I would like to get some recommendations on operating fire apparatus in cold weather.  Freeze-ups get expensive and no-one likes having apparatus out of service.  Please provide your recommendation for enroute, on-scene, and on standby. 


Thanks in advance!


Views: 4239

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Enroute, take it slow and steady. On scene, for an engine, circulate the pump if not actually pumping water, it's all that's needed. Make sure nozzles are cracked open for lines put into service but not actually in use. For ladder trucks/quints, as well as circulating the pump, make sure the elevated master stream is completely drained after use by putting it as vertical as it will go before bedding it. If ice is built up on the ladder do not knock it with hand tools, or try to retract it with thick ice built up, simply turn it to slush with a handline. As far as standby, I'm not following you. When we're put on standby we stay in station, or simply move up to another station and make quarters there. Clean all equipment thoroughly as soon as you return to quarters.
Standby is when you are not flowing water onto the fire, the pump should run in recirculation back to your tank. This way the water is not sitting in the pipes and valves. The flow and the volume of water in the tank will take it longer to freeze than stagnant water in the pipes.
Standby meaning on-scene but investigating, awaiting assignment, or possibly overhaul.
There is a school of thought that keeping the tank-to-pump and the tank fill valves open enroute will help. The water will slosh around through the valves because of the truck's movement. Just heard of it... not too sure about it's effectiveness...
I am in Canada so I can understand your concerns. You should not worry to much about freezing enroute your trucks should be warm enough in the hall that nothing will freeze while driving. On scene always keep hose lines open at least a bit never close them off completely. The pump will heat up quickly if your not pumping water out ie. on standby, it will heat the water in your tank and damage the pump. Pumps dont like hot water. This I know we just spent $10,000 to have our pump repaired. And one more thing, never park the pump or apparatus where ice may form under or around them from draining, overflow and runoff. This can cause injuries to crew and it may make it difficult to move the trucks when leaving the scene. We call in the county sander to sand after we leave the scene if there is ice on the roads. Stay safe.
There is a school of thought that keeping the tank-to-pump and the tank fill valves open enroute will help. The water will slosh around through the valves because of the truck's movement.

It is always good to exercise the valves routinely, just opening and closing them as well as keeping them lubricated. Discharge caps are another thing you want to take off routinely and ensure the threads are dry. (we use a small spray bottle with anti-freeze for caps to keep from from freezing.

Keeping the tank-to-pump and fill open really isn't going to hurt anything, the operator only has to put the pump in gear and the pump will recirculate. It helps to have the tank fill valve about halfway open to help create heat. Also check the rig over, chances are you may have a heat exchange or pump heater valve. Some rigs have heat pans, a thin plate that fits on the underside of the rig to keep the pump enclosed. Such pans should be removed for summer, when overheating becomes the problem.
I see you are from Montana and a concern for the cold is an understandable one. A couple of things to keep in mind:

The fire engine and the water inside its tank will be the temperature of your apparatus bay. If you keep the bay warm then you are buying extra time when you are out on the road. The colder it is outside the warmer you could keep the apparatus bay, within reason.

While responding, remember you also have wind chill working against you. I would prefer to keep my fire pump wet (tank to pump valve open). You have to stay on top of pump packing adjustment to do this so you don’t drain the tank out in station. The reason why is it’s possible to freeze small amounts of water much faster than large amounts of water. If you freeze even a small amount of water inside a fire pump it’s not good. The old front mount fire pumpers with their fire pumps on the front bumper would have radiator hoses running hot coolant through a heating jacket on the pump to keep it warm in the cold weather.

When on stand-by, engage the pump and bring the rpm’s of the engine up. The exhaust under the engine will rise up and help keep the little things like pressure gauge lines from freezing. Realize also that a spinning impeller inside a fire pump that is flowing no water will build heat quickly. The speed of temperature rise is directly proportional to the amount of diesel fuel you are burning in the engine. Be very careful to always keep water moving enough to not overheat the water in the pump.

On-scene is a challenge. In really cold weather you need to pick up hose quickly after the heat of the fire goes away. Pick up what you can as fast as you can. Keep the rest flowing water as best you can. Once you use the warm water in your tank you will refill it with water in the 40’s from the hydrant. It will freeze quickly in the hose first and then everywhere else next. If you are stuck in overhaul forever keep your pressure in the pump at attack pressure and re-circulate the water through your tank. Don’t let your hydrant and soft suction hose freeze. Shut down the hydrant and drain the hose back into the hydrant without disconnecting to keep everything serviceable.

If your hose and nozzles freeze you have options. If you have access to an engine or tender with warm tank water then run that water over and through the frozen appliance enough to unfreeze it to get it reloaded or thrown up on top of the engine to get it back to the station. If something freezes hard then it will need to be checked carefully to make sure no damage was done.

Stay warm Brother.
RV anti freeze in the pump will help, and it's non toxic. We usually put a gallon in the pump. This is in Central Ohio. If you are in a colder climate you could spec. the truck so the muffler is in the pump compartment with sheet metal to box in the bottom to help warm the compartment. And an onboard generator could power a tank heater fairly easily.
We raise the temperature in our stations depending upon the temperature outside -- it is set at 50 degrees all fall, goes up to 60 for nights in the single digits, and 65 for nights below zero. It costs more money but getting the thermal mass of your booster tank warm buys you time before things start to freeze, which is important because our response area entails some 12 mile, 20 minute response times (mutual aid can be even further). Last night it was -5 and tonight it will probably be the same.

Our guidelines say that when a pumper gets on scene, the operator should open the tank to pump and tank fill valves, engage the pump and let the water circulate with the engine rpm raised (a good idea given that in winter most calls are in darkness and the scene lights add an extra load to the batteries). One pumper has a pump compartment electric heater which we turn on when the engine is started before leaving the station.
In winter, we drain all the water from the pump and discharges on our tanker as its primary function is to ferry water, not pump it.

We haven't had any problems when we've been pumping on a cold night with lines/fittings/valves freezing, but you have to be very careful if lines are shut down because they'll freeze instantly. Leaving a nozzle slightly open to let water flow is good, but you have to be real careful to avoid creating a fall hazard from a quick freeze skating rink. We carry pails of kitty litter and salt/sand mixture on our truck to help with safety on ice, as well as pull on ice cleats (32 North) for firefighters to put on over their boots if it's very icy -- a serious necessity when you have calls in ice storms for vehicle accidents or trees/wires down.

Breaking down hoselines after pumping in the cold is pretty iffy because they freeze so quickly -- we sheared a gated wye one night when picking up -- the firefighter tried to shut off the two lines and the balls inside the valve sheared from the stem -- ouch! We now carry an automatic lighting propane torch and small bottle to use to heat the couplings to help unthaw them -- you need to be sure to wear gloves because it is easy to get them pretty hot. We carry extra gloves and hoods on our pumpers so firefighters can put on dry ones when their hands or hair gets wet.

We have put RV antifreeze in our portable pumps but we haven't tried in in the apparatus pumps.

We usually load hose in someone's pickup after breaking down and bring it back to the station to thaw before trying to reload it -- last weekend we were on mutual aid to another town at a structure fire and helped them reload before we were released and you constantly had to break chunks of ice off the hose when you were loading the mattydales.

The biggest problem we've had was after putting out a partition fire one morning a few years ago in a snowstorm at 5 degrees. Because we had to overhaul to get at the root of the fire, we had charged but not flowing lines inside for close to an hour before we were sure it was all out. When we broke down, the lines and nozzles were OK (they were in the nice warm building), but two of the preconnect valves froze and sheared when they were closed -- forcing us to take the truck out of service for a day before we could jury rig a shutoff, and costing us nearly $500 in repairs to replace the valves. In that instance, we had circulated the water and had the pump heater on but the valves still froze.

When we discussed cold operations at a drill a couple weeks ago, we discussed that call and decided it would be better to shut the pump down, drain the hoses, cap the discharges, and return to station and crank the heat up to 80 for a couple hours in the bay to let the valves thaw before we tried to close them -- it might cost us a few hours out of service but that beats days out for an inoperable valve.

It isn't just the equipment that needs thawed out -- the last time we lost a structure (2002) it was a viciously cold windy day around 10 degrees. After working on scene all afternoon, I and some other firefighters were picked up in a van to ride down to our station to warm up (1 mile away) and when we got there, our gear had frozen so stiff we had to be helped out of the van.
pump house heaters an belly pan heaters
Then you should circulate the pump.
Excellent and well put. The only thing we do in addition to what Doug has said is that each apparatus carries road salt. On scene, the operator salts around the apparatus and at the point of entry to the structure or anywhere else that might pose an ice/slip/fall hazard. Also, when leaving the scene we open all of the discharge/intake drains. We drain everything but the pump. We keep our pumps wet. For scenes where the apparatus are standing by or not operating, the operators circulate the water from the pump back into the tank by engaging their pumps, opening the tank to pump valve and slightly opening the tank fill valve. En route, the operators drive with extra caution.
Being a Truck Officer, our main concern is our main ladder or stick. We don't elevate it without reason and actual use. as far as it freezing over, we were guilty of breaking the ice with tools, but we will try Doug's suggestion of turning it to slush with a handline next time. Thank you!

Reply to Discussion


Find Members Fast

Or Name, Dept, Keyword
Invite Your Friends
Not a Member? Join Now

© 2024   Created by Firefighter Nation WebChief.   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact Firefighter Nation  |  Terms of Service