Fighting Fires with Portable Water Tanks

Controlling a fire is of the utmost importance when firefighters first arrive on scene. Portable water tanks are an affordable and practical solution to making sure that water is readily available for fire fighting efforts.

Fighting Fires
Fire engines typically carry about 500 gallons of water in the truck to a fire.  This allows firefighters to start fighting the fire upon arrival.  Meanwhile, others can set up access to the local water supply. For most fires, firefighters will attach fire hoses to a nearby fire hydrant to draw from local water mains. Once the hoses are attached to the hydrant, water is pumped to the truck where it is pressurized to supply water for multiple fire hoses. In addition to allowing for quick attachment, modern fire hydrants access water underground and below the freeze line, ensuring the water doesn’t freeze in cold temperatures when needed.

Problems with Fire Hydrants
Unfortunately, fire hydrants aren’t always reliable as an emergency source of water.  For starters, fire hydrants accesses public water mains, the same source used by local residents for daily tasks, such as drinking, bathing, irrigation, and garden watering. With so many people drawing water from one source, the hydrant’s available water pressure can impacted. As a result, firefighters may have to find a hydrant much further away, wasting valuable time.

After arriving on the scene, there are several reasons why a fire hydrant may not produce water. It may not have been properly maintained, a water pipe may be broken, or a below-ground valve may be closed. The access to the hydrant may also be blocked by parked or first responder vehicles. Any of these situations will force the need to hook up to a different hydrant or an alternative water supply. 

Fire fighters may also find that there isn’t a fire hydrant located in the area. While many rural fire companies are equipped to haul a larger quantity of water to handle a fire, there are situations, such as wildfires, where urban fire companies are called in for support. When this occurs, the trucks may lack the necessary amount of water to extinguish or control the fire.

The Water Tender
As one solution, the fire engine may be accompanied by a water tender. Also known as a tanker, the water tender is a truck specifically designed to carry large amounts of water. With the ability to draw from a variety of sources, such as swimming pools, ponds, creeks, rivers, and lakes, these trucks can carry between 2,000 and 4,000 gallons of water.

The decision of when to deploy a water tender usually depends on the location of the fire. If the fire is located near a fire hydrant, a water tender may not be called unless the water supply begins to run low. For rural areas where a fire hydrant may not be available, the water tender may accompany the fire engine to the scene.

Portable Water Tanks
When a water tender is called into action, it will usually carry a portable water tank with it. These tanks have a capacity between 1,000 and 2,500 gallons. When the water tender discharges water into a portable tank, it can do so at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute, allowing for a quick switch from hydrant to tank or to quickly begin the fight if a hydrant is not available. Once the portable tank is filled with water, the process is similar to using a fire hydrant. The water is drawn into the fire engine where it is pressurized and sent through the fire hoses to extinguish the flames.

There are two types of portable tanks that are typically used for additional water availability.
  1. The most common type of portable tank for fire fighting usage is a frame tank, which is flexible and supported by an aluminum frame. All of these tanks are both easy and quick to set up, since time is critical in fire fighting.
  2. A self-supporting tank, such as an onion tank , has the ability to support the water inside the tank itself. A high-sided foldout tank is a bucket built specifically to be transported by a helicopter, often used for wildfires. 
With these tanks on hand, firefighters are assured they have enough water to put out the fire, saving property and lives.

GEI Works manufactures a wide selection of standard and custom portable water tanks. Known for quality and durability, we supply water tanks throughout the nation, and worldwide.  

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