By Ricky Riley
Last month I wrote about the option of a front suction on your fire truck. I’m a proponent of this option and have seen it prove its worth on more than a few incidents. It requires practice and a thorough knowledge of your response area, the operator’s ability to judge distances, and the capabilities of the swivel to reduce kinks. Front suction can be a great choice for your apparatus if your department so desires.
But if your department chooses not to place this option on your next rig, we have to be able to get water into the engine, quint, or rescue-engine any way we can. If you are in the business of supplying attack lines or supply lines, one of your main concerns is the intake of water into the fire pump. Depending on tank water for an attack, with no plan for a continuous water supply, is a dangerous way to do business. Having choices for the driver/operator or chauffer to receive water and establish a continuous water intake can be accomplished in a number of ways.
At Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue, along with our front suctions, we have a number of different ways to receive water from a hydrant or from another fire department unit. One of the additions on each engine is a manual intake valve at each six-inch inlet for the fire pump with a hose trough directly underneath capable of holding up to 50 feet of five-inch supply line. With one on each side, it affords the driver/operator the ability to choose which side he wants to use to hook to the hydrant using the side intake.
Our current side inlets have the 50 feet of five-inch preconnected to the intake valves for rapid deployment. This set up also keeps any dirt and debris from entering the manual intake valves. Along with the 50-foot sections connected to each side, each unit also has a 25-foot section that is stored on the apparatus in case the driver/operator needs to shorten the length or in case he has to extend the line for any reason. Side inlets provide a great option for water supply decisions. Having a continuous water supply plan for the first engine and the ability to use a number of choices to accomplish this task has increased our operational effectiveness on the incident scenes.
There are a number of options for continuous and reliable water and certainly not just the way we’re operating in Clearwater. The valve manufacturers have a number of different manual intake valves on the market and the slimness and versatility of these valves continues to progress each year. There are also a number of behind-the-pump-panel valves both electrically or air operated that can clear up your pump panel from externally mounted intake valves. These behind-the-pump valves place all the piping and valve controls out of sight, which can be a costly option but one that works very well on a lot of apparatus. I would consult with your apparatus manufacturer to discuss the possible cost increase in the pump house if you choose the behind the pump panel valve.
For those who don’t use large-diameter hose (LDH), don’t forget about the simplest option—a gated wye attached to pump inlets will do a great job receiving three-inch supply lines. Also, this is a little easier on the department’s finances than the LDH intakes. Of course, we could still just use the pump’s 2.5- or three-inch inlets that come standard on most pumps, usually positioned below the steamer connections on each side of the pump.
I cannot reiterate enough to departments with units that supply attack lines and supply lines that a continuous water supply plan cannot be an afterthought. This should be planned out with apparatus specification and purchases. Your plan must be practiced and rehearsed on every run possible. Fire companies cannot depend on that next engine to get a water supply established. Laying supply lines and having myriad ways to introduce water into the pump should be preplanned for each emergency. This will ensure you get water to your rig—any way that you can!
RICKY RILEY is operations chief for the Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and a member of the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as chief of department. He also served for 20 years with the Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue before his retirement in 2005.