An excellent answer to the age-old question, "Hey chief, what should we do with the old fire hose?" is "Take it to the zoo!"
Most fire departments don't want to hang onto surplus fire hose any longer than they have to; selling it can sometimes be more trouble than it's worth. But they also don't want to see it go to waste and end up in the county landfill.
Zoos have learned over the years that the industrial strength, tough-as-nails materials of fire hose is excellent for even the largest and more powerful zoo animals to chew on, scratch on, walk on, swing on, rest on, play on and more. Creative uses include hammocks, large ice balls and climbing ladders.
Enter Lisa Daly and Anthony Slamin, who founded Hose2Habitat to match fire departments, fire-safety companies and other sources of surplus fire hose with zoos and animal sanctuaries that use fire hose for habitat enrichment.
Slamin is a lieutenant at a volunteer fire department in the Washington, D.C., area and Daly is a volunteer EMT. During the day, Daly's a nonpartisan attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives, and she's a self-described lover of the environment and animals.
"We noticed that fire hose was used in the Ape House at the National Zoo and wondered if the hose we saw in the trash at the fire station could be used at the zoo," Daly said. "We asked at the zoo and were told that they would welcome donations of fire hose."
During the piloting phase—according to the website Hose2Habitat.org—surplus hose was donated to the National Zoo and other zoos around the United States. Ready to take the program to the next level, Daly and Slamin contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to discuss the Hose2Habitat idea.
The word is spreading. Two fire stations in the Jacksonville, Fla., area are making donations of fire hose to the Jacksonville Zoo and a big-cat sanctuary. Plans are in the works to contact zoos and animal sanctuaries and ask them if they'd be interested in being matched up with their local fire departments to gauge their interest in donating surplus fire hose. Fire departments may be contacted as well about making donations.
Hose2Habitat conducted an online crowd-funding campaign. The funds raised, approximately $2,400, will be used to apply for 501(c)(3) status, build the Hose2Habitat website into a strong resource for the program and expand the program throughout the United States and internationally.