Fires can cause significant damage to property and endanger lives in industrial and commercial settings, so fire fighting equipment is crucial for any business. One type of fire suppression system is a diesel fire pump, which uses a diesel engine to deliver water at high pressure and flow rates to fight fires. These pumps are commonly used as backups to electric fire pumps and in remote locations where access to electricity is limited.
In the late 1960s, a new breed of fire truck hit the streets of New York City. Known as “super pumpers,” these trucks could draw from eight hydrants at once, drop lines into bodies of water and supply a mind-boggling number of hoses with water simultaneously. They were the powerhouses of firefighting, and they helped turn back a wave of destructive city-wide fires during the Black Saturday conflagration.
These fire trucks were built using a heavy-duty chassis and powered by a Napier-Deltic T18-37C diesel engine. The engines were supplied with fuel from twin 200-gallon tanks mounted on the rear of the truck. Air pressure from the trucks’ air compressors fueled the pumps, and the pump panel on top of the truck—a series of levers and switches that controls how much water is flowing and which hoses are being discharged—indicated how much diesel fuel was left in the tank.
Today, diesel fire pumps can be found in businesses of all sizes and industries, including construction sites, mining operations, oil and gas facilities, and offshore installations. They’re also used by municipal fire departments as a backup to electric fire pumps and in rural or remote locations where electricity may not be available.
Because they use diesel engines rather than electric motors, diesel fire fighting pumps are more durable and able to operate in harsh environments. They’re also more efficient than electric fire pumps, allowing them to provide higher flow rates and pressure at lower costs.
Diesel fire fighting pumps can be either positive displacement or centrifugal, and both can be equipped with a variety of features to meet specific applications. For instance, some pumps are self-priming to remove any air from the system and ensure they’re ready to start when called upon.
While the most common application of a fire fighting pump is to suppress large and dangerous fires, these versatile pumps are ideal for a wide range of tasks. For example, they can be used to perform high-pressure water transfer, boom spraying and machinery washdown. In addition, these pumps are suitable for both fresh and seawater.
Compared to electric pumps, a diesel fire pump is more affordable and easy to install. However, it’s important to remember that both types of fire pumps require preventative maintenance. This includes regularly inspecting the batteries, oil level, cooling system and hoses, as well as conducting weekly run tests. Neglecting this maintenance can lead to costly repairs or a complete loss of functionality, so it’s vital to keep up with regular service.
While the myth that cell phones will start a fire at the pump is just that, static electricity is very real and can cause a flash fire when touching a nozzle at the gasoline pumps. That’s why it’s important to remain outside of the vehicle while fueling, and not touch any metal parts on the interior or rim of the nozzle.