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Until the mid-19th century, most fires were fought by water transported to the scene in buckets. Original hand pumpers discharged their water through a small pipe or monitor attached to the top of the pump tub. It was not until the late 1860s that hoses became widely available to convey water more easily from the hand pumps, and later steam pumpers, to the fire. Nicholaas took firefighting to its next step with the fashioning of the first fire hose in 1673. Even with the limitations of pressure, the attachment of the hose to the gooseneck nozzle allowed closer approaches and more accurate water application.
In the United States, the fire hose was introduced in Philadelphia in 1794. This canvas hose proved insufficiently durable, and sewn leather hose was then used. Around 1890, unlined fire hoses made of circular woven linen yarns began to replace leather hoses. They were certainly much lighter. As the hose fibers, made of flax, became wet, they swelled up and tightened the weave, causing the hose to become watertight. Unlined hoses, because of their lack of durability, were rapidly replaced with rubber hoses in municipal fire service use.
This rubber hose was as bulky, heavy, and stiff as a leather hose, but was not prone to leaking. It also proved more durable than unlined linen hose. Its wrapped construction resembled some hoses used today by industry, for example, fuel delivery hoses used to service airliners. These materials allow the hoses to be stored wet without rotting and to resist the damaging effects of exposure to sunlight and chemicals. Modern hoses are also lighter weight than older designs, and this has helped reduce the physical strain on firefighters.
This process makes hoses smaller and somewhat rigid, thus allowing more fire hose to be packed or loaded into the same compartment on a fire fighting apparatus. There are several types of hose designed specifically for the fire service. Those designed to operate under positive pressure are called discharge hoses. They include attack hose, supply hose, relay hose, forestry hose, and booster hose.
Those designed to operate under negative pressure are called suction hoses. This hose is a fabric-covered, flexible hose used to bring water from the fire pumper to the nozzle. This hose ranges in nominal inside diameter from 1. These are large-diameter, fabric-covered, flexible hoses used to bring water from a distant hydrant to the fire pumper or to relay water from one pumper to another over a long distance. These hoses range in nominal inside diameter from 3. This is a fabric-covered, flexible hose used to fight fires in grass, brush, and trees where a lightweight hose is needed in order to maneuver it over steep or rough terrain.
Forestry hose comes in 1. These are rubber-covered, thick-walled, flexible hose used to fight small fires. It retains its round cross-section when it is not under pressure and is usually carried on a reel on the fire pumper, rather than being stored flat. Booster hose comes in 0. These are sometimes called hard suction and usually are rubber-covered, semi-rigid hose with internal metal reinforcements.
It is used to suck water out of unpressurized sources, such as ponds or rivers, by means of a vacuum. Suction hose ranges in nominal inside diameter from 2. Another suction hose, called a soft suction, is actually a short length of fabric-covered, flexible discharge hose used to connect the fire pumper suction inlet with a pressurized hydrant. It is not a true suction hose as it cannot withstand a negative pressure. In the past, cotton was the most common natural fiber used in fire hoses, but most modern hoses use a synthetic fiber like polyester or nylon filament.