A few years ago, my volunteer fire department was looking at lowering the fire insurance rating, which was at the time a 9E rating. One of the problems we had, like many other departments in getting a lower grade in the North Carolina Response Rating Schedule, was water supply. How to get available water sources? If the fire district had hydrants throughout the district, that would have made the process a lot easier. But that was not the case.
What to do? Look for water — ponds, creeks and rivers. So that’s what we did and we found them. The next problem was how to get the water from the water source to the tanker efficiently. A lot of the water points we located were not accessible for a fire engine to get close enough to pump. That got me to thinking on how we could pump water from the source to the tanker.
This was the same time I was attending a weekend fire school in the eastern part of North Carolina. On one of my class breaks I saw a truck in the parking lot with a gas motor and a small pump attached to it. Then I had an idea. Why can I not take a fire rated pump with its own motor and attach it in the bed of a 4X4 truck. This off-road pump truck would be able to get to the necessary water points due to the size and weight of the vehicle. How does it work? Great.
The truck my current department has is a Sterling 4×4 diesel. The pump is a four-cylinder diesel motor with a 1250 gallon per minute pump direct drive. It has six, six-inch hard suction hoses eight feet long with a floating strainer for drafting. The truck carries 800 feet of five-inch hose for supply line that is attached to a water thief which has four 2 1/2-inch gate values for filling trucks. To help keep the pump cool we added a delouse gun so it can keep water flowing if need be.
The other benefits include using it for reverse lays in hydrant areas. In bad weather or in locations where the engine cannot respond, such as over small bridges, low clearance areas and ruff driveways, it is used to lay a supply line from the road to the fire and use the pump truck as a pumper. One of the major advantages is price. Why spend $350,000 or more for an engine when you can build a pump truck for around $100,000? Another factor is safety. Almost everything needed to set up for water supply is at ground level and it can be set up with one person, although I recommend two.
In the county I volunteer we have two fire departments with pump trucks — Franklin Vol. Fire Dept. and Four Way Vol. Fire Dept. These departments run automatic aid with the surrounding departments and have lower insurance ratings as well as being a big benefit to the county and surrounding areas.