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  • Extreme Cold Ops?

    1st post. FF/EMT for 5 years, vol./paid guy. If this subject has been covered please let me know where to look. I'm looking for info/operating techniques used by FD's that regularly operate in sub freezing temps. Our SOP in the winter is to have all pumps dry in house, roll w/ dry pumps and flow water as needed. I'm familiar w/ always having a little water trickling from the hose when not actively flowing water on fire to avoid nozzle freezing. Do you roll w/ dry pumps? Has tank to pump ever frozen en route? Do you have tips/tricks/suggestions for draining the pump when you get back to the house. We responded to MVA last night w/ -22 temps, did not flow water. Once back in service it took 1 hour for the drains to warm enough to drain the pump. Also if you drain your pump/valves/drains after every call do you expect the pump to stay dry or does the tank leak a little water into the pump? Our average winter temps are 20 degrees F.+-. It hasn't been above -10 for 2 days.
    More later and thanks,
    M21

  • #2
    Originally posted by Maverick21 View Post
    1st post. FF/EMT for 5 years, vol./paid guy. If this subject has been covered please let me know where to look. I'm looking for info/operating techniques used by FD's that regularly operate in sub freezing temps. Our SOP in the winter is to have all pumps dry in house, roll w/ dry pumps and flow water as needed. I'm familiar w/ always having a little water trickling from the hose when not actively flowing water on fire to avoid nozzle freezing. Do you roll w/ dry pumps? Has tank to pump ever frozen en route? Do you have tips/tricks/suggestions for draining the pump when you get back to the house. We responded to MVA last night w/ -22 temps, did not flow water. Once back in service it took 1 hour for the drains to warm enough to drain the pump. Also if you drain your pump/valves/drains after every call do you expect the pump to stay dry or does the tank leak a little water into the pump? Our average winter temps are 20 degrees F.+-. It hasn't been above -10 for 2 days.
    More later and thanks,
    M21
    It's extremely rare for us to see temps under 0F, so I can't deal directly with them. +20 to single digits + are not uncommon. I know of some departments in our area that go with dry pumps. We don't; we keep ours wet year round. Several reasons, and some things that would cause us to change our ways on occasion:

    Our station is heated to 65F or more all the time. Our runs are quite short, usually under 10 minutes from leaving the station to on location. Our SOP in below freezing temps is, upon arrival, if you're not going into service flowing water, immediately go into pump mode and begin circulating water tank to pump and back. Now you have 500+ gallons to bring to freezing temperature, and it will take a long, long time to do that. Especially with the heat generated by the pump, boosted by the exhaust system heat. And if you have an older, mid-engine truck, so much the better. In our specific case, we have one more thing going for us - our apparatus bay heat is in the floor, adding to the pump heat. And because the pump water is kept warm, the drains don't freeze, either. We do have to be careful to see that our deck gun riser and the gun itself are drained down.

    Another point to consider - unless you know for absolute certain that your tank to pump valve and your tank fill valve are perfectly tight, you probably have a wet pump anyway. What's really bad is if you have one with only a few gallons in it. That can freeze up in a hurry.

    If we were to be called on a mutual aid run that would take a long time to travel, and the temperature were super cold, I'd probably want to drain down before leaving the station, and I'd be tempted to leave the drain valve open during transit.

    That's my take on it, and I haven't frozen any pumps yet. The dry pump advocates will surely have a different take on it, and hopefully they'll present some good arguments for their positions. Rescue101, where are you?

    Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!
    Last edited by chiefengineer11; 01-13-2007, 04:56 PM.

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    • #3
      Have done it both ways.

      As mentioned above, don't try to go dry pump unless you KNOW that the valve will seal and keep the pump truly dry, as having a few gallons sloshing around will freeze up faster than a full pump.

      I have worked where winter temps go below zero for days or weeks. We generally ran wet pump to everything, and recirculated on the scene. The pump and the water start out at 65F, it still takes a while to freeze.

      Running wet pumps also means you are not opening and cycling the drain valve so much or having to possibly leave it open while rolling, both of which increase the chances of fouling the seal.

      OTOH our district was only 36 square miles so we didn't ever have to run too far even for MA.
      You only have to be stupid once to be dead permanently
      IACOJ Power Company Liason
      When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution
      and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy. - Dave Barry.

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      • #4
        On the volunteer department I was on, all of our apparatus had a recirculation pump or a separate engine driven pump. Example - our rural trucks were brush/quick attack style that had small pumps driven by a gas engine. We would start these engines and open a recirculating valve OR stick a booster reel into the tank fill. Same with the tankers. We never did have any pumps freeze, and we had long response times in the district (10-20 minutes). Taking brush trucks to structure fires is another story for later

        We also had a 1,000 GPM pumper that had a separate engine driven pump. We would start the enigne like previously mentioned, but open the tank to pump valve and the tank fill. This would circulate water, and the heat from the engine kept the pump compartment warm. Smeal was a primary maker of this style of apparatus

        The military base I worked at did wet pumps on structural apparatus for the reasons mentioned in previous posts. Brush apparatus had recirculation valves and small engine driven pumps. There was one apparatus we had callled an Amertek that had a pump / water heater. It didn't work most of the time, but when it did, it was great.

        Now, the civilian department I am currently on is mixed. I've seen them "dry" pumps on city engines, but after 30 minutes, there's water dripping out again because the valves leak. If I'm driving, I wet the pump, spray some 50/50 antifreeze mix on valves and caps, and recirculate on scene. The problem here is rural trucks. They do not have recirculating pumps, and they try to "dry" them but there is ALWAYS residual water in there. We have had these trucks freeze tight on long responses, and have resorted to using brush trucks that had the small engines with recirculating pumps. Just yesterday, I saw two firefighters "drying" a pump on a county truck we have. There is no way to recirculate water even though this is a separate engine driven brush truck. Later that afternoon, I opened some caps and small amounts of water spilled out, the valves were still wet, and water dripped out of he pump drain. With temps in the single digits, I'm sure this would have frozen solid if we had to respond to a rural fire.

        I am all for the wet pump and anti-freeze treatment. I keep a bottle of 50/50antifreeze mix in a compartment when I'm driving. I do not believe the wet pump would work for the rural trucks with the response times we have, but I believe trying to dry the pumps would still result in a frozen pump. I am at a loss as to what to do with the rural apparatus. Perhaps if we did better PMCS, the dry pump concept would work.

        I seem to recall, that McMurdo Station in Antarctica runs wet pumps. Now that's cold, but they probably have short response times also.

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        • #5
          My deptartment keeps pumps dry until we're going to use them. We keep the master drains open, just incase the tank suction valve is slightly leaking. We've had it before where the master was close and the valve was leaking. Drove a ways out of town and the drain and what ever else froze solid. We also let nozzles trickle. We make sure the tank supply gets cirulated as well. We carry RV anti freeze in spray bottles on the trucks too. We spray couplings and caps before putting them back together/on. It seems to help a bit. Are you looking for an SOG? I can send you ours if you like. It's pretty much everingthing i just said, but more formal. Hope this has helped.

          Mike

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          • #6
            While you're waiting for replies here, you might want to check out some of these older threads for info.

            http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...ter+operations

            http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...ter+operations

            http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...ld+weather+ops

            http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...ld+weather+ops

            http://forums.firehouse.com/showthread.php?t=85842 (this one is fairly recent - last post was in December)

            STAY WARM, STAY SAFE!
            September 11th - Never Forget

            I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

            Sheri
            IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
            Honorary Flatlander

            RAY WAS HERE FIRST

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            • #7
              Many thanks for the great replies.
              First I'm certain the tank to pump valve leaks. When I'm on shift I'll pull it 6x's a day and always get water out. (Our mechanic know about this) We probably lose about 2-4 gallons. 2nd, I completely agree that there will be water in the pump regardless of a leak or not, and I agree this water will be frozen.

              If we left the pump drain open en route to a call it would freeze open. Engaging the pump and letting water flow through would un freeze it but we'ld be losing precious water.

              Agree that a wet pump will freeze slower that one we think is dry but isn't.

              Next, we do have a large tender that will pump and roll. That pump is engaged when it rolls so water won't freeze. Our Engine(Pierce) doesn't op. that way.

              Next, we roll a lot of calls on extreme cold days/nights when the pump isn't engaged. We can have long response times, up to 15-20 minutes at a worst case scenario. We can be on scene, not in pump(not SOP to engage pump for everything the Engine rolls on), for long periods of time. Certainly long enough for the entire pump to reach freezing temps, IMHO.
              One concern and reason for rolling w/ dry pump is that the discharge/speedlay valve won't freeze, but they do anyway! The Dry Pump SOP is rationalize b/c in theory the tank to pump valve won't freeze closed b/c warm tank water is behind it. Then tank water will warm pump and thaw frozen valves and all will be good to go. My primary issue is that we think the pump is dry but it isn't so why not just keep it wet?
              thanks again,
              Any more thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated.
              M21

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              • #8
                you can also try a pump heat enclosure it is pretty much a metal box built around the bottom of the pump and the exhaust we have them they seem to work well, they also do pretty good at keeping dirt and rocks from flying up and hitting the pump casing

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                • #9
                  Having experience with structural engines and military ARFF trucks, I've found it near impossible to keep every valve dry. Better to keep a wet pump and put it in gear on scene.

                  With the ARFF trucks, we discussed storing them outside, and I vetoed it. We also discussed using RV antifreeze, but we couldn't find a reference allowing it, nor did we believe we could get it in every low spot in the piping. I knew the mechs would move them out anyway when we weren't around (reserve unit), so we drained them the best we could. However, there was still enough residual water and condensation to freeze up. Naturally, when we were mobilized, we found all 3 ARFF trucks outside (needed bay space for gear mount out), discharges frozen throughout, and cracked relief valves and windshield coolant valves. The worst one had 4 broken valves and 200 gals of frozen water in the tank-I assume the mechs used it to clean the apron between drills and didn't drain it. All 3 rigs were out of service for months awaiting parts, and it resulted in us being unable to perform a mission.

                  I realize that is not exactly a common occurrence (no duty crew and trucks parked outdoors), but it does demonstrate the worst case scenario.

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                  • #10
                    CE11,Did I hear my gong ringing?Here,we antifreeze our pumps with Alcohol.Yah,yah I know, you naysayers are going to tell me how it dries out the pump seals.As CE11 alludes if you have a leaking tank valve,it will mix with the alky.In any event,we've been doing this since before my time here(and I've been here since '68)and I haven't seen any dire effects on the pumps.With the exception of a couple Darleys,we run exclusively Hale pumps and I haven't had a pump that wouldn't on arrival(flow water/frozen that is).I would suspect the new non toxic RV antifreeze would work even better.Like the others mentioned,a belly pan and pumphouse heater are both good ideas if you regularly make long runs or regular forays in cold weather. T.C.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Rescue101 View Post
                      CE11,Did I hear my gong ringing?Here,we antifreeze our pumps with Alcohol. T.C.
                      Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong. Not General Quarters, either.

                      You mean like Zerone? I haven't seen that stuff since I sold it at the Mobil station I worked at while I was still in high school. For you guys at the North Pole, I can see doing something like that. Shouldn't bother mechanical seals. The good folks in South St. Paul, Minn. probably saw to that. It's really rare for our temps to get low enough for us to have to go that route. But for the last week or so, I've really been racking up miles on the odometer while sitting still.

                      Any John Beans still around?

                      Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!

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                      • #12
                        Zerone? I vaguely remember the stuff.Dad's probably still got a case or two of it around.Along with the good old Texaco water pump grease,the good stuff.What we use comes in a 55 gal drum,if memory serves correctly it's methyl alcohol. Our next door nighbor uses the RV stuff with good results.John bean? We've got two guns on our forestry,our neighbors to the east just retired one they repowered with a Chev 350.Ya want some foam with that?We had a good "worker"in Naples the other night with enough "pump bite"to go around.'specially since the H2O had to be imported from the lake.2F with a thirty mph wind so stuff sets up pretty quick.Delayed alarm so things were pretty warm when the first Engine arrived.Can you say "LIT UP"? T.C.
                        Last edited by Rescue101; 01-24-2007, 10:15 AM.

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                        • #13
                          I got a can of Alemite wheel bearing grease, too. Works wonders on sealing piston relief valves.

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                          • #14
                            You folks that do this stuff in cold weather have my respect.Ive wondered what yall do to keep things from freezing up when it is cold out.Our cold weather ops consist of a warm jacket as we might see 32 degrees only a dozen times a year.
                            Firefighter/Paramedic Seven Hills Fire Rescue Mobile,AL

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                            • #15
                              T.C., dont let the old man fool you- when he was in high school there was no such thing as a "gas station." When he was in high school, pumpers had solid tires and you shoveled coal into them. And the propulsion fuel was barley and hay.
                              "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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