For many of us here in California, wildfires season last all year round because of drought, high temperatures and excessive fuel loads in our back country. This post reviews four basic methods to move water for wildland fire suppression activities.

Below are four examples of evolutions that were done in a training environment to prepare our personnel responsible for pumping water either from a manmade or natural water source. The methods shown below include:

1. Fold-A-Tank & Flotopump
2. Type III Drafting
3. Mark IV Backpack Fire Pump
4. Water Eductors

1. Flotopump & Fold-A-Tank

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This is a good example of using the Flotopump. This video demonstrates the starting of the pump and the resulting discharged water through a 1.5" hose with a taskforce tip nozzle. A key point about Flotopumps... I remember hearing how some firefighters had recently received a new Flotopump. They took it to a beautiful lake that had an island way out in the middle of the lake. Well, they started the Flotopump but did not have the discharge hooked up to fire hose as well as not tethering the pump to the shore with a safety line. What happened? Just picture a jet ski because that's exactly what they saw. The Flotopump took off across the lake and didn't stop until it beached itself on the shore, and it kept on running...

2. Type III Drafting Operation from a Lake for Water Supply

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Regardless, whether you are operating a Type III or a Type 1 engine, pumps are pumps. This video demonstrates the Fire Engineer getting the pump primed and then successfully drafting through sections of hard suction. The water supply is a lake. One thought here that I really liked about our new hard suction on the Type III's is that the hose is clear. It's kind of cool to see the water travel through the hose line. It's a nice confirmation that you are drafting water through the pump.

3. MarK IV Backpack Water Pump Using Stream for Water Supply

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The USFS has been using these for a long time. They love it as we do because it breaks down into pieces, making it easy to share the load between hotshot crew members who pack it in and use streams for water sources. Note that the pump has been placed onto a protective ground cloth. You also want to make sure that the pump does not vibrate itself into the stream... Watch out for any kinks in the hose. Can you see one in the video?

4. Water Eductor Demonstration Pumping Water from 55-Gallon Drum

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Using water eductors is a great way to pull water out of places that a portable pump or engine cannot get to. While this video demonstrates the eductor working in a 55-gallon drum filled with water, the principle remains the same. Pump water through the eductor and a venturi effect results, creating a vacuum that draws the water from the source and enables you to not only pump the water that you had in your water tank but an additional amount thanks to the eductor. How much you can draw depends on the size of the water eductor.

I hope this is a good format for sharing fire department training information.

Mike Schlags, Fire Captain
Santa Barbara County Fire Department

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Hey Mike, great stuff man

It is always good to see how others approach things that you see as routine or hum drum. We need to be prepared to look and learn, we also need to be challenged about what we have always accepted as "this is how we have always done it". Looking and learning does not mean that what we have always done is wrong but it does offer an opportunity to reevaluate it against other viable options that you may not have previously considered.

1. Fold-A-Tank & Flotopump
We have used floating pumps and they are good if you don't have weed in the pond otherwise they don't suck! We carry portable 5000 litre floating rim dams on our trucks. These are a two man operation to carry and setup.

2. Type III Drafting
This is generally simply known as main pump drafting. We do sometimes setup this way but if you do you would usually be base pump feeding trucks further away, possibly through a relay. We also carry a portable high volume low pressure pump for places where you can't get a truck close.

3. Mark IV Backpack Fire Pump
My old (and very noisy) friend the Wajax Mk-3 pump. Used extensively here in wildland firefighting, an excellent tool that only requires really good hearing protection and some basic training to operate.

4. Water Eductors
We call them "inductors" and have one that is one of the very best systems I have seen to date. It is known as the Water Dragon and it can produce fire streams of up to 26 l/s (350 gpm) operating from a remote static source.

I will locate some clips of these in operation in a New Zealand setting and post them when I can.
Jeez guys I hadn't realised that things had got that bad. Is it the water companies or the water shortage that is getting in the way of you having access to water from the hydrants for testing and training?

Here our fire laws allow firefighters and fire brigades to take water, from anywhere, at anytime (except during a civil defence emergency).
Trafitionally it was up to the Brigades here to test the hydrants in their areas. We'd look for general condition, missing markers, things like that and also show water from each one. We now do none of it. Apparently the private water companies didn't like having to send out crews on weekends to fix the problems we found. So now we just have to hope that the hydrants work near a house fire.

We're still allowed to use hydrants in emergencies of course, and can fill at any time after training. But even water use for training has had to be scaled back because of the drought. Training still takes place, but not to the extent we'd like to do it!

Even the yearly pressure testing of hoses - we've been told that we should test hoses as we use them at a job. Presumably 'they' mean after the fire is out? Like that's going to happen. Imagine, crews of volunteers, at oh-dark-30, having just worked at a house fire hanging around on scene to test each hose for x minutes at y pressure. Some of us like the idea of trying to get an hour or so on the pillow before getting up for work! And I'm sure the career guys would be no keener on that idea than we are.
Tony said "Even the yearly pressure testing of hoses - we've been told that we should test hoses as we use them at a job. Presumably 'they' mean after the fire is out?"

The powers that be sometimes (or is it oftentimes?) have rocks in their heads. To properly test hose it must be cleaned first, can you do that on the fireground? You also need good lighting so a visual inspection can take place before you pressure test said hose.
HOLY COW! Nope, dont get that bad up here. But its due to happen sooner or later.

Also as a reply to your questions about the 6x's we call them that because its a dual rear tire axle, and single tires up front, making it 6 tires in all. And they are GREAT off road. The thing is slow as all get out but it gets the job done.

God speed to you and yours for having fires like that, I can only imagine the chaos!
With wildland season right around the corner for many of us, or happening as we speak for those in Texas, are we all ready to provide alternative water sources this year? New Zealand and Southern CA use the same things! We are so much alike, one would think we train together... oh yea, we do!


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