Firefighting has gone through interesting developments from relying on the inefficient bucket brigades of yore, to the use of the proficient fire hose of today. Both innovations in machinery and use of modern materials contributed to these improvements. The efficiencies gained would not have been without people or groups of individuals who were driven by a desire for continuous improvement. Melbourne’s Crusader Hose is just one of those driving forces for continuous improvement through the spirit of innovation.
After the bucket brigade was deemed relatively futile, the concept of the fire hose was born around the 16th century. Hoses were created either by sewing sailcloth into a tube, which was anything but durable, or by sewing and using brass screws to attach pieces of leather together. Although being able to transfer water at a faster rate than passing buckets from one hand to another, the leather hoses were bulky, heavy to handle and would often burst. Producing this type of hose was undoubtably time consuming and laborious, but nevertheless, this was the hose of choice until the end of the 19th century.
Weaving looms had been around for thousands of years, but it was only at the start of the next century that the circular loom was invented by Sakichi Toyoda, father of Toyota Motor Corporation’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, revolutionising the process. On these types of circular looms, cotton or flax was woven into a hose jacket. Flax was often the preferred material because it would swell, tightening the weave, thus preventing much of the inherent seepage of an unlined hose. Although the seepage would protect the hose from being burnt, losing too much pressure due to percolation was a concern.
Fast forward to 1960–70. As flax and canvas fibres rotted easily and became rather costly, they were gradually replaced by synthetic fibres such as PVA and polyester. Meanwhile, most firefighters preferred a high flow out of the nozzle and not percolation, and that lead to the developments of liners. The original liners were made from latex and prevented seepage, while the polyester woven fabric ensured high-pressure ratings. Firefighters now had a high-pressure hose, which did not percolate, and these were ideal in most urban firefighting scenarios.
Further developments with rubber also brought about a fully covered and lined hose. This push-through process forces rubber through the woven fabric forming both lining and cover for the textile reinforcement. Not only does the rubber offer abrasion protection, it is also fully synthetic. This type of hose does not need to be dried and can easily be wiped clean after use. It is, however, bulkier to roll, heavy and more expensive.
Crusader Hose, Australia’s leading manufacturer of lay-flat hose, also shares a history with fire hose improvement. Having been directly and indirectly involved in much of the fire-hose development since 1972, Francois Steverlynck, Managing Director, can claim intergenerational experience in this field. The Steverlynck family were pioneers in textile weaving in Belgium from 1874, and today the family business has evolved to become the leading weaving loom manufacturer in the world. Yves Steverlynck, Francois’ father who emigrated to South Africa, developed an innovative latex lining technique in 1970. This brought the family over to Australia where a fire-hose factory was established in 1974. With many challenges and fierce competition, this factory was subsequently taken over by Angus Fire. However, the spirit to pursuing a dream in hose manufacturing did not waver and in 1985 another factory, Crusader Hose, was founded. Crusader Hose have continued in the spirit of innovation and product development and branched out into manufacturing many types of lay-flat fire hose: hose for irrigation, bore water pumping, fuel transfer and mine dewatering.
While manufacturing lay-flat polyester fire hose for over 35 years, Crusader Hose have kept abreast of the changing needs of firefighters. Francois, in particular, has understood the need for a quality product, which suits many applications. In the spirit of innovation and continuous improvement, Crusader Hose have designed a polyurethane (PU)-lined fire hose, which is unique in the world. The main benefits are light weight and less bulk compared to extruded rubber hose.
Crusader Hose will be at AFAC to showcase the new Centurion PU-lined fire hose and look forward to discussing all the technical developments and more.
For more information, go to www.crusaderhose.com.au