Over the years fire apparatus design has advanced greatly with significant improvements in safety dating back to the NFPA 1901 changes in 1991 which mandated four door cab vehicles. For all practical purposes, this eliminated personnel from riding on the back step and changed some procedures for engine company operations with laying supply lines and riding assignments.
Back in the day it was common for three to four fire fighters to ride on the rear step, often donning turnout gear and SCBA while reroute. The photo below shows a 1975 Mack CF pumper with four New York City style “Subway Straps” for personnel to hold onto during responses. As a result, the majority of the hose load including 1.75 inch, 2.50 inch, 3.00 inch and 5.00-inch supply line was all carried in the rear hose bed. Engine company operations 500 gallon remaining members would ride on the rear step to the scene and then stretch the appropriate attack line based upon the officer’s initial size up.
Note the rubber mat below the 5.00-inch bed, which was laid out in the street to cushion the hose couplings as the hose was laid out.
Once personnel were removed from riding in open jump seats and the rear steps different approaches to hose loads were attempted with some interesting results. Now that fire fighters had to access the rear hose bed from the ground, something had to change. Hose beds were getting higher due to a desire to carry more water and equipment and in some cases necessitated using auxiliary steps to gain access to the hose bed area.
One solution was to use an L-Shaped or bulk style water tank, something which had been used by the FDNY for a number of years. The result was a low-profile hose bed which could permit safe and easy access to pull and advance attack lines as well as assist in racking the hose after an incident.
The engine is outfitted with four rear hose bed attack lines along with split beds of supply line. This hose bed is low to the ground so personnel does not have to climb onto the rear step to advance any one of the attack lines. When reviewing any design for new engine apparatus pay attention to the configuration of the water tank, height of the hose bed floor from the ground and the means provided to access the hose bed. Safe stepping surfaces and handrails should be provided around the perimeter of the rig for all personnel.