Fire departments seem to be living in the era of “big water flows” when it comes to pumping capacity on their engines and aerial quints. “Bigger is better” appears to be the mantra, with large-capacity pumps of 1,500, 1,750, and 2,000 gallons per minute (gpm) becoming commonplace.
LARGER PUMPING CAPACITIES ON RIGS
Jamie Mechling, sales application specialist for KME, says that pump sizes on Type 1 apparatus seem to have standardized at a 1,500-gpm size. “But, we’re also seeing departments jumping up to 1,750-gpm, 2,000-gpm, and even 2,250-gpm pumps,” Mechling points out. “A lot of this trend is driven by manpower issues, especially in volunteer departments where they are getting fewer rigs out to calls, so they want to be able to get out one that has the power to flow a lot of water.”
Mechling says that KME built a pumper for the Fitchburg (MA) Fire Department on a Predator Panther cab and chassis with a Waterous CSU-C20 1,750-gpm single-stage pump, a 750-gallon UPF Poly water tank, and a 20-gallon foam cell, noting that the department operates in tight urban areas with many old-style construction buildings and in a high-fire-load area. For the Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills (PA) Fire Company, Mechling says KME built a 103-foot Tuff Truck aerial quint on a Predator chassis and cab with a Waterous 2,000-gpm single-stage pump and a 500-gallon UPF Poly water tank.
1 For the Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills (PA) Fire Company, KME built a 103-foot Tuff Truck aerial ladder quint with a Waterous 2,000-gpm single-stage pump and a 500-gallon UPF Poly water tank. (Photo courtesy of KME.)
Ken Sebo, pumper business development manager for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce has been putting larger pumps on pumpers for quite some time. “On custom engines, a 1,500-gpm pump is the sweet spot that we’re seeing as standard, but we’re still getting requests for 1,750-gpm and 2,000-gpm pumps,” Sebo says. “We sit down with the customer and have a conversation to learn what they want and how they will use their apparatus, and if they want to add a bigger pump, we have to add more discharges per [National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)] 1901, Standard for Automotive FireApparatus.”
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Sebo points out that bigger pumps require more horsepower, which means larger motors on fire apparatus. “That means you’re looking at 500-[horsepower (hp)] or 600-hp engines,” he says. “And, the size of the engine also can be based on the geography of the fire district, because you might want more horsepower if you have to climb a lot of hills.” He adds that on aerial quints, Pierce is getting more requests for 2,000-gpm pumps to satisfy the needs of the vehicles’ aerial waterways.
Wyatt Compton, product manager at Spartan ER, says that the company has been putting some 2,000-gpm and 2,250-gpm pumps in traditional sized custom pumpers. “We’re seeing a larger demand for the bigger pumps because fire departments are starting to rationalize the fire loads that are in their districts,” Compton notes. “As neighborhoods and business areas have grown and the departments are not getting more staffing, they are being asked to do more with their pumpers and aerial apparatus. So, fire departments going to 1,750-gpm and 2,000-gpm pumps want to have that reserve capacity.”
Zach Rudy, director of sales and marketing for Sutphen Corp., notes that while 1,500-gpm pumps on Type 1 pumpers are the standard, many departments are going bigger. “They are going to the 2,000-gpm Hale Qmax or a Waterous CSU-C20 2,000-gpm pump,” Rudy says. “We built a pumper for Pedernales (TX) Fire Department with a 2,000-gpm Waterous pump and a 1,000-gallon water tank, and on the industrial side, we built a pumper for Shell Refinery with a Waterous 4,000-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon foam tank along with an aerial with the same pump and a 100-gallon foam tank.”
Brad Williamson, industrial product manager for Ferrara Fire Apparatus, says that while a 1,500-gpm pump “is the most popular for the vast majority of fire departments, some of them are moving up to 1,750-gpm and 2,000-gpm pumps. We probably sell more 2,000-gpm pumps in that class of apparatus. Years ago, 2,000 gpm was a big pump, but now it’s small with industrial apparatus progressing to 3,000-gpm, 4,000-gpm, and 6,000-gpm US Fire Pumps.”
Paul Christiansen, Ferrara’s aerial sales manager, says Ferrara recently built a 102-foot rear-mount platform for Phillips 66 with a 4,000-gpm Waterous pump, a 3,000-gpm waterway, and a 300-gallon foam tank. “We also built a midmount platform for Sabic Plastics in Indiana with a 3,000-gpm rear-mount pump,” Christiansen adds. “For sure, this move to bigger pumps is a trend.”
2 Pierce Manufacturing Inc. built this custom pumper with a 2,000-gpm pump and 750-gallon water tank for the East Farmingdale (NY) Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing Inc.)
3 Spartan ER put a Hale Qmax 2,000-gpm pump and a 2,500-gallon water tank on this pumper-tanker for the Auburn (NM) Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo court>esy of Spartan ER.)
4 This custom pumper Sutphen built for the Kennebunk (ME) Fire Department has a 2,000-gpm Hale Qmax single-stage pump, a 1,000-gallon water tank, and a 30-gallon foam tank. (Photo courtesy of Sutphen Corp.)
5 Ferrara Fire Apparatus built this custom pumper for Exxon Mobil Beaumont Refining in Texas with a 3,000-gpm Hale 8FG pump. (Photo courtesy of Ferrara Fire Apparatus.)
Jeff Morris, president of Alexis Fire Equipment Company, says Alexis has been getting more requests for larger pumps on apparatus. “They want higher rates of flow for more applications,” Morris says. “The mainstay on pumper-tankers used to be 1,250-gpm to 1,500-gpm pumps, but now we are seeing 2,000-gpm pumps with big water loads.”
Dave Rider, director of aerial and industrial products for HME Ahrens-Fox, points out that for HME’s rural customers, the typical pumper still has a 1,500-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon water tank, while suburban fire districts will have the same size pump but a 750-gallon water tank. “For aerial ladders, 1,500-gpm pumps are typical and 400 to 500 gallons of water, but for platforms, most everyone wants a 2,000-gpm pump and 400 to 500 gallons of water.”
Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says his company’s customers typically want 1,250- to 1,500-gpm pumps on their pumpers, although the occasional department will go up to 2,000 gpm. “On an aerial quint, most of them will put a 2,000-gpm pump on it because they then get the [Insurance Services Office] full aerial credit and half a pumper credit,” Messmer observes. He adds that Summit recently built a pumper-tanker for the Clinton-Warren (OH) Fire Department with a 2,500-gpm MAC 1 pump and a 2,000-gallon water tank.
Mark Brenneman, assistant sales manager for 4 Guys Fire Trucks, says 4 Guys recently built a pumper-tanker for the Ashville (PA) Volunteer Fire Company #1 on a Spartan Gladiator chassis and cab with a Waterous CSU-C20 2,000-gpm pump and an 1,800-gallon polypropylene water tank. For the Hurley (NY) Fire District, Brenneman says 4 Guys built a pumper-tanker on a Spartan Gladiator chassis and cab with a Waterous CSU-C20 2,000-gpm pump and a 3,000-gallon polypropylene water tank. “Developments in pump technology are allowing these bigger rigs,” he says, “and smaller manifold pumps also are allowing bigger water tanks.”
Grant Spencer, vice president of Spencer Manufacturing, notes that all of the recent pumpers Spencer has built have carried 1,500-, 1,750-, or 2,000-gpm pumps. “As manpower struggles become more common, fire departments want to show up with as much water as possible and as big a pumping capacity as they can,” Spencer says. “When it comes to pumps, if it can fit on the pumper and they can afford it, they want it.”
6 Alexis built this elliptical pumper-tanker with a 2,000-gpm pump and 3,000-gallon water tank for the Campbelltown (PA) Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Fire Equipment Co.)
7 HME Ahrens-Fox built this aerial platform for the Vestal (NY) Fire Department with a 2,000-gpm pump and 400-gallon water tank. (Photo courtesy of HME Ahrens-Fox.)
8 This pumper-tanker with a 4,000-gallon water tank carries a 1,250-gpm Hale Sidekick PTO pump. (Photo courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)
9 4 Guys built this pumper-tanker on a Spartan Gladiator chassis and cab with a Waterous CSU-C20 2,000-gpm pump and a 3,000-gallon water tank for the Hurley (NY) Fire District. (Photo courtesy of 4 Guys Fire Trucks.)
BIGGER WATER TANKS TOO
Mechling says the size of water tanks varies widely among various fire districts from cities to suburban to rural districts. “In cities, you’re likely to see pumper water tanks in the 500-gallon range, but sometimes 750 gallons, while suburban pumpers will be carrying tanks of 750 gallons to 1,000 gallons,” he says. “When you get to rural departments, often you’re seeing 1,500-gallon to 3,000-gallon water tanks on pumper-tankers.” He notes that KME built a pumper-tanker on a tandem rear axle for the Bexar (TX) Fire Department with a 1,500-gpm Waterous pump and a 3,000-gallon water tank.
Sebo says that while the 500-gallon water tank has been a standard on custom engines for a number of years, “many fire departments are going to 750-gallon water tanks on their pumpers. However, those who want low hosebeds usually get a 500-gallon stepped water tank, although we can make a low hosebed with a 750-gallon tank on a longer body.”
Compton observes that the size of a pumper’s water tank depends on the type of environment the customer operates in. “In more rural environments, we’ve seen a move from a 1,000-gallon water tank to a 1,250-gallon tank, while those carrying only 500 gallons of water are moving up to 750 gallons to allow them the contingency of operating off of the booster tank a little bit longer.”
Rudy notes that his company has built a number of pumpers with 750- to 1,000-gallon water tanks for customers and has put 500-gallon water tanks on quints.
Morris points out that a 1,000-gallon water tank is “pretty much standard now on the pumpers we build, and on pumper-tankers 1,500-gallon to 2,000-gallon water tanks are common. Departments have more flexibility with water and pumping capacity, especially with less manpower available.”
Messmer agrees that water tanks on pumpers have gotten larger. “A 750-gallon water tank has become typical on suburban pumpers,” he says, “and with rural departments, you’re seeing pumpers with a water tank of a minimum of 1,000 gallons.”
Sebo sums up the trend of bigger pumps and water tanks on apparatus. “Pump manufacturers are working to improve the flow and horsepower needed to drive pumps,” he says. “They’re also making pumps much more efficient and in smaller packages, which gives apparatus manufacturers a lot of flexibility in building the rigs.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.