Article Archive
Fast Water
Advanced pump operations get special attention at Texas fire school
Vol. 26 Fall 2011

Despite scorching temperatures, most of the 600 people attending the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s Industrial Fire Training School in July chose to tackle live fire exercises. But the students taking Mark Turvey’s advanced pump operations class were an exception.

They preferred moving water. Big water.

“Students take our class to have a greater understanding of high volume water delivery – what it takes to make it work related to hydraulics, the amount of hose needed and the pumps required,” Turvey said.

Several high volume test shots at the Brayton Fire Training Field culminated the four-day class. The large delivery devices produced flows of 3,000 gpm and greater. Also used were multiple supply lines, advanced foam logistics, jet pumps and truck mounted systems designed to proportion foam from a distance.

“The exercise was to hook it all up, operate it and put all this flow on one target,” Turvey said. He refers to it as the “all hell breaks loose challenge.”

A total flow rate of more than 18,000 gpm went back into the pond from which it was drafted. Advanced pump operations has a class cap of 30 students.

Turvey, an assistant fire chief with The Lubrizol Corporation, serves as facilities protection supervisor at the company’s Deer Park and Bayport Industrial Complex sites in Texas. Fortunately, the largest industrial fire he has ever fought was as a captain with the Friendswood (TX) Volunteer Fire Department.

In May 2002, a fire erupted at a plant near Pearland, TX, that blended and packaged motor oils and other automotive products (See “No-Win Situation,” IFW, July/August 2003). The plant had no supply of water to aid firefighters. The blaze ultimately consumed 1.2 million gallons of combustible and flammable liquids, destroying the facility.

“I did reconnaissance from a 100-foot aerial platform,” Turvey said. “It was the fire of a lifetime.”

An employee with Lubrizol for 33 years, Turvey has attended the annual industrial school in College Station, TX, for 30 years straight, spending the last six as an instructor.

“When I became an instructor I ended up in the basic pump ops class,” Turvey said. “The basic class was for the guy who had never operated the truck before. He may have never even shifted a pump.”

Basic pump operations included everything from drafting to hydrant procedures and onboard water supply. Thirty-eight students enrolled for the basic class this year. The basic students helped set up the big flow project for the advance class.

“The compilation exercise for the basic class is to set up a really big relay,” Turvey said. “They set up multiple trucks on the pond levee and drafted water that terminated into the advanced class’ evolution. Even though basic is an industrial class, it would be great for municipal responders, too.”

Yet, there are a variety of pump skills not covered in the basic class. For example, when Turvey took the basic class 20 years ago an aerial ladder was available but nobody touched it.

“The ratio of students to equipment just wasn’t there,” he said. “So we said we’ll take these ladders out of the basic class and make it part of an advanced class some day.”

Also reserved for the advanced class is any equipment flowing more than 3,000 gpm.

“Our class demographics this year showed that every advanced student save one had an aerial,” Turvey said. “All of them had industrial foam pumpers.”

In both the basic and advanced classes, the first three days are spent on development objectives, Turvey said.

“With the advanced class, the first day is an operational review with hands on training in the field,” he said. “The second day is spent on advanced hydraulics using multiple lines of large diameter hose as big as 12 inches.”

Students spend the third day on aerial operations and foam logisitics.

“On the fourth day we put it all together in the field,” Turvey said. “We use a variety of large volume pumpers and trailer pumps, both mobile and skid style, to supercharge our nozzles.”

Either a variety of pumps such as truck mounted systems or around the pump systems going direct to the nozzle are used. Since actual foam would pollute the pond, a pink dye is used.

“We put dye through everything but the 100-foot aerial,” Turvey said. “We were lucky to have a gracious vendor (Pierce) supporting this project. We didn’t want to put pink dye all over this beautiful brand new white ladder truck.” Working from a 2,000 gpm pump, the Pierce aerial equipped with twin nozzles delivered 1,500 gpm.

“Pierce has come through all three years with a minimum of two aerials,” Turvey said. Williams Fire & Hazard Control provided a big 6,000 gpm pump, nearly 3,000 feet of large diameter hose and two Ambassador monitors flowing a maximum of 6,000 gpm and 4,000 gpm, respectively. A National Foam Terminator nozzle capable of 3,000 gpm and a 2,000 gpm Elkhart Brass Scorpion deck gun were also in use.

Providing additional pump power was Lubrizol’s own 3,000 gpm trailer pump assembled by Boots and Coots, Turvey said. Training Specialties, Inc. loaned a 4,000 gpm Godwin Pump.

“We used the Godwin as a supply pump,” Turvey said. “Because we are drafting, we can’t flow the kind of flow rate you can get from a hydrant. A pump operator in a plant is hooked up to a water main with fire pumps behind it. He’s got as much as 150 psi coming off his hydrant. We want to be able to simulate that.”

The Godwin pumps have the extra bonus of being almost “fireman proof,” Turvey said.

“You can run them dry and they self-prime,” he said. “We have been promised two of them next year.”

In some ways, the big flow project at the pond was closer to reality than any live-fire project on the field. At one point an air operated valve on a truck mounted system malfunctioned, working only intermittently.

“We did four evolutions for this high volume test shot with difficulties getting the last stream in,” Turvey said.

On the positive side, Turvey and the students more than doubled the output of the 3,000 gpm aerial pumper being used.

“We had a pump that was rated at greater than 4,000 gpm right next to the truck,” he said. “With four discharge lines coming off the pump we hit every inlet on the truck with a tremendous amount of pressure.” In addition to the aerial, students were providing operational pressure to the Williams F&HC Ambassador and a pair of Task Force Tips Monsoons rated at 2,000 gpm apiece.

A compendium of product brochures serves as the textbook for the advanced class, Turvey said.

“We cover the stuff that is important to know when you are setting your system up,” he said. “For example, how do you determine the operational pressures and limits for a certain size jet pump. You don’t go out and buy a book that has all this information in it.”

Ultimately, the lessons learned in advanced pump operations contribute to pre-planning done at each student’s plant. That pre-planning starts with determining the worst-case scenario, then calculating flow necessary to deal with it, Turvey said.

“If you need to generate 15,000 gpm or whatever, I would start with establishing a flow target,” he said. “This class provides information on calculating flow capabilities and loss rates for hose lines all the way up to 12-inch diameter.”

The benchmark for a modern industrial pumper is 3,000 gpm, he said.

“That is largely because Hale is the only manufacturer that makes a pump that can be used in that sized fire truck,” Turvey said. “The Hale 8FG pump has become the industry standard.”

However, most industrial facilities still use five-inch diameter hose, popular since the early 1990s. The official flow rate for five-inch hose is just under 1,500 gpm.

“My Alvin, Texas, backwoods math tells me that in order to get 3,000 gpm, my two five-inch hoses aren’t going to cut it,” Turvey said. “So you really need to step up to six-inch hose. Of course, if you want the fudge factor of extra capacity to compensate for greater distance, you have to look at 7¼–inch as a minimum.”

“Unfortunately, if you look at most of the 3,000 gpm pumps in use, they are still loaded using five-inch hose.”

Beyond hose, plumbing size is also important with regard to the pumps themselves, Turvey said. Some of the pump operations students this year brought their own six-inch hose and five-inch Stortz couplings, he said.

“The bigger the pipe, the better,” he said. “At my plant we are going all six-inch, from the neck down. Every discharge on my truck is six-inch Stortz and all my hose is six inch. I’ll have six-inch by five-inch adaptors for when I need to step down to somebody else’s five-inch setup.”

Most industrial fire brigades also resort to trailer mounted pumps which provide a lot of muscle at a lot less expense, he said.

“You get a whole bunch of pumping without buying a fire truck,” Turvey said. “You don’t have all that extra stuff, just a trailer with a pump on it.” With the advantage of 150 psi coming off an industrial fire main system, mobile apparatus can easily do 50 percent better than their designed flow rates.

In the future, Turvey said he wants to train using bigger hose. Other than larger sizes loaned by vendors, the class is dependent on five-inch hose provided by Brayton.

“Six-inch and 7¼–inch would really be nice,” Turvey said. “That would help us illustrate what we’re teaching in real time.”

Increasing the total flow rate for the annual high volume test shot is only one challenge Turvey faces. He finds himself also fighting the notion that advanced pump operations is a niche class.

“Maybe these people don’t have trailer pumps or other trailer mounted systems,” he said. “Maybe they don’t have an aerial. If a company is not putting 10-inch hose on the ground, why would they want to send a guy to this class?”


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