Worn fire hoses reused in unexpected ways

EVERETT — When fire hoses no longer are useful for battling blazes, they find new life in unexpected places.

Think public safety meets Pinterest.

Local examples include boat dock linings, zoo animal exhibits, rescue dummies and cold-beer koozies. Some uses are utilitarian. Others come from the heart.

Last fall, Snohomish County Fire District 1 gave the county sheriff’s marine unit 250 feet of hose that was set aside for surplus.

The sheriff’s dive team uses the hose to pad its wooden dock so the boats don’t get scratched in port, said Lt. Rodney Rochon.

Requests for old fire hose sometimes come from the public, too, with the same purpose in mind, Fire District 1 spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said.

A fire hose becomes surplus after 10 years or if it fails annual safety testing, Hynes said. After that, the hose could explode if filled with high-pressure water, Rochon said.

Older fire hoses consist of a cotton jacket and a rubber liner, Hynes said. Nowadays, most hoses have a polyester jacket and an inner liner of synthetic rubber. Surplus hose has no real monetary value.

“It gets worn out,” Hynes said.

Awhile ago, a private high school in Seattle requested some of Fire District 1’s old hose to use as a prop in a school play, Hynes said. The play had a firefighting scene, and the students wanted it to look realistic.

“We loaned it to them, and they brought it right back,” Hynes said. “People use it for lots of different things.”

In years past, Fire District 8 in Lake Stevens has donated old hose to line the docks at the lake, including spots that house the police and fire rescue boats, Fire Marshal Robert Marshall said.

“I am not sure if we continue to do that or if the original hose remains,” he said. “They work great as bumper protection for the boats.”

A quick search of sustainability, crafting and “upcycling” websites shows ideas for using old fire hose to make house decorations, hammocks, exercise equipment and pet toys. Other ideas: Rugs, wristwatch bands and heavy-duty cellphone cases.

One use in Marysville, though, carries more meaning. The Marysville firefighters Local 3219 hosts an annual golf tournament honoring Ray Hancock, a former firefighter who is living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The tournament raises money for Hancock’s medical expenses. In November, the Hancock family donated some of that money back as winter coats they gave to kids at Liberty Elementary.

The crews also used old hose to make drink koozies, firefighter Tobin McGowan said. They crafted more than 100 koozies, selling them as part of the fundraiser.

Covlet Machine &Design Inc., of Marysville, donated a custom branding iron for the koozies.

The brand says “RR” for their friend’s nickname — Ragin’ Ray.

Fire departments also have donated hose to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where it becomes part of animal exhibits, zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic said.

“We have used fire hose as the core for larger artificial vines that we have textured with urethane rubber, then painted to look natural,” she said. “We have also made artificial hammocks out of the used fire hose that have been worked into the hanging vine structures. If the vines need to be rigid, we will also thread rebar through the fire hose.”

If a vine is used to swing from, zoo staff may add an inner core of wire rope inside the hose so the fasteners don’t wear, Allianic said.

The hose is used in the exhibits for orangutans, gorillas, siamangs, colobus monkeys and lemurs, she said.

Meanwhile, in Gold Bar, firefighter Bill Tubbs fuses old hose pieces together to create parking stall lines at a local church summer camp, Fire Chief Eric Andrews said.

They get the requests for boat docks, too, Andrews said.

Perhaps the most visually striking reuse of local fire hose comes in human form:

At Fire District 21, serving rural Arlington, hose and duct tape are used together to shape dummies for training operations, said Rick Isler, who served as fire chief until recently.

The dummies have hose legs, arms and torsos and wear old firefighting pants. One has an “I (heart) Mom” tattoo scrawled in marker on its shoulder.

The dummies are popular with local fire departments, said Branden Bates, assistant fire chief at Fire District 21, and one of the dummy creators.

“There’s no value there, so we don’t have to worry about ruining equipment,” he said. “We cut it up and modify it and make a similar life-like hose-dummy for training.”

The dummies are used by crews practicing for fires, car wrecks and river rescues.

“Basically, anytime we need a victim that has the dead weight and flexibility of an unconscious person, we use a hose dummy,” Isler said. “They are always willing to help and never complain about being cold, wet or too hot.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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