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Keys to hose care

Loading, cleaning, storing and moving hose imporperly can greatly cut the life of the hose; here’s what to do to get the most out of fire hose

After our pumping apparatus, the fire hose complement carried aboard that apparatus represents a significant financial investment for any department. Though fire hose may be one of the less high-tech pieces of equipment that your department carries and employs, your procedures for handling, care and maintenance has the greatest influence on its performance, reliability and longevity.

Care and maintenance procedures for your fire hose should comply with NFPA 1962: Standard for the Inspection, Care, and Use of Fire Hose, Couplings, and Nozzles and the Service Testing of Fire Hose, chapter 4.7 Cleaning and Drying (2013 edition). In addition, follow the recommendations provided by the manufacturer of your particular brand of fire hose.

Fire hose leads a hard life, so be kind to it as much as possible. Dragging hose along rough surfaces is the single greatest threat to its longevity. Whenever possible, use shoulders carries, or roll the hose and carry it to the apparatus for reloading.

If you must drag fire hose, avoid doing any of the following:

  • Dragging hose along the edge or fold, particularly large diameter hose, as this action concentrates abrasion of the outer jacket in the folded area.
  • Dragging hose that is kinked back upon itself, which greatly concentrates abrasion to the area where the kink contacts the ground. Better to drag the hose along the flat surface because the abrasion is distributed over a larger surface area, thereby minimizing wear.
  • Dragging hose that has not been completely drained of water, either along the edge or while kinked back upon itself, as the added weight will further contribute to premature hose wear.

Fire hose cleaning
Good and thorough cleaning of dirty fire hose following its use can have a significant impact on its longevity, particularly for woven jacketed hose. Follow these best practices.

Unroll the hose — remember, dragging is bad — and stretch it out in its entirety on a clean, level surface. Take care to protect the exposed threaded couplings. If several hose sections are being cleaned at the same time, lay them side to side, and be sure to separate them enough to allow for proper draining.

If the hose has been exposed to hazardous materials, like gasoline or oil, decontaminate the hose according to the manufacturer’s recommendations using a method approved for the contaminant.

Use a soft- to medium-bristle brush to dry brush the hose to remove as much surface debris as possible prior to washing. Thoroughly rinse the fire hose with clean water using a low pressure water stream to avoid driving contaminants into the hose jacket. Prepare a cleaning solution of warm water and mild detergent and use a long-handled brush with soft to medium bristles to scrub the entire length of hose.

Completely flush all detergent from the hose jacket on both sides. Following this rinse cycle, dry the hose thoroughly using the method best suited for the weather conditions and your facility equipment. Don’t dry fire hose on hot pavement or under direct sunlight as the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage synthetic hose jackets. Also, the heat can cause a chemical reaction between moisture in the hose and its rubber lining to create weak acids that will damage the lining.

Make sure that fire hose is thoroughly dried before reloading into the hose bed or before storing for a prolonged period of time.

Loading hose
Load hose, in particular supply hose, in its hose bed using flat loads so that the hose is not loaded on edge, with the folds in contact with the bottom of the hose bed. Use alternating layers across the hose the bed, rather than loading one row of hose all the way to the top of the hose bed, to prevent it from chafing in the hose bed. This will also prevent the folds from contacting the roadway surface on deployment, thereby reducing edge wear to the hose.

Load hose couplings for supply hose so that when the hose is deployed the coupling does not have to flip, possibly causing damage to apparatus.

Hose should be removed and reloaded on the hose bed at least once every six months so that the folds occur at different locations to prevent localized wear and to allow for visual inspection of the hose in order to evaluate any damaged areas. The manufacturers of nitrile rubber-covered hose recommend that such hose be reloaded after each use with the folds at different locations.

Storing fire hose
Ensure that all hose has been properly drained and thoroughly dried before being placed in storage. Protect the exposed thread couplings by rolling the hose with the exposed thread coupling on the inside of the roll. If the exposed thread coupling has to be on the outside of the roll, use a protective cap over the threads.

Store fire hose out of direct sunlight and in a well-ventilated location. Do not store fire hose that is wrapped in plastic material or plastic bags, with stretch wrap left intact or in any other containers that create an air-tight storage environment. Storing hose like this can create an environment that promotes growth of mold or mildew.

Taking the time to properly care for your fire hose will pay huge dividends on the fireground — because nobody wants to halt a firefight to replace a ruptured section of hose.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.