Comments Regarding Great Debate Feature

These comments are regarding your excellent “Great Debate” feature, specifically the current issue of large capacity pumps.

As is frequently the case, whenever someone – in this case your magazine – takes a hard-and-fast position that; “People who choose X instead of Y are always wrong” virtually guarantee that they themselves are wrong.

I was quite surprised to see your magazine take such a position, one that disagrees with the preferences of so many departments and, in fact, with the industry in general.

I found both sides of the follow-up argument presented in your January issue to be interesting, but one side appeared to have the preponderance of facts and objective analysis.

Of course, Gary Handwerk’s reputation in the fire pump industry is darn near unassailable, and is well known to your readers.

Presenting The Facts

I thought he presented a factual and rational case for the various reasons that large-capacity pumps can, and do, make good operational and economic sense for many municipalities. Mine is one of them.

Syracuse’s (New York) entire engine fleet features large-capacity pumps. Beginning in 1972, they were 1,500 gpm single-stage Hale pumps, and in 1975 we went to all 2,000 gpm units.

We continue to specify them today, not because, as Michael Farrel suggests, we have “lost focus of the basic functional and hydraulic fundamentals of pumping apparatus,” or have a “basic naivet√© to the realities of simple fireground tactics,” or any other reason based on generalities rather than on an objective assessment of both sides of the issue.

Ultimate Responsibility

On the plus side, Michael has provided a very good statement that sums up the facts of this debate rather well: “Fire departments are ultimately responsible for their own specifications.” Amen to that.

He makes further good points that if a department chooses to purchase a large-capacity pump, it should “adopt the whole package,” to ensure that this “big water” can be efficiently and reliably provided, both in to the pump and out to the hoses or master stream devices. I could not agree more.

Our reasoning and justification for large-capacity pumps is pretty simple. All of our engines feature four crosslays and a 50-foot TeleSqurt boom. Due to the odds against attaining good position for more than one pumper (the older neighborhoods in our residential areas consist of many narrow streets and multiple wood-frame, high-fire-load exposures), it is our standard operating procedure (SOP) to use the first-due pumper to the maximum degree practical.

It is not uncommon to have all four crosslays and the boom in operation, as well as additional streams and/or appliances from discharges as required.

What really makes all of this work is an abundant and prolific water supply system, superior to that of most cities. We can, in fact, supply these large-capacity pumps.

I certainly agree that cities that cannot do so should not buy them, and I have advised many of my colleagues who write to me for copies of the “Syracuse Engine” specifications, that they should buy the apparatus that’s right for them and their municipality, and not just copy what works for us.

I always find it amusing that the arguments castigating anyone who would dare to purchase a large-capacity pumping apparatus all seem to contain a caveat somewhere within them saying something like, “Of course, there may be cases where these larger pumps make sense.”

Selling Big Pumps

Of course there are such cases, and that is the reason why pump manufacturers continue to offer (and sell) such units – in much more than just token numbers, as Gary alluded to.

I think your magazine’s position would have more credibility if it had advised fire departments to seriously consider their pump capacity requirements based on its own individual needs, rather than issuing a blanket – and erroneous – statement that “whoever does this is doing it wrong.”

While instances of overbuying are certainly extant in the fire service, this is not automatically one of them as you have suggested.

I applaud your decision to feature ongoing “great debates” about timely fire service issues. I can’t wait for the one on quints. I might suggest in the future, perhaps a little less “ready-fire-aim” mentality would be prudent.

To make a blanket statement that no one should buy an engine with a pump capacity of greater than 1,250 gpm is at least as foolish as stating that no one should buy one smaller.

The fire service has come a long way in the last couple decades, and many apparatus committees exist that have done their homework.

They have researched all the aspects of their new purchases thoroughly, including the subject of pump capacity, with an eye toward their own present and future needs.

They have done their homework, as you should have done yours. To paint them all as wasteful and foolish does them all a disservice, and is just plain wrong.

You can do better.

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