Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hydrant Man

I was not needed on the nozzle, nor was I needed to pull hose. There were plenty of guys on the hooks, spreading the garbage around. I was not in charge, and I was not needed in a command support function. We had but one need, and that was a water supply.

There were two of us who had no assignment, my engineer and myself. I could have been a prick and drove the rig, but for that, there was no cause or excuse.


Make ready: one hydrant wrench, one supply line.

Stand on tailboard, facing hose bed. Grasp hydrant wrench and female coupling in right hand, palm up. Grasp hose fold (first or second, depending on distance from hydrant) with left hand, palm up, pull and rotate to the left, stepping from the tailboard. Release pull loop when appropriate.

Pull sufficient hose to the hydrant, walking approx. fifteen past hydrant. Turn toward hydrant, using surplus hose to wrap hydrant, with hose on the "street" side of the hydrant. Remove slack between hydrant and female coupling then shout "Lay line" while making hand signal to lay line.

Hold onto hose line until 100 feet are on the ground or until threat of apparatus snatching the supply line has passed. Once sufficient hose is on the ground, unwrap hydrant and stand in front of the appropriate hydrant discharge port. Fold hose line approx. two feet from female coupling and place fold between knees, holding it in place. Use hydrant wrench to loosen cap, then reach around hydrant and place hydrant wrench on appropriate hydrant valve.

Remove discharge cap and examine hydrant discharge port for debris and thread damage. Examine female coupling for presence of hose gasket, swivel operation and thread damage. Loudly verbalize above actions with the term "Debris, threads, gasket".

Note: if hydrant is in a remote area or appears not to have been regularly serviced, place fold on the ground to the valve side of the barrel, ensuring dirt and debris do not enter female coupling. Flush hydrant until water flows clear. Then proceed as below.

Attach female coupling to discharge port and tighten to "hand - hard snug". Straighten hose and remove kinks from hose near the hydrant. Stand by for signal to charge supply line from engineer. Upon receipt of "charge line" signal from engineer, slowly open hydrant valve approx. 1-2 turns until hose line is charged. When line is fully charged, open hydrant valve fully, then turn valve clockwise one full turn.

Return to apparatus, removing kinks from hose line en-route. Bring hydrant wrench when returning to the apparatus and return it to the proper compartment. Report to the company officer for reassignment.


 Thirty years ago, the above was my assignment more often than not. The "boot" is always the hydrant man, the vet always gets the nozzle. I always visualized the proper procedure, I didn't want to make a mistake.

Yesterday, as I was the only guy not busy, I opted to be the hydrant man again. I pulled fifty feet or so from the hose bed, pulled it around an obstacle and took the hydrant. I haven't taken a hydrant on a fire in twenty years or so. Yesterday, much like my first day on the job, I first ran through the procedure in my mind, I didn't want to screw it up.

William, my engineer, noted the irony of the situation and commented on it to me.

"Joe, don't you think it's funny that in the last few months on the job, you're doing what you did in your first few months on the job?"

Yeah, it's funny William, some things don't really change.

Thanks for reading,


  1. I enjoyed this, Captain. Thanks for writing it. What happens if you forget to bring the wrench back? In my mind's eye there's a procedure or ritual for every contingency at the firehouse...

  2. It does make a nice symmetry.

    And doing the job that is needed instead of shuffling personnel around to get a job that is more pleasant/comfortable/"fitting your rank" speaks well of you as an officer. The best chefs I've cooked for all could be found at one time or another busting suds in the dish room. I figure you must be a pretty good boss to work for.

    Enjoy your last few months Cap'n and take advantage of the opportunity to do the "little jobs" that started you in the service one more time.

    And thanks for bringing us along for the ride.


  3. Wayne - If the hydrant wrench is still there when you return to shut it off, pretty much nothing happens - except from a comment or two from the engineer.

    It's when you forget to bring it back to the rig and it disappears from the hydrant that produces grief. A lost tools and equipment form, kangaroo court discipline etc. Sometimes people need your stuff more than you do.

    BG - Some like working for me, some do not. Hopefully, the majority will at least say that I was fair, honest and did at least a fair to good job. My next career goal is to get through the next few months without hurting anybody.

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. Capt. Schmoe: I too enjoyed this--nice to know there are others that do the internal check list as well. Personally, I like a chief who is willing to do what is needed and called for, no matter how small or seemingly menial. Sometimes the most "menial" are the most important--water for firefighting for one. The most passion I have ever heard on the scanner is a firefighter hollaring for water in the hose.

    The Observer

  5. Observer - Hollering for water is something that no one wants to do. Back in the day, an engineer might get a little "talking to" if he didn't keep the water flowing. It's kind of important.

    Thanks for the comment, Observer.