"It doesn't happen all the time but it does happen," BCFD Capt. Rob Taylor said. "One of the main reasons why that became against the law is really a safety issue."
Running over a charged, 3-inch in diameter fire hose with 100 to 200 pounds of pressure against it can cause damage to not only the hose but the offender's vehicle as well. Although the damage to the hose is a concern, rescue efforts also can be halted.
"Yes, it does endanger the firefighters' lives when you drive across a hose because it interrupts the water flow to our fire pumps," Taylor said. "It can cause damage to the pumps, a phenomenon known as water hammer. Another thing is it damages the hose. When someone drives across a hose like that when it's charged, it damages it and we have to re-test the hose to make sure it's safe to put back on the truck and keep in service. So if you run over a section of hose, that's one section that we don't have access to until we test it and prove that it's still in good shape and put it back in service."
Hoses can rupture when pressure from a vehicle causes damage.
"The car can get hung up on it, they can tear the hose which actually, at that point, we lose our water supply if they damage the hose to where we can't use it," Taylor said. "Or, if they rupture the hose, then we lose our water supply. At that point, our firefighting efforts are stopped until we get that re-established. They can cause damage to their car and actually they can get hurt. If that hose breaks lose and hits them they can get seriously injured. It's got a lot of power and a lot of weight behind it. It's not forgiving -- it doesn't care who it hits. It can get ugly."
If the line should break, a different set of hazards could come into play.
"It's a high pressure hose. Some of those hoses can have 100 to 200 pounds of pressure on it," Taylor said, noting that these lines are larger in diameter and greater in pressure than what is portrayed in 1960s film clips where people were rolled by the fire hoses. "The hose that this gentleman ran over the other day, and the one that causes the most problem, is our 3-inch hose. You can have a problem pretty quick. It can cause some injuries."
Anyone with no experience with fire hoses can easily be susceptible to injury caused from problems with the line on a scene. However, even trained firefighters can fall victim to their equipment.
"While proof testing -- or service testing -- our hose we've had firefighters seriously injured and/or killed while testing hose, that's what you're dealing with," Taylor said.
In 2002, Rabun County Fire Chief Mike Queen died after suffering a traumatic head injury while testing a fire hose. According to an article posted on www.fallenbrothers.com, a website dedicated to fallen firefighters and establishing foundations for the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, Queen perished when a hose jacket came apart from a coupling and struck him in the head.
"That's one of the reasons we have to wear helmets," Taylor said, recalling the event.
Aside from the few instances the department has had with people driving over hoses, curious onlookers also can cause hazards for firefighters and to themselves.
"The biggest thing that people can do for us when we're on a scene is stay back. I know that curiosity kills the cat, everybody wants to get up close and really see what's going on but a lot of our equipment is dangerous, especially if you don't know what's going on with it and what it does and what not to do around it," Taylor said. "It can be dangerous to someone just walking up to it, but the biggest thing people can do is just stay back and if they have a question they can ask one of us before they just go do something. Some people will ask if they can cross the hose, we'll tell them no and they'll do it anyway. That's usually when they get in trouble.
"It doesn't happen often but occasionally people get cited for it and usually it's after they've been warned. The biggest thing is just take direction from any of the public [service] officials whether it be law enforcement or EMS or fire, we're doing it for their good.
"We're not doing it to inconvenience anybody, we're doing it for their safety," Taylor said. "Don't drive across fire hoses and do not to get too close to hinder our efforts. It takes a lot of room for us to do our job and we have safety barriers. We try to keep people back just in the rare occasion or the maybe that something is gonna happen. We try to prepare for the worst. That's the nature of our job. We plan for the worst and hope for the best."