Refinery Terminal Fire Company expects a lot for its money, particularly when it comes to foam pumpers. The latest delivery to RTFC from Ferrara Fire Apparatus sets the bar very high, said Brad Williamson, industrial product sales manager for Ferrara.
“It’s by far one of the most unique trucks that we’ve ever done,” Williamson said.
RTFC is the world’s largest industrial fire fighting organization set up as a non-profit corporation. Primarily, it protects refining and petrochemical industries based in Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Five hundred miles northeast of Corpus Christi is Holden, LA, home of Ferrara’s 280,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The latest delivery to RTFC rolled off the assembly line in December.
The turnkey price for RTFC’s latest addition is $1.5 million. For that kind of money, RTFC gets a fire truck built to their custom specification.
“We try to be a little more cutting edge on some things,” RTFC Chief J.D. Lowe said. “If we purchase a truck, chances are Ferrara will not sell another one exactly like it.”
In this case, the specifications are largely based on a previous Ferrara foam pumper purchased by RTFC. First, start with a Ferrara Igniter custom chassis made from extruded marine gauge aluminum and heavy duty stainless steel. RTFC’s configuration preference is a rear mount pump with top mount controls, Williamson said.
“You don’t see many top mount controlled, rear mount pumps,” he said. “But the history of RTFC is that it is a general apparatus design they’ve been accustomed to. We kind of mirrored that.”
RTFC stuck with other proven aspects of foam pumper design too, Lowe said.
“The truck comes equipped with a 3,000 gallons per minute pump and a 2,000 gallon foam concentrate tank,” Lowe said. “It comes with a 6,000 gpm Williams Ambassador deck gun.”
However, RTFC made important changes too.
“There were a few improvements,” Lowe said. “The EPA emission standards have changed, affecting engine dynamics. That had to be incorporated into the new vehicle.”
Another thing that RTFC chose to change was the foam system. RTFC’s newest truck comes with FoamPro AccuMax 3300 Multipoint Injection, providing fully automatic foam proportioning regardless of changes in flow or pressure, said Chuck Small, FoamPro’s south central regional manager.
“FoamPro was one of the originals to come out with direct inject foam systems,” Small said. “What you had before were the venturi type systems. Everybody was looking for something that was going to be simpler to use.”
With FoamPro foam proportioning systems, calculations are based on water flow, not pressure, he said.
“We are able to inject the foam very accurately,” Small said. “It’s not going to run 10 or 20 percent rich. If you’re flowing one percent, you go back and do the calculations. If you’re at three percent, it’s going to be three percent.”
The previous proportioning system used by RTFC required annual re-calibration for accuracy, he said. Even then, operators were often forced to make on-the-spot calculations to compensate for foam that was either too rich or too lean.
Water and Class B foams flow at different viscosities or thickness, Small said. Depending on the brand, different Class B foams range from 1,500 to 5,500 centipoise in viscosity. By comparison, the viscosity of honey is 2,000 centipoise.
“Because the viscosities are different, different kinds of foam concentrate are going to flow differently,” Small said. “We like calibrating with the foam you’re going to use so it can be as accurate as possible.”
Getting the desired percent of foam to water is simply a matter of pushing two buttons – one for the master stream and one for the line control, he said. Once the Accumax system is delivered and installed, it stays calibrated with no need for minor adjustments.
“What we do is calibrate the water flow and the foam flow separately,” Small said. “Unless you change a component in the systems there is no need to recalibrate the discharge.”
The new Accumax system ordered by RTFC comes with an Edwards 300 gpm foam pump. However, RTFC also uses Accumax on a fire truck that has no foam pump. It operates using pressure available from manifolds tied to the industrial fire water system, said Small.
“With industrial plants running as much pressure as they do on their systems, you’re able to get a good water flow,” he said. “If you have good pressure and a good hydrant system in your plant, you don’t really need a fire pump.”
Another unusual aspect of RTFC’s latest Accumax purchase is a manual override to keep the system operating in the event of a catastrophic failure of the fire truck’s electrical system.
“If for whatever reason you lose electronics on the truck, you go to manual override,” Small said. “It makes the foam pump ramp up to 218 psi, then shut down so you don’t have to worry about it re-circulating foam.”
Open the fire truck discharge and, voilà, the system continues to deliver foam, he said.
Aside from the standard percentages for foam concentrates – one, three and six percent – set Accumax for a custom rate anywhere between .1 to 10 percent. There is also an option known as low flow override.
“With a 300 gpm pump, if you go down to 10 gpm, the flow is going to be on the low side,” Small said. “With the low flow option, if you’re flowing to a hand line, Accumax is going to adjust to where the proportioning remains accurate and not waste foam.”
Likewise, Accumax warns the operator if his action compromises the proportioning ratio.
“If I’m flowing 5,000 gpm of water, maintaining a six percent solution requires 300 gpm of concentrate,” Small said. “That is the maximum the foam pump can deliver. If the operator goes up to 5,100 gpm, the system will flash “high flow,” warning that the system is no longer delivering six percent foam.”
The system also warns the operator when as little as two or three minutes supply of concentrate remain in the tank.
“If you don’t put more foam in the tank or switch to an offboard pick up, the system is going to shut down,” Small said.
Williamson pointed out other aspects of the new truck that make it different from the average fire truck.
“It is a brushed stainless steel body, not a painted finish body,” Williamson said. “Other than the roll-up doors, the body is not painted.”
The rear mount pump with top mount controls presented its own unusual set of manufacturing challenges, he said. But it’s a configuration is one that works for RTFC.
“We still pride ourselves on being a true custom manufacturer,” Williamson said. “When a customer comes to us with an idea for a project, we can manufacture it in a way that’s going to meet their needs.”
Chief Lowe is already making plans for the next Ferrara foam pumper in RTFC’s future.
“We’re looking at a new foam pump made by Lion that hasn’t gone into production yet,” he said.