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Water truck: How big it too big (Fire)

Discussion in 'Trucks' started by totalloser, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. totalloser

    totalloser Well-Known Member

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    Hey folks, hoping to solicit some advice. My local FD is in the market for a new water tender and a debate is going on about whether a three axle is too big. We currently are running a couple two axle trucks. One 2500 gallons, the other 2000. My first inclination is bigger would be better so we were looking at picking up a 3 axle AWD truck and putting a 4000ish gallon SS tank on it.

    A few of local water haulers running similar trucks think it's a terrible idea, too big.

    We are rural, and the closest we have to a hydrant are 2.5" standpipes in a few places, charged with low pressure. It's a real challenge to get adequate water to a heavily involved structure, even with mutual aid resources. We are mostly on marginally maintained twisty mountain roads.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. CRAFT

    CRAFT Senior Member

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    We had the same issue as you guys …. there is no such thing as too much or too big when fighting fire, especially when there is no luxury of having endless water thru a hydrant or from a Lake source …..We were very seriously looking at a tandem (or as you call a three axle) tender with the same 4000 gal sized tank ….. BUT ! ….. we wound up with an '05 Pete single axle air brakes, with 21,000 miles and a 2200 gal tank it had a 750gpm Berkley with an air shift live pto ….. Not a bad little rig ! ….. Our reason for going with it was ONLY because any member that was/does drive it had to have a CDL ….. out of our 25 member hall I was the only one with that, and to put others thru the training to get them the CDL was too costly, very unfortunate ….. I found that when shopping for a rig that the tandems were almost cheaper to buy only because the singles were more in demand, nation wide the dealers could ask more for the singles because they are easier to sell (law of supply and demand) …. at a larger hall 10 miles from ours, which we do mutual aid to and visa-versa, has such a tender (tandem w/4000gal), last year they had that problem where alot of the older members retired and the newer/younger members did not have a CDL …. they were forced to park that tender for about a year until they had some trained. At that time I volunteered to assist them to drive it in case of a major incident, which luckily never came about.

    As in your case, if you guys don't have those type of problems, I would ONLY go with that type of three axle AWD truck you speak of …. the wheel base and turning radius of the 2 rigs are not that much apart (maybe 2' OAL) and being that I was a log hauler (6&7 axle rigs,usually 2 trailers that decked on the back of the truck when empty) we found that the tandems with dual axle lockers will go more places in mud and snow than the single axle loaded up shop trucks would/could go.

    I am really curious where this is going to go for you, and what your hall will wind up with …… Good-luck with coming up with the right solution ! ….cheers
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  3. totalloser

    totalloser Well-Known Member

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    CA recently changed from the "firefighter class B" which is the same test as commercial, but restricted. Now we have a new system where firefighter endorsement is on the class C. I converted to commercial so I could be an instructor, but everyone eventually licensed under this new plan will be able to drive class A equipment. Our dept is Albion-Little River actually, Fort Bragg is just the closest city.

    Currently we require a chief sign-off to roll any equipment. Starting with rescues, then licensing and approval for rolling heavy apparatus, and then again to be cleared to roll tenders. I think if we have a 3 axle water truck, it will be another special sign off by the chief. But technically any FF with class C with FF endorsement can drive classA.

    I personally think that due to load spread and rubber on the ground is a safer and more effective way to go if proper caution is exercised. But we have received dire warning from a handful of firefighters and a few private water truck operators. What we really need IMO is a custom build. We won't be able to buy another truck for a long time, so SS tank on a heavy (not deuce) military surplus chassis.

    http://memphisequipment.com/files/trucks/M920_8X6_TRUCK_FLYER.pdf

    These things are pretty cheap with low miles-$20k range. Dual 58k drivers with air lockers in the rears, with a 20k drop axle and a 20k driven steer axle. 16 speed ratchet shift auto, internal (not exhaust) engine brake, s-cam brakes.
     
  4. truckdoctor

    truckdoctor Well-Known Member

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    Just out of curiosity, what is the issues the nay sayers have with three axle tankers? I'm wondering what there reason is for not wanting the extra capacity available.
     
  5. stinkycat

    stinkycat Well-Known Member

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    Having been in 2 shipboard fires all I can say is there never enough water. We had a whole ocean of water but no power so we had to use emergency "P250" gas fire pumps but you never have enough water. The city of Tijuana Mexico has no fire mains only 2 axle water trucks I would sure hate to be there in a big fire
     
  6. heavylift

    heavylift Senior Member

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    All the wind farms I have worked on use their 3000 gallon trucks to fight fires and/or support local fire departments.
    Almost a weekly deal when we were in Oklahoma, the trucks were kept full at all times.
    About half of them had remote water cannons on the top of the tank.
    They did require a class A, plus tanker endorsement.
     
  7. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    All wheel drive makes for an expensive, custom, high sitting, bad steering, rough riding truck. I would not get it. Tandem rears with full lockers will go some amazing places even with a dead front axle. You don't need to be off road with a truck this big anyway, though, that is what fire hose is for. Some fire departments around here have been known to scour the truck papers for a used chassis that fits their needs, then building the water tender buildup on that. You can get a big motor, good transmission, (they still use Roadrangers here, the thinking is if you can't drive a stick you don't need to be operating such a big truck at all), and generally bigger, heavier stuff than you could afford if buying all new. Remember most FD water tenders will hardly run a thousand miles a year, so that new truck will be a new antique someday. In most cases a water truck builder would make one that works just as well and cheaper as one that has that "fire" cost doubler in the description.

    Anyway, back to the original question, what are the water truck guys saying is wrong with big? They ought to know something. But just the same, I think big is the way to go, so long as it will fit down most roads. Reverse is a perfectly good gear to drive in if you need to. Driver training is essential.
     
  8. totalloser

    totalloser Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for the insight and replies. To answer follow up questions regarding why to go smaller, the issue is driver safety. Those against getting something bigger think either more axles or more weight is just too much of a risk. I disagree with the more axles reasoning- not even sure I understand the reasoning, but the more weight, water slosh, surge and slant gives me pause.

    As to all wheel drive, the idea is not to go off-roading. Too many times we have had a truck get stuck turning around, which takes a piece of equipment out of service at a critical time, and potentially closes an escape route. The times we get stuck historically have been almost all on structure fires, and mostly trying to get equipment turned around. I agree that a custom build high sitting modified to front drive, is not a good idea. Rough riding is fine with me, high sitting is not.

    The concept of a 3000 gallon tank on a class A chassis has been floated. I am not personally a big fan, I'd like to bring more water. But 3000 would be a better size for out of unit (strike team) deployment. (On a 3+ axle truck)

    Seems like most folks are thinking for the most part similarly to I am, anyone feel like playing devil's advocate?
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  9. dsmitht343

    dsmitht343 Member

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    If your going 3000 or more tandem is the only way to go. I agree dual lockers are outstanding in less than desirable conditions.
     
  10. dsmitht343

    dsmitht343 Member

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    Also when you are looking at tanks make sure you get one fully baffled. There is a Usfs and an napa standard on the baffles. Also look into quick dump valves. There are different trains of thought regarding tank size and the speed of reloading at a fill point. Some say smaller is better for shuttle operations due to the fact that they reload faster. Personally the smallest tender I have worked with has been 2500 gallons. With tenders that size I wouldn't recommend sirens on a tender some departments won't allow anything but amber warning lights on their tenders.
     
  11. dsmitht343

    dsmitht343 Member

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    Dang auto correct nfpa
     
  12. nickbowers

    nickbowers Senior Member

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    over here we call for bulk water which comes in a semi tanker with 45,000lt.
    Then just use a pumper to get it out.
     
  13. 06Pete

    06Pete Well-Known Member

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    I think a three axle or maybe even one with a lift axle giving you 4 axles would be the way to go. I think a bigger truck will be safer as my tri axle handles way better with a load than my single axle stopping power and sway. I would stay away from awd for turning radus full locking rears will get you there if you should be there. I would love to be in a position to build a truck like that personaly I would find a older cabover without a sleeper with a big engine and install locking rears and a 8LL trans and about a 4500+ gal. stainless tank. That would keep the truck as short as possable and give a good turning radis. My dept uses custom built pumper tankers that are a mile long and loaded down with so much crap the three axle only holds 2250 gal. but we have a good mutual aid system and always get enough water. Good luck with your build.
     
  14. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    Also, I forgot to mention that I have seen many fire departments go to extreme lengths to avoid a third axle. This is foolish, in my opinion. Especially with the outrageous axle loadings that are now allowed on fire trucks in California. The best thing you gain with a third axle is another set of brakes, which is the most abused part of a fire truck.

    I think that generally speaking, axle loads for fire trucks should be lower than commercial vehicles, since they have to perform to a higher standard. To quote a wise fire mechanic, the apparatus has 2 pedals (in an automatic) one of which must be on the floor at all times.
     
  15. 245dlc

    245dlc Senior Member

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    The Fire Department I belong to has a used milk truck which I don't recommend getting, however it is a tandem axle truck and holds a lot of water I think around 4,000 gallons. Our municipality here kinda thumbs their nose at Fire Department spending so they buy what's cheap. Ours has no pump on it which kinda sucks, however it has a 4" storz coupling and a 2 1/2" coupling on the back for loading it and a big dump gate. I've been to several significant structural fires with it and it can fill our portable drafting pool which is 3500 gallons and still have a little leftover. We also have a flexible 2 1/2" suction hose that can hook up to the pumper or our brush/rescue unit since it can't pump to any vehicles on it's own. We do however have a large portable 20 h.p. gas powered pump that uses the 4" suction lines from the pumper that can be set up at an open water source and manned by one person for the sole purpose of loading tanker trucks. Normally our tanker takes 23-25 minutes to load from a 2 1/2" line in our fire hall (suppose to be upgraded to 4" storz) but with the portable pump it takes about ten to fifteen minutes through a 2 1/2" hose. My best suggestion is go with the tandem axle but get it with a pump whether it's pto powered or powered independently as several of our neighbouring Fire Departments have large tankers that can double as a pumper and it's much more versatile and easier to hook up to a pumper or brush unit without having to continually line up a suction line. And if your Department has one get a portable pool or dump tank that can be stored on the tanker and deployed by one or two people.
     
  16. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    All good advice, and to kind of tack on to that, being in California, you might want to consider the minimum state equipment/pump complement for whatever size of tender you decide upon. Unless something has changed in recent years, whenever you roll a water tender on a State (brush) fire or maybe even a Fed fire for that matter, you are not providing mutual aid so the 12 hour free mutual aid thing does not apply, and your equipment and man hours are billable, to provide some extra income (reimbursement) for the District for their time and trouble, and the operator too.
     
  17. 245dlc

    245dlc Senior Member

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    I think this is the pump we have as a mobile tanker filling setup. One of our neighbouring Fire Departments fitted theirs so as to make it removable and to provide a pump and roll capability for their tanker.

    http://www.fire-pump.com/pfp-20hpHND-2D.html
     
  18. totalloser

    totalloser Well-Known Member

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    At this point I am convinced (again) that we want bigger. The Chief is not convinced, but is open to the possibility.

    What I am looking at is this truck:
    http://memphisequipment.com/files/trucks/M920_8X6_TRUCK_FLYER.pdf
    available surplus for appx. $20,000, paint it white or red.

    A 3800 gallon stainless steel tank with a 750 gpm Berkley pump hydraulic drive from the pto driven winch hydraulics (pull kingpin and winch off) I'm hoping to spec the tank to have an internal vertical cylinder 100 gallon foam tank for refilling apparatus on scene with a hose, and running an around the pump foam system to have the tender feed premixed foam right to the engines.
    I have heard these folks http://www.randcotanks.net/tankkits.htm are competitive in pricing. A local operator got one- not show finish- probably paint the tank.

    We already have a turret from a decommissioned type 1 which I intend to mount with a SS 3" pipe passing through the tank.

    As to milk trucks, I would love to have one- they have SS tanks, and I can baffle in house- without baffles they, I am sure, are SCARY when half full. These might help a LOT with that btw: http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/html/00511302/00511302.html you can make your own with a table saw, rivet gun and here's a supplier http://www.interstateplastics.com/N...1131-7p&dim2=48&dim3=96&thickness=0.125&qty=1

    I think the portable pump is too rich for our blood :) We use commercial off the shelf pumps. They don't make the pressure, but they SELF PRIME which is very nice. Our latest addition has been two 3" diesel portables. We paid $700 apiece (needing minor work) off E-bay and I butchered a couple old structure hoses to tig weld the 2.5" nst couplers right onto the pump housings. Reduced to 2.5" I figure they flow about 200ish gpm. Similar to this http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-3-Indus...ater-Pump-Electric-Recoil-Start-/180861137276 Might be a cheap and effective solution for the milk truck...

    At this point, I am thinking the final cost would be in the range of $40-50k

    I really appreciate the various insight. It has sent me looking in different directions and considering other options. I should have put up a thread a year ago. That is about how long this 2vs3 axle discussion has been going on.
     
  19. 245dlc

    245dlc Senior Member

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    Yeah there's no doubt any kind of portable fire pump will be quite expensive. Some of our members were expressing a need for a portable that they could mount on our pumper and use it in a way where somebody could sit on the hose bed and do a pump and roll kind of thing and use it to pump from streams, ditches, ponds etc. But the Wildfire (formerly Wajax) MK3 pumps that are used by both the Province and some of our neighbouring municipalities cost $5,000 each.

    http://www.wildfire-env.com/eng/products/waterax/portablepumps.php?p=1

    However recently a local tool and farm supply type store here similar to Northern Tool has been selling some Chinese knockoff pumps that use knock off Honda engines for only a few hundred bucks and some come as a kit with a suction hose and strainer and a length of forestry hose sufficient for most of the grass and brush fires that occur here.

    http://www.princessauto.com/pal/product/8224040/Regular/Emergency-Fire-Water-Pump-System

    Funny thing is many people I've talked to said that these Chinese knock offs often run better than the new Honda's coming out. lol
     
  20. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    Last edited: May 4, 2013