Ready to Rumble

Medium-expansion foam can be produced with a clip-on foam tip. It can cover fuel spills or make fire lines. Compressed air foam can be discharged through dual guns in motion or in place.

Ready to Rumble - Part VII

Rattlesnake, Colorado's rigs show their stuff

This article originally appeared in the March 2000 Issue of FireRescue Magazine. This is the seventh in a series of Fire Department 2000 articles featuring innovative apparatus, equipment and ideas that break with tradition and take a new path to protect the public.

The Rattlesnake (Colorado) Fire District (RFD) is in the process of dramatically lowering its community's fire insurance rating and improving fire protection services at the same time. Previously, we highlighted RFD's goals and their chosen solutions. In this final Rattlesnake profile, we'll look at its hose-load solutions and apparatus equipping. In future issues, FD 2000 will focus on heavy rescues, quints and innovative ideas used throughout the United States.

Hose & Suppression

The ability to attack quickly often depends on how well a crew can access its equipment. You can waste precious seconds with cumbersome attack-tool placement or confusing mixed lines.

Hose loads: Loading hose isn't fun. In fact, many firefighters find excuses to get out of this duty. Also, climbing a dark, wet, snow-covered fire truck to stow hose is dangerous. The Rattlesnake design team wanted no attack line higher than 36 inches from the ground. The district had all attack lines mounted in the truck's front or rear on its waist- or knee-high bumpers. The team also wanted to reduce the number of firefighters it takes to put hose away safely. All attack hose now stores in donut rolls, enabling one firefighter to load any attack line by stretching out the hose, starting in the middle and making a donut roll. The firefighter can then place each roll in a well with the other rolls. Hoses and nozzles are color-coded for easy connection to a nozzle on one end while the other end hooks to a gated discharge. The eight color-coded, preconnected lines total 1,900 feet.

RFD concluded that mixed-diameter water-attack lines serve its crews best. Each nozzle-connected attack line begins with a 2-inch diameter hose, but the last 50 feet is a 1 inch, 800-psi, double-jacketed hose. This reduces drag weight and cuts hose and water weight by two-thirds, which speeds hose-line advancement. The mixed lines offer the best fire-hose mobility. Charged lines move and corner better and are easier on the crew because they weigh less and are smaller than standard configurations. Few interior fires require more than 50 feet of inside hose, so the last 50 feet should be the easiest to move around.

Fully equipped means the tool box is full, saws are fueled, water and foam are in the tank, hose is in the beds and all other loose equipment is mounted.

Bumpers: The front bumper packs one 50-foot 1-inch and two 150-foot mixed preconnects. A pair of 12-volt, look-down lights illuminates the front bumper wells for night operations. The rear bumper carries a pair of 400-foot mixed preconnected lines, 150- and 400-foot, 1-inch lines and 200 feet of dead 2-inch hose. The mixed lines flow 180 gpm at 300 pounds of pump pressure. The nozzle has a "Rattlesnake tip"-a 45-psi TFT automatic tip and a non-traditional pistol grip that holds a 1 1/8-inch stub tip-as well as a 15/16- and 1/2-inch smooth-bore stack.

The tool box is fully usable where mounted.

Crews can swap the stacked tip with the fog tip for compressed-air foam operations, making the fog tip the pistol grip. The low-pressure automatic has the highest flow and the lowest nozzle reaction. Each color-coded shut-off handle matches a hose-line color. The three 150-foot hoses can address most fires through the front door. The three 400-foot hoses are used primarily for rear entries. Two 1-inch lines are for everyday trash-line-type use, but can flow more than 125 gpm when needed. These 1-inch lines are ideal for car fires.

Velcro tool-box mountings allow quick removal when needed.

CAFS: Rattlesnake uses a compressed air foam system (CAFS). The system requires a pump pressure of only 125 psi regardless of the attack line length. CAFS lines weigh half of what a water line weighs, require half the water flow to put out the same fire area, lower room temperatures five times faster than plain water and use five times less water during overhaul. A 200-gpm water flow with 200 cubic feet of air equals a 1,600-gpm water stream in reach and volume from a deck gun.

Bumper guns: With homes that have long or circular driveways, nosing the rig in and pulling lines off the front bumper constitutes an ideal fire-attack method. Both guns face the fire. The big gun reinforces the small guns, and any one of them can be directed and left unmanned with as little as 20 gpm of foam to protect exposures. A cord light on the bumper attached to a reel can instantly follow the attack line into the building. All of this occurs under 2,750-watt forward-facing floodlights. Using a gun and finishing with a 1-inch line, crews can knock down car fires while driving toward them. A rig parked broadside to a home can deploy lines off its front and rear. This position makes three cord reels instantly available and puts two guns in position for use.

Piercing nozzles: Two piercing nozzles-six and 12 feet-offer a high-speed way to cut off extension. Each color-coded tip matches the rig that carries it. If a thermal imager determines the fire has spread to the attic, a piercing nozzle can instantly apply CAFS into the space. It can also be used for second-floor-window exterior attacks without throwing a ladder.

Supply Beds & Water Pressure

The appropriate amount of large and small lines prepares fire department crews for any call. Always make sure your equipment makes the most of your city's water and hydrant resources.

Split-supply bed: A split-supply bed has a 4,000-foot, 3-inch hose capacity for laying up driveways or tender resupply. The hose in Rattlesnake's driver's bed, is orange and the passenger's side is yellow, which simplifies loading and charging.

RFD selected 3-inch-hose over 5-inch-hose because the 3-inch strands only 125 gallons in the hose on a 500-foot lay vs. 500 gallons with bigger hose. On a large fire where the first two responding units --- a 2,400-gallon attack engine backed up with a 3,000-gallon tender --- need more water, the department will start a tanker shuttle. Everything except the first-in attack engine stays on the main road to supply that engine. A clappered siamese feeds a 3-inch line laid from the main road by the attack piece, which is sustained by a shuttle or nurse tanker relay. The female clappered 2 1/2-inch inlets are adapted to 3-inch Cam Loks to speed connections and reduced to 1 1/2 inch to allow attack lines to supply the line.

Pump-and-roll offers many options.

Relay: In a relay situation, a single 500-foot lay of 3-inch line can move 765 gpm up the driveway. Dual lines move twice as much. There's no large hose because almost every conceivable present and future fire situation can be addressed with 3-inch supply hose. The hose-bed volume allows for 2,500 feet of 5-inch hose in case the transition to big hose is ever needed (such as in the unlikely event the town adds a community-wide water system). An OES-style, diamond-plate hose-bed cover protects the hose. When the covers are folded, they keep firefighters from falling off the top of the truck. A cab-mounted, 12-volt light provides lighting when loading hose.

This drop-down rack allows two small firefighters to quickly deploy a 3,500-gallon, color-coded drop tank.

The 3-inch hose-bed capacity enables the rig to lay from the nearest cistern directly to the fire. The second-out pumper then goes to draft and pumps the supply line or lines providing 250 to 1,707 gpm, depending on line length, out to 9,000 feet. Even without a shuttle the Insurance Service Office (ISO)tm minimum flow rate of 250 gpm is always available with two firefighters. The third-in unit can lay a second or third line from the cistern to the fire-site pumper and increase fire flow. The third-in unit's line can also daisy-chain cisterns together or lay in from a second cistern if needed.

Every tool mounts at the point of use.

Hydrant pressure: If Rattlesnake's units participate in a mutual-aid response to anything other than a wildland fire, it will probably be a surround-and-drown or a low-flow one- or two-attack-line job. Hydrant pressure alone would supply 495 gpm at 300 feet, 343 gpm at 600 feet and 260 gpm at 1,000 feet for one line. With dual-supply lines, 980 gpm arrives at 300 feet, 686 gpm at 600 feet and 520 gpm at 1,000 feet. A single three-line relay would move 900 gpm at 300 feet, 630 gpm at 600 feet or 490 gpm at 1,000 feet. A dual-line relay provides 1,800 gpm at 300 feet 1,260 gpm at 600 feet and 980 gpm at 1,000 feet. When responding to residential mutual-aid fires, Rattlesnake can use dual 3-inch lines off hydrant pressure. Their commercial surround-and-drown operations benefit most from a dual-line relay. With four gated intakes, each responding rig can lay duals and maximize the pump capacity on any lay.

Pump panel: With an in-cab pump panel, Rattlesnake operates from a hydrant by attaching the supply line and hitting the preset button. If the suction gauges read zero, the rig throttles down. RFD then uses additional supply lines if possible. If a line blows, it's safer for the engineer to be inside a steel cab.

How do you regulate flows from different length lines? With CAFS, one pump pressure at 125 psi ensures all lines flow the same amount. With water streams, the 400-foot lines flow 30 gpm less than the 150-foot lines and the automatic nozzles adjust for it without operator intervention.

A 200-foot rear 3-inch preconnect allows for 500- to 1,000-gpm handlines or a portable master stream to be deployable in 30 seconds. The big line is CAFS and gel capable. A 2-inch smooth-bore tip is attached to a gate valve for the ultimate high-flow CAFS line.

Water Level Lights

The most common question on the rural fireground is, "How much water do we have left?" On Rattlesnake's rigs, four 6-inch-diameter, dual-halogen-bulb, revolving water-level lights stacked on the light mast provide 360-degree visibility. The top light is blue and when lit indicates a full tank. Green indicates three-quarters of a tank, orange indicates one-half full and red indicates one-quarter of a tank. The vehicle horn sounds at one-quarter tank of water. An on/off switch in the cab silences the tank alarm. A roof-mounted red strobe light and gong warn the operator of engine, pump, transmission, low-voltage, compressor and systems alarms.

The thermal imagers are mounted in purpose-built brackets.

The End Result

The worst part about a new rig is the length of time it takes to put it into service. RFD rigs came turn-key ready from the manufacturer with all equipment mounted-including mobile radios and antennae. The first time most of the members saw each truck, it had all the hose in the beds, water and foam in the tanks, air packs in the seats and all the compartments filled. There were no boxes, no waiting for equipment to trickle in, no adjusting dividers or shelves, no waiting for the local radio guy, no work details to load the rigs, no returns or exchanges to get what they had asked for and no trial-and-error mounting.

Hose-bed covers protect 4,000 feet of supply line and keep firefighters from falling off the truck.

The 1,200-mile drive of the fully-loaded trucks from the manufacturer provided the ultimate test of all mounts, brackets and vehicle systems. Twelve firefighters rode from the factory to Rattlesnake in the new rigs to make sure everything performed as expected. The apparatus arrived ready to use. A one-hour walk-around proved sufficient to put the units in service. RFD set aside two and a half days to practice evolutions and establish procedures.

Equipment: Mounted equipment on each rig includes seven Scott 4.5 air packs with carbon bottles, the lightest air packs on the market. All face pieces store in cab-mounted mask pouches with Velcro closures to keep them clean. A Grace GEMS system with receivers in the cab allows electronic radio-transponding accountability of all members. Even members who arrive in their POVs will show up on the screen by name.

Factory time determined the best place to mount everything.

ISO™: Each rig carries complete ISO® gear for credit as a full engine and tender and half a ladder-service company. A pair of gas-powered K650 lightweight saws running 135 octane racing fuel start on the first pull every time. Shoulder-carry slings make the saws easy to carry up a ladder or around the fireground. Each saw comes with Da Ax and Chopper blades. One is stored with a metal cutting blade that also cuts wood. The other saw has a blade optimized for cutting wood that will out cut any chain saw. The two identical saws need only one method to start and operate. Saws store with preset switches --- a firefighter just needs to pull the starter rope and release the choke.

Radio-transponding PASS devices allow command to track everyone by name and know their status every 25 seconds, even if the firefighter is incapacitated. If someone needs help, every rig on the fireground will sound an alarm and turn on a light.

Ladders: The 111-foot ground-ladder complement is designed for one- and two-story homes. The six-ladder complement changes the triple-combination pumper tenders into quads. One electric-operated drop-down rack carries 35-, 24- and 10-foot folding ground ladders. There is a 14-foot ladder on the drop-tank rack and two more 14-foot folding ladders in the suction hose troughs.

Auto extrication: To accomplish the Rattlesnake district's zero-setup time goal, the rig almost always noses into a scene. Two 150-foot hydraulic reels with cutters, rams and spreaders are attached for immediate auto extrication ready to go. In just 15 seconds, two tools can cut or spread. Gas-powered plants are also available. The front cord reel supports the cord light and a reciprocating saw with an unbreakable demolition blade.

Equipment-mounting experimentations at the factory allowed the end users to come up with a method to deploy and prime a 24-foot hard suction in just 12 seconds with one firefighter. They also resulted in 15-second deployment for an attack line, a cord light, tripod lights, air bags, an air chisel a cutter/spreader and a ram extrication tool.

One 150-foot air reel with a three-way wye, pressure controller, three color-coded air lines, four 25-ton, 20-square-inch lift bags and an air chisel are attached and ready to support the heavy hydraulic tools. Fourteen air bottles and a regulator run the air tools away from the rig if needed.

The Jaws and floodlights are in simple, ready-to-go brackets.

Truck tools: Twelve salvage covers protect up to 2,600 square feet of property. The rigs also carry 8-lb. polished stainless-steel flat-head and pick-head axes with unbreakable handles. A 36-inch bolt cutter that cuts up to 5/8-inch hardened steel makes quick work of chains and padlocks. Two specially designed Rattlesnake hooks open 99 percent of the dead-bolt, door-knob and padlocked doors in the community and double for a 5-foot pry bar, an ax, a sledge hammer, sheet rock puller and pike pole. This eliminates a number of conventional forcible-entry tools. Custom versions of four other hooks with fiberglass handles to 14 feet are also available. A seat-belt V-blade knife is ready for auto extrication. The rigs carry a garage hook to quickly open roll-up doors outside. A 20-lb. dry-chemical extinguisher is available for three-dimensional fires. A 2 1/2-gallon foam/water extinguisher with shoulder sling handles small incidents. An AIM gas- and CO-detector is cab-mounted in a charger. A smoke ejector with an outdoor air-conditioning feature provides rehab-area cooling and positive- or negative-pressure ventilation. Six special Rattlesnake versions of the TFT handline nozzle were designed and optimized for water, CAFS, gel and medium- and low-expansion foam application. There is a cellar nozzle for indirect attack of basement and attic fires. Spare gaskets for 1-, 1 1/2-, 2 1/2-, and 5-inch Storz couplings are carried. Hydrant wrenches and spanners mount on each side of an apparatus. A hose bag with a strap attaches to the end of the supply hose with a Velcro closure pouch that carries two spanners and a hydrant wrench. A hose clamp gates the supply line. All loose equipment is imprinted with the fire department information and color-coded to the apparatus with reflective equipment labels. All couplings and fittings are laser etched with the fire department name and are also color-coded.

The total cost of each fully equipped Rattlesnake unit was $562,081. Loose equipment accounted for $125,000 of that. The cost might seem high, but the fire trucks will pay for themselves 176 times in insurance savings during the rating period.

David Doudy is an 18-year veteran of the Dolores (Colorado) Fire Protection District and is co-owner of Firestorm Construction Company.

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