From Water Flow to Transfer Applications, Portable Pumps Prove Themselves

Portable pumps continue to have their specialized uses, especially when firefighters simply can’t get a larger apparatus-based fire pump close enough to make a difference on a fire scene.

Portable pump systems are being offered in a wide variety of types and models-from hand-carried versions to skid-loaded units-and firefighters are finding an array of uses.

Jim Darley, national sales manager for Darley Company’s fire pump division, says Darley makes three different models of portable pumps, with all its pumps and engines being modular so they can be mixed and matched. “Our largest portable, the HE model that’s used for water transfer, has a four-inch suction and can be coupled to an 18-horsepower (hp) or 23-hp engine,” Darley says. “This is a direct-drive model and is great for volume flows for filling tankers, but it won’t do more than 70 pounds per square inch (psi).”

Another direct-drive model that Darley Co. makes is the 2BE model, which Darley says is a multipurpose pump with a three-inch suction that can be driven by a 23-hp Briggs & Stratton engine, a 21-hp Honda engine, a 23-hp Vanguard engine, or a 24-hp Kubota diesel engine. “We use it on our skid units and sell it to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who are building skid units,” he notes. “It’s useful in flowing water through a one-inch booster line or a 1½-inch hoseline but also can be plumbed with a 2½-inch discharge.”

Darley Co. makes the 2BE series portable pump that's often used in skid units. Shown here in the 2BE23V model; this pump is driven by a 23-horsepower Vanguard engine. (Photo courtesy of Darley Co.)
Darley Co. makes the 2BE series portable pump that’s often used in skid units. Shown here in the 2BE23V model; this pump is driven by a 23-horsepower Vanguard engine. (Photo courtesy of Darley Co.)

Darley points out that the 2BE model will generate in excess of 400 gallons per minute (gpm) at low pressures. “At 140 psi, it can do 100 gpm, and at 110 psi it can do 200 gpm, enough for two 1½-inch hoselines,” he says.

Darley also makes the 1.5AGE, a gear-driven, engine-drive portable pump. “We put the gearbox between the pump and the engine, which allows the operator to not have to work the engine so hard,” Darley points out. “If we use an engine capable of 3,600 revolutions per minute (rpm), and with a 2.7 gearbox ratio, we will have the pump impeller spinning in excess of 9,000 rpm. We can modify the impellers inside the pump casings to give higher volume or pressure depending on what is needed.”

Other portable pumps Darley makes are the 2.5AGE, a gearbox and engine-driven pump with a 2½-inch pipe-threaded suction that is capable of higher flows than the 1.5AGE; the Hercules, a four-inch suction pump mounted on a Rotax 582 gasoline engine that also is available in a skid-mounting version or for mounting on a boat; the HE10.5 floating pump powered by a Briggs & Stratton 10½-hp engine; and the HE11H floating pump powered by an 11-hp Honda engine.

Gasoline or Diesel Power

Jerry Halpin, vice president of sales and marketing for CET Fire Pumps, says his company’s most popular models are powered by both gasoline and diesel engines ranging from 20 to 60 hp. “A predominant number of those pumps are used for some kind of structural fire up to the point where you have to flow 1,000 gpm,” Halpin says. “They might be used on a garage or small house fire; a dumpster; or grass, brush, and wildland fires. Beyond the 40-hp range, the portable pump gets too heavy to get picked up, so you usually find them mounted to a vehicle or small trailer.”

Performance of those portable pumps ranges from 150 gpm at 100 psi to up to 750 gpm at 200 to 300 psi, Halpin points out. “The midrange pumps are used for firefighting, while the higher volume portable pumps are used for moving water around.”

CET Fire Pumps makes portable pumps with engines ranging from two to 18 hp typically mounted on utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), Halpin adds. “Above that size, you’ll see our portables on pickups, flatbeds, and other vehicles designed for off-road use or to fit in spaces where larger fire apparatus can’t go.”

This PFP model pump made by CET Fire Pumps is mounted as a skid unit on the back of a fire vehicle. The pull-out trays are for handlines. (Photo courtesy of CET Fire Pumps.)
This PFP model pump made by CET Fire Pumps is mounted as a skid unit on the back of a fire vehicle. The pull-out trays are for handlines. (Photo courtesy of CET Fire Pumps.)

Wildland Use

Gregg Geske, foam and CAFS product manager for Waterous, says his company’s PB18 series portable pumps usually are mounted in skid units for grass and brush fire rigs and also for wildland vehicles. “These units have a wraparound base so they can be dropped off to be used at a water source,” Geske points out.

The 18-hp series is set up for three types of pumps, Geske notes. “The first is the 3030C, a transfer pump that gives high flows at lower pressures; then there is the 2515B, a pump used on a skid unit with a hose reel or to fill a water tank; and the 2015G, a geared portable pump with a two-inch intake and a 1½-inch discharge, set up for wildland use where you don’t need a big flow but rather higher pressure.”

Waterous also makes the E300 and E500 series of portable pumps, Geske says. “The most popular models are the diesel-powered E500, E501, and E502 models that often are installed on a mini pumper because they can do higher pressures,” he says. “We also sell portable pump packages that truck builders mount on different engines and also skid unit applications.”

Gavin Coleman, product manager for portable pumps for Hale Products Inc., says Hale makes portable pumps for wildland use, fire attack, and water transfer. Wildland pumps have the highest pressures but lowest flows, he notes, while the water transfer portables are at the other end of the spectrum with lower operating pressures and higher water flows. Attack portable pumps are medium-pressure and medium-flow pumps, he says.

3 The HP400-B18 portable pump that Hale Products makes is typically used for water transfer. This model is powered by an 18-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine but can accommodate a 23-horsepower Briggs & Stratton. (Photo courtesy of Hale Products
The HP400-B18 portable pump that Hale Products makes is typically used for water transfer. This model is powered by an 18-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine but can accommodate a 23-horsepower Briggs & Stratton. (Photo courtesy of Hale Products.)

“In wildland firefighting, you don’t want to get too close to the fire, so you need high pressure to deliver the water farther,” Coleman says. “Wildland firefighting is mostly about managing the fire. Using an attack pump, the firefighter might take on a small house or other structure. Our water transfer pumps might be used to boost the feed to a vehicle pump, especially if you are running hoses over long stretches of land where you might want a booster pump in the middle.”

Hale’s popular wildland model is the HP75-B18, a Briggs & Stratton 18-hp powered pump that has a 125-gpm maximum flow at 250 psi, Coleman says. Its most popular portable attack pump is the HP200-B18 that will flow 250 gpm, and its popular water transfer portable is the HP400-B23, powered by a Briggs & Stratton 23-hp engine flowing up to 500 gpm at 20 psi, he notes.

Floating Pumps

Geske notes that Waterous has built more than 15,000 Floto floating pumps since the 1970s. “We have a high-pressure model you can drop into a water source and use it for wildland firefighting,” he says, “and a volume Floto pump used for filling water tanks and also fighting fires from boats. Both units have 1½-inch discharges.”

Hale also makes the Fyr Flote floating fire pump that flows 150 gpm at 10 psi and 20 gpm at 150 psi and the Super Chief floating fire pump, where the pump and engine assembly can be detached from the float. The Super Chief will flow 420 gpm at 7 psi and 10 gpm at 50 psi. “The real distinction of a portable pump,” Coleman adds, “is that it is not tied into the driveline of a truck.”


ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is 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.

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