THE VOLUNTEERS CORNER
FIRE FIGHTING requires a working knowledge of rope at all times and generally begins with tying knots. Learning knots is not a one-time experience. It takes hours of repetition during many months—and constant review after that. If volunteer firemen used knots every day, the way sailors do, their proficiency would be maintained.
But let’s face it. We don’t use knots often enough to keep familiar with them. The only solution to the problem is to keep a short length of quarter or halfinch rope handy and run through a few knots every day when you have a few spare minutes.
Don’t try to learn too many knots at once. Get so that you can make one knot without thinking about the details and then try lying another knot. Gradually, you’ll learn the few knots that a fireman ought to know and you’ll be able to make them quickly when the need arises.
There is one important knot used in tying tools for hoisting or lowering—the clove hitch. Almost anybody can make the half hitch that is used as a binder, or safety knot over the clove hitch.
The tools illustrated all are tied witli clove hitches and half hitches—nothing more. The selection of an ax, pike pole, claw tool and fire extinguisher encompasses a variety of shapes. If you know how to tie these, you can easily improvise ties for any other equipment by using the same techniques.
For axes and claw tools, the clove hitch is fieri around the shaft and then the rope is passed under the head or through the fork of the claw before making the half hitch at the lop.
The clove hitch should be tied about a foot from the end of the handle of a pike pole and the half hitch should be made just below the hook. The rope should be taut between the two hitches.
Notice how advantage is taken of the shape of the tools. When the half hitch is made, it is placed so that the shape of the tool will prevent it from slipping olf.
When preparing a crowbar, make the clove hitch about 0 or 8 inches from the top of the shaft (the smallest part) and secure the half hitch around the working end. This will prevent the clove hitch from slipping along the shaft, which thickens toward the working end.
There are other knobs that are useful on the fireground—the bowline, becket bend, bowline on a bight, chimney hitch and fire hose hitch (an extended magnus hitch)—but the clove hitch and half hitch are probably user! more than any others. The bowline, which we’ll discuss at another time, is undoubtedly the runner-up in usefulness.
There are three popular sizes of manila rope used in the fire service. Half-inch is often used for hauling tools because of the ease in handling this size. Some departments use 5/8-inch for both tools and lifelines. When this is the case, new rope is used only for lifelines. When it is replaced, it is then used for tools and overhauling tasks. Other departments prefer to use 3/4-inch or I-inch rope for lifelines.
The minimum breaking strength of manila rope is as follows: 1/2-inch, 2,650 pounds; 5/8-inch, 4,400 pounds; 3/4inch, 5,400 pounds. The safe working load is generally regarded as one-fifth of the breaking strength figures or: 1/2ineh, 530 pounds; 5/8-inch, 880 pounds and 3/4-inch, 1,080 pounds.
Nylon rope is being used more frequently because it has better than twice the strength of manila rope. But where a good, firm hand grip is needed, you still need to have a line that is at least a half-inch in diameter. Half-inch nylon rope has a minimum breaking strength of 6,200 pounds.
Nylon rope only 5/16 inch in diameter has a minimum breaking strength of 2,400 pounds, so it would do the work of a half-inch manila rope, but it would be too small to grasp comfortably and firmly.
One advantage of nylon rope is that it has excellent resistance to mildew and can be stored wet. Manila rope, on the other hand, is seriously weakened by mildew. Therefore, it must never be stored while wet. Mildew will weaken its fibers and cause the rope to break under less than normal strains.
Wet rope should be thoroughly dried in loose coils before being put back on trucks. Compartments sometimes become damp in humid weather, and this leads to mildew. Coiled rope will last longer if it is secured to the outside of the apparatus so that it is exposed to the drying effect of the open air.
When in doubt about the usefulness of old rope, try untwisting the strands. If they are bright and clean inside and quickly return to their shape when released, the rope is still in serviceable condition.
If the strands are gray or dirty inside and sluggish in returning to the original twist of the rope, it is time to buy new rope.
General wear will gradually break the fibers at the surface and the rope will feel prickly. This calls for a reappraisal of the rope’s future usefulness—especially in the fire service where rescue work may call for sudden strains. Rope that will take a large load may break when a lighter load is applied with a snap.
Rope is not just a working tool for the fireman; it is often a means of saving his life and the lives of others. Therefore, it needs to be maintained in first-class condition on the apparatus and handled with care.