To fight a structure fire, a continuous water supply is a crucial factor in the success of the operation plans and crew safety. When conducting a forward-lay operation, the firefighters at the hydrant is key to the water supply and must do everything right and quick to ensure the success of the fireground operations.
Hydrants out of service due to poor maintenance become a serious problem for local governments that suffer severe budget cuts. Many city governments do not even have money to repair old hydrants. Imagine how frustrating it is for city firefighters to know that the hydrant near the fire scene they are rushing to might not work.
Leave aside for a moment the reasons why so many hydrants are out of service, we need to know what can be done by the fire department or even individuals to keep old hydrants operational. To begin with, find out what caused the problem.
All the experienced firefighters know the answer — the underground valve might be shut off or the stem broken. Then, step by step, go over each scenario and figure out some ways to fix the problems the best you can.
Think before you leap. For firefighters often conducting forward lay in an area without a reliable hydrant system, they’d better take it slow at the hydrant before hastily forward-laying into the fire. This prelude allows firefighters to dismount their gears, remove the cap on the hydrant, and partially open the valve to see if the hydrant is working properly.
This little flow test prevents firefighters from fooling around the fire scene by laying out hundreds of feet of hose line only to find the hydrant they have connected to is dry or dead. If this has ever happened to you, we know how you feel when you open the hydrant after laborious hose laying operation and nothing, not even a drop of water, comes out but air.
The whole operation will be a mess and total waste because it is impossible for this team to recover the hose lines and get redeployed in time without causing fireground failure.
Backup operation is needed then and another fire company will have to respond immediately to deliver water supply to the fire. The lesson learned from this scenario is “Haste makes waste” — always check the hydrant operability before you lay out.
Hydrant debris is also a key factor in avoiding fireground failure. When you stop to open the hydrant valve for a water check, you take the opportunity to flush out the foreign objects, such as debris, sand, or small rocks, in the barrel or underground water lines. Meanwhile, you can check whether there are any loose or missing caps and remove trash stuffed down the barrel if any.
Strong water flow released from the hydrant can dislodge sand and small rocks that may stay in the water line for years. These tiny foreign objects not only clog the flow ports but also damage the pump if they pass through the screen with the water flow and go down the supply line.
Always open the hydrant valve partially when you flush out the debris and tiny particles, so that they will not be forced all the way to the top of the hydrant barrel and stuck there. Continue flowing until all undesired items in the barrel are discharged and the water turns clear if you do not hurry to direct the water flow to the fire.
Before you have a good water supply, make sure that all this task of flow check and debris flushing should be completed during the time when your other crew members are laying the hose line and connect it to the pump.