer Firemen

This article, the twentieth of a series, describes a few of the common forms of tools that are frequently used by volunteer firemen:

VARIOUS means of illumination are employed to light up a fire ground at night, ranging from the large carbide light to a small hand electric lamp employed by firemen or officers for inside work.

A carbide light that is commonly employed, gives in the neighborhood of 3,000 candle power illumination for six hours and provides satisfactory illumination for department operations on the outside of a moderate size building. One type of carbide light uses an aluminum reflector ten inches in diameter so attached that it can be set in any direction.

The hand electric lamp or searchlight uses two 2-volt cells as the source of electric current. The lights are made waterproof so that they will not be injured by the spray from streams.

Handling Acids

Because of the highly corrosive action of sulphuric acid used in charging soda and acid fire extinguishers, it is a cumbersome problem to handle the heavy carboy. A small amount of acid spilled on the floor may result in considerable damage. Acid on clothing will immediately eat a part of the cloth, and if spattered on the hands or face, may result in serious burns to the body. For that reason, special acid pumps or as is more common, a carboy inclinator is employed.

The inclinator clamps over the wooden crate enclosing the carboy and makes it easy to handle the acid. The inclinator works with a cam motion and clamps on the crate like a skate clamp. It clutches the carboy firmly and permits easy and safe handling of the acid regardless of how much acid there may be in the carboy. The rockers enable one to tilt the carboy as much as desired.

Use of Jacks

Jacks, in the fire service, find their chief use in lifting heavy objects such as cars and so forth, in case of accident. They are also sometimes employed in an emergency when a building is about to collapse or has collapsed. The jacks are invariably of the screw type. In using jacks for flat objects, it is always best to put a piece of wood, heavy cloth or other material between the head of the jack and the object to be lifted so that the head of the jack will not slip on a smooth surface.

Where a jack is used to lift a car, the brakes of the car must first be set to make sure that they will not shift when the jacks are operated.

The ordinary apparatus jacks are familiar to most firemen. These jacks are of a great variety of designs, some operating on the screw principle and others on the ratchet and lever plan.

One style is employed in which the lower end, just above the base plate, is pivoted so that the jack can be tipped over. It is used to lighten the load on the tires when apparatus is placed in the fire station. Upon the apparatus being called out, the truck is started in the usual manner. The traction remaining between the tires and the floor is sufficient to tip over the jacks and throw the truck load onto the tires.

Hose Jackefs

A hose jacket is used to stop leaks in hose. Of all hose jackets, the most widely used and the most satisfactory is the Cooper hose jacket.

To use this jacket to cover a tear in the hose, the tear is so placed that the water will he shooting out away from the operator and as nearly horizontal as possible. Then the hose jacket is opened and one side slipped under the hose. When ready, the upper part of the jacket is snapped closed quickly, preferably with the foot. The jacket locks automatically.

If the tear in the hose were so placed that the water shot up vertically, there would be danger of the upper part of the jacket being knocked upward as it was being closed, and possibly injuring the operator.

The jacket may also be used as a universal coupling. For this use, the two couplings of the hose to be joined are brought together within the jacket and the jacket snapped closed. As soon as pressure is applied inside the hose, the hose will become inflated and will properly seal the coupling.

Method of Using the Cooper Hose Jacket

Besides the Cooper hose jacket there is the screw type, the Neeley hose jacket and the leather hose jacket.

Hose Testing Pump

Hose testing pumps are used where it is not desired to test hose with the aid of the pumper. In using the hose testing pump, one or more lines of hose are coupled tightly together and capped with a blank cap at one end. The other end of the line has a cap fitted with a nipple to which is attached the short piece of hose leading from the pump. The line of hose is first filled with water and then pressure is developed by forcing additional water into the line by means of the hand pump. If the hand pump is not fitted with a gauge showing the pressure in the line, it is necessary to use a cap on the far end of the layout tapped for a gauge, and to place a gauge on this fitting.

Hose Roller

The hose roller is also known as the hose hoist. It is used for raising hose or ladders to the roof or upper floors of a building. It consists of a metal frame so curved that it will fit over a window sill or the edge of a roof. It contains two rollers over which hose or ropes may be drawn with little twisting. A rope is attached to secure the roller when hauling hose over it to the roof or other upper parts of a building. This rope, if possible, should he passed several times around a chimney or other substantial projection or support and then securely fastened. If such support is not available, and if no other means is at hand to provide for securing the hose roller, a hole may be cut in the roof of the building and the rope tied around one of the roof rafters. There ae two types of hose rollers commonly employed in Fire Department work, the Bresnan hose roller and the New York hose roller. They both operate the same.

Two Forms of Hose Rollers The upper drawing shows the New York hose roller and the Bresnan roller is shown in the lower sketch. The insert shows the Bresnan roller in use.

The hose roller keeps the hose away from the cornice or other sharp edges and prevents cuts or injury to the hose jacket. After the roller is firmly secured, the hose is placed on the roller and is drawn upward. Should the hose run off the roller, it can easily be replaced by letting the hose coast back a few feet, at the same time guiding the hose back onto the roller.

Hose straps are used to carry hose lines up ladders and for securing hose lines to fire escapes and ladders. They are also used to assist in handling lines in other ways. With a hose strap it is an easy matter to secure a line of hose on a ladder or a fire escape.