Albany Fire Chief James Carswell, left, and Bo Edenfield, owner of Municipal Equipment Company, stand with a section of the new Kryptonite fire hose, also known as Albany Hose. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — How often do we think about fire hose? If the worst should happen, it can help us save our homes, businesses — and even our lives, and yet we hardly give it the time of day.
If you’re a firefighter, though, you might appreciate a hose that’s lighter than traditional line and easier to see at night. An added bonus would be if the hose could help save $1,000 or so each year on fire insurance.
Until recently no such hose existed.
It’s a fact that fire insurance rates are higher “out in the county.” The biggest reason for the difference is the availability of hydrants, fire officials say. Even if a home or business were next door to a fire station, the structure would receive an automatic 9 ISO rating if the nearest hydrant was further than 1,000 feet away, said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.
On the 10-point ISO risk scale, higher numbers are the least desirable and translate into higher fire insurance rates. Homes and businesses in the city are typically rated 2 on the ISO scale, bringing low insurance rates, Carswell said.
“One obvious answer to the insurance issue would be to install more hydrants,” Carswell said, “but to do that over the entire county wouldn’t be economical.”
According to Carswell, if the AFD could demonstrate to ISO representatives it could effectively deliver water 1,500 feet from a hydrant, structures within that range could receive a better rating and lower insurance rates.
Carswell said the department has proven through internal testing that the 1,500 distance goal can be met with the “old” hose. But it requires a lot of hose and there other issues, too.
“A lot of fires are at night,” Carswell said, “and the hoses extend over roads and people’s driveways. If you don’t see it in time, a 5-inch hose filled with water can cause a problem for a driver. The metal couplings are reflective, but that’s just every 100 feet.”
Around five years ago, Albany fire officials discussed the issues with Bo Edenfield, owner of Municipal Equipment Company in Tifton, a distributor of fire hose and other equipment. Edenfield’s interest was piqued, and with his industry contacts, APD’s quest for the perfect fire hose soon brought them to consultations with All American Hose in Eerie, Pa., Carswell said.
“The people at All American picked up on the potential right away,” Carswell said, “and they agreed to give it a shot.”
At least six prototype hoses later — each one strenuously field tested by the AFD — “Kryptonite” hose (aka “Albany Hose”) was born. According to the manufacturer, the hose, which ships in either Hi-Vix Green or Blaze Orange (the AFD choice), is stronger and 40 percent lighter than conventional hose. It doesn’t kink and it’s visible at night.
“They tried all different things to make it more visible,” Carswell said, “including paint and glass beads.”
According to All American, the product is a smooth, rather than traditionally ribbed hose, with a circular polyester jacket encapsulated by a special urethane polymer. It resists abrasion and is puncture resistant while remaining light and service worthy. Deputy fire chief Ron Rowe said he believes that as a bonus the new hose will produce less water friction, delivering more water pressure for fighting fires.
On Nov. 6, 2010 the Dougherty County Commission allocated special-purpose local-option sales tax funds sufficient to purchase 24,000 feet of the new hose as well as four custom-designed “service trucks” to haul it. Each of the four county fire stations will have one truck, Carswell said. In late June the hose showed up as the only cargo on a flatbed semi truck. The special service trucks are being manufactured in Wisconsin and will arrive later.
“This is the state-of-the-art for fire hose,” Rowe said, “We really think all the other hose companies will be making products like the Albany Hose.”