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A Brief History of Fire Hoses

A Brief History of Fire Hoses

If you have ever seen firefighters drill or even watched a television show about a fictional department, you have seen them use hoses. They are the second most important tools that are used to fight flames, after only water. Without them, firefighters would be unable to extinguish fires as readily, and many more lives and buildings would be lost. So where did this useful implement come from? Read on for a brief history of its invention and development.


The first hoses for fighting flames were invented in Amsterdam over 400 years ago. In 1673, the superintendent of the city’s fire brigade, Jan van der Heyden, sewed together 50-foot leather tubes to aid his department. With Heyden’s invention, water could be directed more accurately and from further distances. This not only made extinguishing buildings easier, but it also made it safer for the firefighters at the same time.

Arrival in The United States

It wasn’t until over 120 years later, in 1794, that Heyden’s invention began seeing use in the United States. The Philadelphia Fire Department was the first in the country to utilize hoses to fight burning buildings. They initially tried canvas, as it was light and cheap, but it tended to tear too easily. So the department reverted back to leather and bolstered its strength using copper rivets and washers.

End of Leather

For nearly 100 years after the approach was introduced in the U.S., leather was the material of choice for departments. Then, in 1890, the first woven linen models were created. Along with being very light, the linen fibers expanded when soaked with water, making them even more waterproof than when dry. The downside to using linen was that, like canvas, it was not very durable. Today, linen is only used for specialized forest units, due to its weight.

Introduction of Rubber

Due to the delicate nature of woven linen, rubber was quickly adopted by fire departments following the invention of vulcanization. The rubber tubes, while heavy and awkward to store and move, were totally waterproof. They also proved to be incredibly durable and rarely needed to be replaced.

Modern Technology

Today, the materials used for hoses are comprised of a variety of fabrics and elastic polymers. As a result of these materials, modern tubes are very light and durable. With their increased durability also comes the ability to push more water even faster than before. This allows burning buildings to be extinguished in shorter amounts of time. The increased pressure also allows the water to be directed from further away, keeping them safer. Many modern designs allow small amounts of water to seep through the material, keeping the entire implement slightly wet. This is to protect it from flames or embers that might compromise the material on the job.

In conclusion, fire hoses have saved countless lives and homes, and they will continue to do so as long as they are in use.

Yours In Fire Safety 


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