A Brief History of Fire Hoses
Unlike the systems provided by today’s fire protection companies in California, the crude history of fighting fires led to the creation of today’s more advanced and innovative systems. The bucket brigades of the 17th century had to dig a hole to get to the water main or use a hand-pumping system to get the water they needed to deal with a fire. Before any kind of conduit for water was invented, people had to literally carry water to the fire with their own hands. They then graduated to using bags made from ox guts. The bags were filled with water and then pounded so that water would blast out of the bag and into the fire. The bucket brigades were made up of people in the town who used the same buckets that were used to water their horses. The engineering of firefighting has grown and changed into a business our ancestors might never have dreamed of.
In the 17th century, a crude version known as a fire hose was invented. It was made of leather tubes that were sewn together in 50-foot lengths, a standard length still used today. At the turn of the century, hydrants, tanks, and cisterns were used with nozzles that were designed to increase water flow. The main problem with this early firefighting apparatus was that the fire hoses leaked. The stitched leather allowed water to come through at the seams, and the water pumps created so much pressure that the hoses would burst. Rivets were eventually used to keep the leather stitching from leaking, but the weight of the hoses was more than 80 pounds. Also, leather required a lot of maintenance and needed oil treatments to keep it from cracking.
Of course, leather is no longer used to make fire hoses. The hose covers used by fire protection companies in California today are made of polyester yarn that has been treated to resist mold, mildew, scrapes, and scratches. The improvements to firefighting include aerial firefighting, which uses explicit kinds of aircraft and helicopters to deliver chemicals that are used to fight fires. Hoses are not a factor in aerial firefighting by the fire protection companies in California.