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Winter Operations of Pumps

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  • Winter Operations of Pumps

    OK Everyone.... Including you experts who write for FIREHOUSE!!!

    How about some good guidelines regarding pump operations and maintenance for the winter...

    This topic is argued about every year at my firehouse...

    Lots of variables to think about....

    Heated Apparatus Bay?
    Pump Heaters?
    To Drain or Not to Drain?

    How about some good guidelines.... unfortunately the manufactures aren't providing them and neither is IFSTA or NFPA...

    Anyone out there have good ideas they can back up with facts?

    Burton L. Robertson
    Fire Lieutenant / Paramedic
    Franklin Fire Department
    8901 W. Drexel Ave.
    Franklin WI 53132
    St.#1 (414) 425-1420
    St.#2 (414) 421-2441
    St.#3 (414) 425-7731

  • #2
    IMHO: Heat your bays.

    We keep ours at a minimum of 50 degrees in the cold months. Helps with apparatus starting too. We run the pump heaters, but those don't keep the plumbing and tanks from icing up.

    When we are outside tho, we recirc the pumps. Trash pumps are drained after we use them tho as we keep ours in a compartment on the tenders.
    Last edited by gryphon; 12-22-2003, 04:43 PM.


    • #3
      We would have a major problem here if we didn't heat apparatus bays in winter.We also address "cold weather operations on a couple of fronts. One is apparatus preparation and maintenance and the other is operations. We run our pumps dry after the first frost, and don't close the drains or wet the pump until we are about to use it. We have a MS-Word document that covers cold weather operations. If you're interested, email me at [email protected].

      PS - Don't forget to take care of your people in cold weather too!
      I.A.C.O.J. - Getting crustier every day


      • #4
        More thoughts to discuss...

        I understand the whole heated bay issue, I really don't think there are that many if any department in the northern areas that don't have heated bays, This is not really the issue I was trying to get at... More so has anyone ever had discussions about the following:

        If your going to drain the pump, at What temperature? 40 - It might get colder so let's do it now, 32- Freezing begins, 20-still freezing but 32 seems a Bit too cautious, Zero...BRRR everything is freezing, even me!

        What about wind-chill, I've heard some people discuss it regardin Pumps and Operations. From my understanding it only affects people not objects, but I've still heard people worrying about it regarding this issue, Any junior weather forcasters out there got the straight answers?

        Drained pump or leaving it full... A full pump has approx. 25 Gallons of water, doesn't it take longer for all of that to freeze than posssible a little left in the pump, or by a valve that just won't drain completely?

        Do you use Air pressure to help get the Air out? If so, how exactly do you do it? What pressure is Safe? How long does this take? IS it practical for a busy unit?

        Do you leave ALL discharge valves and drains Open, Some Open & Some Closed, Closed them all because it doesn't matter once you drain the pump?

        If you DONT" DRAIN the pump do you circulate water if you go out on say a service or EMS run, no matter what? If so, what positions do you leave Discharge Valves in.. OPen or Closed? (obviously you have to close pre-connects!)

        Once you decide to wet a Drained pump, obviously you have to close the Drains, what about other discharges? Do you close only those with preconnected lines and leave those with caps open? The Thought here being at least if it freezes, it's froze in the Open position!

        When you do Winter Maint. do you use any products in the pump? An alchohol solution might help to evaporate some residual Water! An Anti-freeze solution might help also, Will doing this hurt the Nylon Valves or Rubber O-rings, and let us not forget pump packing?

        Is any of this nessasary if the Pump has a heated pump compartment? Or what about department that still have Front Mounted pumps, this is a whole different annimal!

        The reason for me posting this is that I constantly hear discussions about this topic every year in Novemeber/December..The same every year and nothing ever changes... Maybe we all have it figured out to work to some degree, at least something that works for your department, or maybe we all just keep getting lucky! There are really no good documented recommendations out there...Not from NFPA, IFSTA, or even Pump Manufacturers and With Our Strong Traditions in the Fire Service, the Only way to brake new ground is with facts, "cold" hard facts, and we all know even then it just might not matter. My hopes with this thread where to hopefully educate, and further the fire service, so come on experts lets "heat" up this winter topic .....

        Lt. Burt
        Burton L. Robertson
        Fire Lieutenant / Paramedic
        Franklin Fire Department
        8901 W. Drexel Ave.
        Franklin WI 53132
        St.#1 (414) 425-1420
        St.#2 (414) 421-2441
        St.#3 (414) 425-7731


        • #5
          We drain our pumps all year long. That way there is no question as to what temperature to drain at.
          Work hard Play harder!


          • #6
            The first night that hits 32 degrees we drain all the pumps. And like
            georlow said we don't prime the pumps unless we have to. And once the pumps "loaded" we circulate while on scene. We learned the hard way long before I was on the department. They cracked a Hale 750 pump on a tanker.
            AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

            IAFF Local 3900

            IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

            ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats

            F.A.N.T.A.M FOOLS FTM-PTB


            • #7
              Personally, I dont like the idea of draining the pumps. Our stations are all heated and lived in and trucks run several times daily. If its freezing outside when on an ems call I will engage the pump and let it run while it sits outside. The problem with draining is that a little water in the bottom of the pump will freeze much, much easier than a full pump. It's been the topic of debate here before between our mechanics, one of which worked for Sutphen. He feels to keep the pump full is better. In order to properly and completely drain the pump, all drains, discharges should be open and caps off until fully dry. This can take hours. Also leaky valves may let more water into pump at trickle rates which will surley freeze fast. If freezing is an issue then why not drain the tank too? Think about it.....Just my $.02

              Burnie Yoho (member)
              IAFF Local #12
              "Wheeling Firefighters"
              Wheeling, WV. 26003


              • #8
                On the main trucks-engine and tanker we leave everything full. I will get back to that. On our brush truck we drain everything, we even remove the little hose going to the pressure gage and blow that out. We use our brush truck during inclement weather to respond out in the country areas where we know we may have heavy drifting and need the 4 wheel drive. It is not used to pump water so why keep it ready for the sort of operation we are not going to use it for. Besides we have cracked the casing on this pump before. We learned it only takes a few minutes to put it back in service once we are sure all the water is out of it.

                Back to the engine and tanker. We leave them full they have heated pump compartments ( heat off the exhaust ). The one thing that I have found and preach to the guys is that when you are done pumping take the caps off the outlets then replace them. This will keep the road grime off the threads and any forign material out of your discharges. The drain does not empty that last 3-6 inches in the 60degree bend to the outlet. The water stays there and will freeze quite quickly when traviling down the road. It is not unusual for us to walk around the trucks just to make sure the caps are drained off while the truck sits in the station. We will also keep the discharge drains open just in case you happen to open a wrong valve and not think about it.

                Has this caused problems Yes we get the occasional discharge drain that does not close fully. Just move the line to the next discharge. I agree till someone comes out and gives some guidelines it is all trial and error. This system has worked well for us.

                Just my thoughts and the way we do it.
                Last edited by lmrchief2; 12-24-2003, 09:55 PM.
                Les Hartford
                Assistant Chief
                LMR Fire Dept.

                The views posted here are strickly my own and not of any of the groups I am affiliated with.

                IACOJ Member


                • #9
                  Both Departments I work for, In Northern Illinois, keep the pumps wet.
                  In a wet pump the water will slow the freezing of it. If a pump is empty a little water may freeze blocking the pump drain or just presenting problems itself.
                  To keep the rigs running well any time it is below 40 we leave the rigs running when outside. Any temp under 32 the pump is engaged.
                  Most pumps have valves leak now and then so keeping a pump dry is just a pain.
                  One place keeps the caps off in winter, the other sprays anti freeze on the threads. I haven't noticed a difference either way. Bothe places leaves discharge and intake drains open.

                  Whatever you do as long as you are dilligent you shouldn't have many problems.


                  • #10
                    Even if you drain your pump, there will still be water all over the innards -- low spots, bends, etc. You'll never get it all out, and going from warm bay to cool outside, you will have water vapor condense and freeze. And like was already said, most valves leak a little anyway.

                    We leave them wet all the time. We recirculate when it's cold out on all calls. No big deal, no frozen pumps.

                    We're on the coast of Maine... not the coldest place in the country, but it has it's moments.

                    Doesn't the packing fare better if it is wet? If you drain it, isn't there a concern about it drying out? Personally I'd be more concerned about that. http://www.firetrucks.ca/Spring2000I...hewater_Anchor

                    "The dry pump offers some concerns as far as seals and gaskets drying out. This is usually more of an issue with smaller communities where the pumpers tend to sit longer. This pump is also prone to corrosion internally as you can never get all the water out."
                    Last edited by Resq14; 12-27-2003, 04:35 AM.
                    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
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                    • #11
                      We don't have a set SOP as to if the pumps are to be run wet or dry or when to drain them. some of the older engineers like to drain the pumps I think that some of the older rigs we used to have it was recommended and it's now just a habit. Most of our engines are ten years old or less we do still have a few front line pieces that are older and our spares are all '82 Macks. The older rigs all leak somewhere and it's hard to completely drain the pump if you wanted to. I've never seen a problem with freezing on the rig it's self either in the pump,any of the discharges, or the discharge caps. The engines are put in pump if they are going to be outside in cold weather for any length of time and the rigs themselves are never shut off during calls. Most of our engines have a 10' length of 2 1/2" or 3" line that is used to circulate water to keep the pumps from freezing in the winter and to keep them cool in the summer. At fires if an engine isn't going to be pumping often those short lines are used.

                      A bigger problem is freezing hoselines at fires. During cold weather lines that aren't needed are broken down as soon as possible. If a charged line is going to be just sitting for a while we try to crack the nozzle and have the water flow somewhere where the water won't cause a problem or really the water once it freezes it won't cause a problem. If the lines do freeze up then putting them under the exhaust to thaw the couplings and the stiff hose is thrown on top of the hosebed and taken to the station to thaw.

                      Frozen ladders and aerials are a bigger problem so those are put away as soon as possible. If they do freeze up then spraying them down will melt the ice on them enough to put them away until they can be put back inside the firehouse.

                      Good engineers and chauffers will rinse the rig off after every run to get the salt and sand off. You don't have to wash it every time but it should be rinsed at least. That not only helps keep everything working properly and easily but it helps save the paint and slows rusting and keeps the truck looking good. It's hard enough trying to get the money to buy a fire apparatus so you have to do what you can to keep it in good shape for as long as possible.

                      I know this is got a bit off subject but I think it is important aspects of winter operations.
                      Stupidity is a lack of training


                      • #12
                        I wish they would think of some environmentally friendly thing that was automatically injected into any lines going out that would keep them from freezing but not hinder fire supression. The same also applies to all the water on the engine.
                        FTM - PTB


                        • #13
                          don't forget about your brake lines. We had a older truck out this past weekend lose air pressure due to ICE in the air lines.


                          • #14
                            Re: More thoughts to discuss...

                            Originally posted by ltburt410
                            What about wind-chill, I've heard some people discuss it regardin Pumps and Operations. From my understanding it only affects people not objects, but I've still heard people worrying about it regarding this issue, Any junior weather forcasters out there got the straight answers?

                            Wind chill is a factor related to animals, and a truck at 0°F outside with windchill of -20°F will still be 0°F. No matter how much wind you have, if you touch a thermometer to a metal object at 0°F, its still 0°F. The wind might make a truck coming out of a warm bay cool quicker, but it won't go below ambient temp.


                            • #15
                              Antarctic "winterizing"

                              Summers in Antarctica may reach 40 degrees on a calm day, but the winter brings -30 degree days with down to -100 in serious wind! We have two Pierce engines and a 3500 gallon tender that need constant protection from the cold, but were never designed for such extremes. During calls when the temp drops below freezing, we just recirc the water in the pump using the tank fill valve. This keeps enough water moving to prevent freezing.
                              Our heated bays don't have enough room for all of the rigs, so 1 engine is always stored outside as a reserve. The tank and pump are drained, and the pump alone is filled with glycol. This seems to keep any water in the pipes and the seals from freezing, but they still get extremely cold. If we had to put the reserve in service and introduced water into the pump, it would probably freeze within seconds, rendering parts of the pump inoperable.
                              We are not sure what the effect of the glycol has on our pump packings, seals and gaskets. The pumps are not in good shape, probably because of a combination of glycol, extreme cold, and lack of professional inspection and repair techs.
                              Consequently, we are always looking to inprove out process of "winterization" in the coldest, driest, and windiest desert in the world.

                              Matt Fullerton
                              Engineer, AFD


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