COOS BAY – It’s not your garden-variety hose.
The Coos Bay Fire Department’s nearly 2.7 miles of fire hose is rubber-lined, with two layers of woven fabric. The tough synthetic material resists rot and sun damage, and it stands up to being dragged through rubble and broken glass.
“It’s built very well,” said Fire Chief Mark Anderson.
And it’s not cheap to replace.
The department is receiving a $5,000 grant this week from the Coquille Indian Tribe, to close an unforeseen gap in the department’s hose arsenal. It’s one of this year’s 12 Coquille Tribal Community Fund grants related to public safety, totaling nearly $39,000.
“Knowing they are in need of updated equipment is a concern for us,” said Community Fund assistant Jackie Chambers. “The Coquille Tribal Fund sees public safety as a priority, and we are happy we could help with this.”
The 12 public safety grants are among 96 grants overall, totaling about $400,000 distributed by the Coquille Tribal Community Fund this year.
Fire Chief Mark Anderson said his department has been short on hose for the past couple of years. The problem arose when a national regulatory board mandated retirement for all pre-1990 hoses – even though those old hoses had been passing Coos Bay’s rigorous annual safety tests.
“That was a new unfunded mandate that we see every once in a while,” Anderson said.
Protecting Coos Bay takes a lot of hose. Each of five rigs carries 1,100 feet of 5-inch hose, used for connecting the engine to the hydrant. Each rig also carries 700 feet of 2.5-inch “working line,” and 500 feet of 1.75-inch “attack hose,” used for battling fires inside structures.
The department budgets money each year to replace damaged and worn-out hoses. But the new mandate unexpectedly eliminated much of the department’s 2.5-inch hose. Now, after a couple of years of scrambling to recoup that loss, the department finds itself short of the 5-inch variety. It has enough to cover immediate needs, but the shortage requires some juggling.
Without help, the department might need a decade to make up the deficit. Instead, the Coquille Tribal grant will pay for 700 feet of 5-inch hose. Other funds will be added, bringing this year’s purchases to an even 1,000 feet, Anderson said.
And the old hose? It doesn’t go to waste. Retired fire hose is always in demand for use as boat bumpers.