Don’t Waste Taxpayer’s Money on Big Pumps

In regards to the issue of fire departments equipping their new pumpers with super-sized pumps, I believe some departments have lost focus on the basic functional and hydraulic fundamentals of pumping apparatus.

27 Years Of Experience

I am a 27-year member of a suburban Connecticut volunteer fire department and an 18-year member and captain of an engine company in a large Connecticut city.

I have noticed a trend in the fire service to “super-size” many things. I don’t know if it’s a question of “keeping up with the Jones,” or a basic naïvete to the realities of simple fireground tactics and stream practices.

Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end with pumpers, as some of the recent rescues appear to be closer to malls on wheels than functional tactical apparatus. We seem to be building more monuments to committees than reasonable apparatus for our communities.

The shame of it is if you asked many of these departments to formulate intelligent, tangible justifications for these purchases, they couldn’t!

Some of the blame, I’m sure, lies in the manufacturing rep’s that could sell an Eskimo a screen door. It seems like when they smell the blood of naïve, financially lucrative departments (read, inexperienced committee members), they don’t miss an opportunity to pounce. They’ll claim their product would be great for their department and offer them a chance to be “on the leading edge,” and all kinds of other sales pitches.

The bottom line is, fire department’s are ultimately responsible for their own specifications.

Regarding the larger pumps, those in the 1,750 gpm and higher range, the logic I’ve heard has been wholly flawed.

Flow Capabilities

Most departments don’t adopt the whole package to fully appreciate the potential flow capabilities of these high-end pumps, sticking with 4-inch and smaller supply hose, 2.5-inch plumbing, 1,000 gpm master stream monitors, under-powered motors which can’t push big water long distances, smaller, restrictive, single-point inlets, and the list goes on.

It Doesn’t Make Sense

It just doesn’t make sense to order a new pumper with a 2,000 gpm, two-stage pump if the department doesn’t draft, uses only 4-inch supply hose, has deck guns and monitors with 1,000 gpm tips and antiquated water main systems incapable of flowing big water.

Nor does it make sense to get a big pump when supply lines are 4-inch hose to a steamer-mounted 4-inch Storz piston intake, and hose lays of less than 300 feet.

Collectively, this represents a total lack of understanding of realistic fireground hydraulics and a complete waste of taxpayers dollars. More so, it represents a continuing trend in the fire service to stray farther from the basics, and more towards impulse driven, fad-oriented purchasing habits.

I’ve seen it, as many others have, first-hand at the trade shows. It’s lights, sirens, chrome, key chains, freebies, “gotta-have-one-of-each,” make mine bigger than his, cost is no object, deer in the headlights purchasing!

Our own people, walking around the floors of these shows, starry-eyed, with a pocket full of purchase orders, and more accoutrements hanging off their belts than one can count. Visions of grandeur, and not a clue! They’re all too eager to fall prey to the latest trend… “bigger is better!”

To borrow a phrase from Larry Davis, “someday, a department will build a fire station on wheels, and the contest will be over!”

Reasonable Argument

I’m sure there may be some departments out there that can formulate a reasonable argument for their “super-sized” fire pumps. It would probably be our rural brethren who can pump big water through 5-inch hose from draft some 3,000 feet to the fire.

But by and large, most are simply misguided warriors all dressed up with no reasonable war to go to.

Keep it real fire service, stick to the basics and stop wasting the taxpayers money.

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