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What Is a Fire Hose Reel?

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  • Written By: Alan Rankin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Built at the request of Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations Headquarters has a meditation room dedicated to silence.   more...

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A fire hose reel is part of the specialized equipment used to extinguish fires. Firefighters use these reels to quickly distribute fire hoses from their equipment trucks at the site of a blaze. Another kind of fire hose reel is part of the standard safety gear in many buildings. Properly used, fire hose reels prevent water hoses from tangling and allow the hoses to be carried in any direction. The attached hoses can apply water to a blaze even if most of the hose is still wound around the reel.

Firefighting dates to ancient Rome, but the fire hose is a relatively recent invention, first used for this purpose in the 1600s. Advances in engineering and technology made firefighting equipment smaller, lighter, and safer throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. A major challenge during this time involved water hoses; firefighters needed hundreds of feet of heavy, unwieldy hose that could be aimed at the site of a fire within minutes of an alarm. The fire hose reel solved this problem, allowing collapsible hoses to be stored in a compact area and then extended immediately when needed. Fire trucks still use these specialized reels in modern times.

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A fire hose reel allows a fire hose to be collapsed or coiled for easy storage. The central spool is engineered to accept the hose without tangling. A built-in guide will sometimes be included to make hose extension easier, and the entire reel assembly often swings out on an attached arm so the hose can be carried in any direction. The end of the hose is attached to a water supply. Water can be directed toward a blaze no matter how much how of the hose has been extended and controlled with a handle and valve in the nozzle.

The fire hose reel is most common on fire equipment trucks. Another version is found in offices and other large buildings. This reel is generally attached to a wall or stored in a recess in a wall and plainly labeled. In the event of a fire, any person can extend the hose, causing an automatic valve to divert pressurized water from the building’s water supply through use of a fire pump. The nozzle of the fire hose contains a specialized valve, called a ball valve, allowing the user to control the direction and amount of water and sometimes the force of the spray.

The fire hose reel is a common sight, especially in skyscrapers. Tall buildings require their own fire safety systems because of the challenge of reaching high-rise blazes with standard firefighting equipment. Hose reels frequently appear in movies, television, and cartoons, often put to a different use than fighting fires. In the 1988 movie thriller Die Hard, Bruce Willis’ character uses a fire hose and reel as an improvised safety rope to escape a rooftop explosion. Peter O’Toole’s drunken swashbuckler makes similar use of a fire hose reel for comic effect in 1982’s My Favorite Year.

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Chmander
Post 3

@Euroxati - Well, even though this article doesn't discuss the origins of firefighting, it must have dated back to a very long time ago. Do you remember the movie Dumbo? Notice how there are several firefighters clowns seen throughout.

Based of this, not only can we conclude that firefighting has been around before then, but considering how the hose has been around since the 1600s, it's even easier to assume that firefighting has been around for centuries.

Euroxati
Post 2

@RoyalSpyder - I agree with you in a sense that it's interesting that something that seems so recent (firefighting) dates to such a long time ago, even if the fire hose is more "modern" in a sense.

In fact, I've always wondered what the origin of firefighting was, which in hindsight, is pretty interesting.

Though fires were a nuisance even in Ancient times, did people decide to have a meeting one day, and try to come up with a solution to neutralize the problem? It's definitely something to think about.

RoyalSpyder
Post 1

When you're a firefighter, even though it's essential that you learn how to use a fire hose reel, it's more than obvious that all of that is learned while in training.

What I find most interesting about this article, however, is that firefighting dates all the way back to Ancient Rome. However, considering how fires have been around since the beginning of humanity, they had to be dealt with somehow.

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