1. #1
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    Default Drafting/Porta-Tank vs. Hydrant Ops.

    Today, we had a ride along. He's a firefighter from a rural part of Minnesota, and after dinner he started what turned out to be one of the most interesting table top discussions I've ever had in the fire service.

    If you had your choice of the following two options, which would you choose?

    1) a working fire in a completely hydranted district

    or

    2) a working fire in a non-hydranted district, (with a good water source) and enough manpower/resources to have a good, continuously running tanker shuttle.

    I realize option two is not usually feasible, but that's not what I want to discuss. Assuming it IS feasible, which do you choose?

    At first my answer was clear in my head, A HYDRANTED AREA! But the guy presented some good arguments. With a hydratned area, you run a lot of risks, such as:

    -Broken water main
    -losing hydrant pressure suddenly
    -frozen hydrants in the winter
    -out of service hydrants
    -(if running multiple hydrants) not enough water to supply each hydrant constantly

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    I personally would take a fire in a hydrated area any day in the worst type of weather vs. a tender shuttle situation on the best day.

    You have good points to be concerned with for a hydrant area, however the tender shuttle has lots more risk. Here is a list that I can think of:

    -Requires more manpower (one driver for each tender, one water supply officer, one person backing/directing tenders and to operate dumps, at least one person at the fill site to operate portable pump, you would need an additional 5 people just with 2 tenders running)
    -Requires more vehicles on the road, more risk. More risk when trucks are constantly moving, or backing up to a tank. More risk to people on the fireground with moving equipment.
    -Chances of losing prime at the engine is greater than risk of the hydrant breaking
    -Greater risk of running out of water, tenders not being able to keep up.
    -Requires finding and maintaining a water supply. (This can be tricky sometimes. You might have to drive a distance to your water source. You might have to use a stream, lake or river and must have a working portable pump to fill tenders.)
    -More things working, more mechanical things running, more greater chance of Murphy's Law to go into effect.

    I have run into frozen hydrants before, or hydrants buried with snow and those certainly screw up the mojo. Granted, you can only hook up so many hoses to a hydrant or use so many before you overtax the system. Sure, there are risks with a municipal water system too but the chances are far less than running a tender shuttle for sure.

    It boils down to what you are used to or comfortable with. For example, we have used a drafting operation twice that I can think of in the last 19 years. We are not good at it, and we are slow at setting one up. We can do it, we are trained to do it, but not used to it so we are slow at it. Our neighboring department knows nothing but drafting. They are so good and so fast at setting a drafting operation up that they are just as quick as we are hooking to a hydrant. Conversely, they don't use hydrants very often so yeah, they could do it but they are not used to doing it.
    Last edited by Dickey; 09-05-2009 at 02:23 AM.
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    The same could be said for a tender operation.
    1. Mechanical issues
    2. Inexperienced engineer who fails to establish the draft
    3. Poor set up on scene ensuring that the tenders are delayed dumping water
    4. Long travel distances to or from the fill site

    Interesting question though. Even with all considered, I would still choose a hydrant operation simply because, I know the maintenance crews and maintenance history of our water system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dickey View Post
    I personally would take a fire in a hydrated area any day in the worst type of weather vs. a tender shuttle situation on the best day.

    You have good points to be concerned with for a hydrant area, however the tender shuttle has lots more risk. Here is a list that I can think of:

    -Requires more manpower (one driver for each tender, one water supply officer, one person backing/directing tenders and to operate dumps, at least one person at the fill site to operate portable pump, you would need an additional 5 people just with 2 tenders running)
    -Requires more vehicles on the road, more risk. More risk when trucks are constantly moving, or backing up to a tank. More risk to people on the fireground with moving equipment.
    -Chances of losing prime at the engine is greater than risk of the hydrant breaking
    -Greater risk of running out of water, tenders not being able to keep up.
    -Requires finding and maintaining a water supply. (This can be tricky sometimes. You might have to drive a distance to your water source. You might have to use a stream, lake or river and must have a working portable pump to fill tenders.)
    -More things working, more mechanical things running, more greater chance of Murphy's Law to go into effect.

    I have run into frozen hydrants before, or hydrants buried with snow and those certainly screw up the mojo. Granted, you can only hook up so many hoses to a hydrant or use so many before you overtax the system. Sure, there are risks with a municipal water system too but the chances are far less than running a tender shuttle for sure.

    It boils down to what you are used to or comfortable with. For example, we have used a drafting operation twice that I can think of in the last 19 years. We are not good at it, and we are slow at setting one up. We can do it, we are trained to do it, but not used to it so we are slow at it. Our neighboring department knows nothing but drafting. They are so good and so fast at setting a drafting operation up that they are just as quick as we are hooking to a hydrant. Conversely, they don't use hydrants very often so yeah, they could do it but they are not used to doing it.
    I HATE SNOW!!!!

    I am typically right behind the first due and I will catch the plug for the guys laying out. The last two winters though....three feet of snow in a three foot ditch sucks. Never lost the wrench though!

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    By the way....where are you from ATFDFF?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frosty42 View Post
    I HATE SNOW!!!!

    Never lost the wrench though!
    Side note: Funny new guy story....

    Was on the department maybe 3 months. Was riding in the engine and was chosen to be the hydrant guy. I was excited because it was my second time catching a hydrant and didn't want to screw it up like I did last time. (I was so worried about screwing up that I did. I grabbed the hydrant bag and the hose but forgot to wrap the hose around the hydrant and stand on it while I dumped my bag out on the ground. I had to run after the hose as the truck pulled away. Luckily, didn't have to run far.)

    This time I was determined NOT do that again. I got out, grabbed the hydrant bag, grabbed the hose, and made certain to wrap the hose around the hydrant while I dumped out my bag. CRAP!! There was about 8" of fresh snow that I dumped my adapters and wrenches into. DOH!!! Took me a bit to find everything but I did it. At least I didn't have to run after the hose again!!


    Sorry, carry on with the conversation, didn't mean to hijack.
    Last edited by Dickey; 09-05-2009 at 02:36 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frosty42 View Post
    The same could be said for a tender operation.
    1. Mechanical issues
    2. Inexperienced engineer who fails to establish the draft
    3. Poor set up on scene ensuring that the tenders are delayed dumping water
    4. Long travel distances to or from the fill site

    Interesting question though. Even with all considered, I would still choose a hydrant operation simply because, I know the maintenance crews and maintenance history of our water system.
    Being able to use both is the best approach.

    1. Mechanical issues
    I've seen hydrants that didn't work or failed to provide enough flow. Iíve seen Hydrants broken off. Iíve seen hydrants buried under snow and ice. When 1 hydrant fails you have to go to the next hydrant which could be 2 or 3 thousand feet away. When a tanker fails you simply move it out of the way. That is a wash

    2. Inexperienced engineer who fails to establish the draft
    Training Issue

    3. Poor set up on scene ensuring that the tenders are delayed dumping water
    Training Issue

    4. Long travel distances to or from the fill site
    Simply call in enough mutual aid to cover the shuttle.


    Plus, using a shuttle system you can set up multiple sources and multiple ponds. This means it is Scalable to the situation. One could easily get 5,000 GPM or more. Water mains are of fixed diameter, a single 6 inch main may feed several hydrants. If the 6 inch main can only supply 1000 GPM then that is all you will be able to get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dickey View Post
    -Requires more manpower (one driver for each tender, one water supply officer, one person backing/directing tenders and to operate dumps, at least one person at the fill site to operate portable pump, you would need an additional 5 people just with 2 tenders running)
    Hence Mutual Aid

    -Requires more vehicles on the road, more risk. More risk when trucks are constantly moving, or backing up to a tank. More risk to people on the fireground with moving equipment.
    Solved with training and good procedures

    -Chances of losing prime at the engine is greater than risk of the hydrant breaking
    Debatable, Using a well trained group the prime will not be lost.

    -Greater risk of running out of water, tenders not being able to keep up.
    Training

    -Requires finding and maintaining a water supply. (This can be tricky sometimes. You might have to drive a distance to your water source. You might have to use a stream, lake or river and must have a working portable pump to fill tenders.)
    Pre-Planning. Our water sources are identified in advance

    -More things working, more mechanical things running, more greater chance of Murphy's Law to go into effect.
    Also, more redundancy, meaning more backup resources available.

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    I'm another vote for a hydranted area. Our hydrants are 500 feet apart, if there's a bad one, move to another or have the next due rig drop their line from a different one.

    Originally Posted by Frosty42
    The same could be said for a tender operation.
    1. Mechanical issues
    2. Inexperienced engineer who fails to establish the draft
    3. Poor set up on scene ensuring that the tenders are delayed dumping water
    4. Long travel distances to or from the fill site
    One can add...
    Weather conditions that can impede a shuttle operation
    Response time from mutual aid communities
    Lack of manpower to effectively operate a shuttle operation

    Difficulty in getting access to a water source due to terrain, overgrowth of trees and shrubs

    Stopping at green lights.
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    I pick hydrants any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    never saw a supply line back into a ditch and get stuck

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    Thumbs up I vote for...Hydrants!

    Quote Originally Posted by ATFDFF View Post
    If you had your choice of the following two options, which would you choose?

    1) a working fire in a completely hydranted district

    or

    2) a working fire in a non-hydranted district, (with a good water source) and enough manpower/resources to have a good, continuously running tanker shuttle.

    -Broken water main - This should only be an issue on dead end mains. If you have a grid system, they should be able to isolate the break and you should have other hydrants close by. The water main also supplies domestic water. So, if the main breaks, that means houses are without water also (can't flush the toilets, get tap water, etc). The water dept is not going to have this out of service very long before the residents start screaming.

    -losing hydrant pressure suddenly - This is a very rare occasion and usually occurs on dead end mains and is a result of closed or partially closed valves. Something that should be pointed out on pre-planning and hydrant checks.

    -frozen hydrants in the winter - If the hydrants are frozen, then the static source for the drafting operation is probably frozen over also.

    -out of service hydrants - Goes with pre-planning and hydrant checks. Good coordination with water dept usually gives you a heads up prior to the incident.

    -(if running multiple hydrants) not enough water to supply each hydrant constantly - goes back to pre-planning and hydrant (flow) tests.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dickey View Post

    -Requires more manpower - Agreed

    -Requires more vehicles on the road, more risk. More risk when trucks are constantly moving, or backing up to a tank. More risk to people on the fireground with moving equipment. - Agreed

    -Chances of losing prime at the engine is greater than risk of the hydrant breaking - Once a driver/operator/engineer establishes a prime, they should be able to maintain it. If they are losing prime, it is either a training or mechanical issue.

    -Greater risk of running out of water, tenders not being able to keep up. - Agreed. If this happens, then the IC requests more tenders, thus increasing your first 2 issues.

    -Requires finding and maintaining a water supply. - Agreed. Pre-planning. Depending on the required fire flow, you may need more than one fill site. Which goes back to the more manpower and more equipment.

    -More things working, more mechanical things running, more greater chance of Murphy's Law to go into effect. - Agreed
    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post

    Being able to use both is the best approach. - You still haven't answered the question, pick one.

    I've seen hydrants that didn't work or failed to provide enough flow. Iíve seen Hydrants broken off. - Like you said, this is pre-planning issue. Iíve seen hydrants buried under snow and ice. When 1 hydrant fails you have to go to the next hydrant which could be 2 or 3 thousand feet away. - That much distance between hydrants? I could use 2 or 3 engines in a relay operation for this, which is a lot less than the number of tenders needed to move water. When a tanker fails you simply move it out of the way. That is a wash - It's not that easy, you would need to request one or two more tenders to replace one. Which goes back to more manpower and more equipment increasing the risk for things to go wrong. And depending on their travel distance, you're going to fall behind maintaining an adequate flow.

    Simply call in enough mutual aid to cover the shuttle. - Goes back to more manpower and more equipment increasing the risk for things to go wrong.

    Plus, using a shuttle system you can set up multiple sources and multiple ponds. This means it is Scalable to the situation. One could easily get 5,000 GPM or more. - Goes back to more manpower and more equipment increasing the risk for things to go wrong. Water mains are of fixed diameter, a single 6 inch main may feed several hydrants. If the 6 inch main can only supply 1000 GPM then that is all you will be able to get. - Hard suction and strainers are of a fixed diameter too. You're only going to be able to draft so much water with one engine. Which goes back to more manpower, more equipment, more travel distance. Keep in mind that the engine being used for attack can only provide so much water. Even with multiple tanks at the dump site, you need jet siphons to transfer water between tanks, which robs the pump of firefighting water.
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post

    One can add...

    Weather conditions that can impede a shuttle operation - Yep, more headaches for everyone invloved.

    Response time from mutual aid communities - Agreed, could take 30-60 minutes for additional tenders to arrive. By then the building will be on the ground and we'll be conducting surround and drown.

    Lack of manpower to effectively operate a shuttle operation - Agreed. These are people that could be used to put the wet stuff on the red stuff instead of just bringing the wet stuff.

    Difficulty in getting access to a water source due to terrain, overgrowth of trees and shrubs - With pre-planning, should have pre-designated fill sites.

    Stopping at green lights. Not touching this one!!
    I would choose a working fire in a completely hydranted district. Alot less required to conduct fireground operations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    never saw a supply line back into a ditch and get stuck
    That's a good one! But I have seen supply lines wrapped around tires and axles due to idiots driving over them. But I still choose a hydranted area over water shuttle.

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    Ask an insurance agent or company where they would rather insure property. I think they would perfer hydrants. I know my rates went down when the water main came down my road with the hydrants.

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    A lot also depends on how well the municipality maintains the hydrants and water lines. It will also depend on water pressure. The local city here has areas where there is insufficient pressure feeding the area. I have a friend who lives in one of those areas, canít take a shower after flushing the toilet. The issue is they are located considerable distance out, up hill from the processing plant. You would be lucky to get 500 GPM, probably closer to 250 GPM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    never saw a supply line back into a ditch and get stuck
    I have seen them burst, get run over, and I have seen hydrants broken off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    A lot also depends on how well the municipality maintains the hydrants and water lines. It will also depend on water pressure. The local city here has areas where there is insufficient pressure feeding the area. I have a friend who lives in one of those areas, canít take a shower after flushing the toilet. The issue is they are located considerable distance out, up hill from the processing plant. You would be lucky to get 500 GPM, probably closer to 250 GPM.
    As I stated earlier, I know the maintenance history of our system. Our hydrants are spaced 200 feet apart in most areas. Our pressures for our 6" mains exceeds 60 psi. Pressures off our 10 and 12" mains exceed 90 psi. For the last 5 years, no main has been installed smaller than 8" (avg. 75-80 psi). I have no problem laying out 1,000 feet of LDH if needed. I can still establish a fixed and reliable water source more timely than using tenders.

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    I volunteer in a rural area with hydrants only covering 5-10% of the county, and shuttle ops are the norm for us. We're good at it, and we're proud that surrounding jurisdictions (career & volunteer) often turn to us for advice on RWS operations.

    That being said, I work in a hydranted jurisdiction. Well maintained water system with redundancy in pumps, purification, and infrastructure with our neighboring city.

    My choice? Hydrants, as I know they're reliable. Yes, shuttles can provide as much (if not more) water than some hydrants, but the logistics involved in setting up the operations can be difficult for many departments, and it has to be practiced regularly.

    Now what's more fun? A good tanker shuttle any day.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    I pick hydrants any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
    +1

    Besides, take the people it takes to run a shuttle...... Use them to put the fire out.. Then you don't need any "Wata"

    on a serious note, Define "Working fire" ..... Most of ours can be handled by tankers if need be, but every now and then, If you can see the flames from far enough away.. We can go to the lake...

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    as scarecrow frames the question, a fire in a hydranted area that rusting and falling apart or a perfect tanker shuttle that has been anointed by god himself, has jesus as the water supply officer, and the 12 disciples driving the tankers, I'd have to go with the tanker shuttle.


    In most cases the hydrant system is going to be the one to go with. Even if you get a bad plug, in many areas its less than 500 ft to the next hydrant. Even if its spread out 1000 ft tops. Its water on demand, usually in large quantities. I'd also venture a guess that you are relying on more mechanical deices in a tanker shuttle than in a hydranted area. I'd bet the odds of a tanker having a mechanical issue is a lot higher than a pipe break. Plus depending on where the tanker breaks it could essentially stop the whole operation. While a water main break is a potential catastrophe, many municipal systems are loop fed, or you just hit a another hydrant fed by different mains (even if far away a relay takes less vehicles and can be set up quickly.) Even if the municipal water pump fails chances are its redundant or you have a gravity system so you can still get water for some amount of time.

    Put shortly, the hydranted option needs to be plague with problems or the tanker shuttle needs to be as I described above for me to chose shuttle over hydrant

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frosty42 View Post
    As I stated earlier, I know the maintenance history of our system. Our hydrants are spaced 200 feet apart in most areas. Our pressures for our 6" mains exceeds 60 psi. Pressures off our 10 and 12" mains exceed 90 psi. For the last 5 years, no main has been installed smaller than 8" (avg. 75-80 psi). I have no problem laying out 1,000 feet of LDH if needed. I can still establish a fixed and reliable water source more timely than using tenders.
    I recall a fire in Washington recently where they were unable to get enough water. I beleive I have seen this several times.

    Fire Scorches the City's Cultural Landscape, Too
    The blaze also reignited concerns over D.C. firefighters' ability to access sufficient water pressure to extinguish fires in some of the city's higher-elevation neighborhoods.

    In a perfect world with infinite supply of water to all hydrants that is the way to go. Unfortunately in the real world we donít always get perfect. Water shuttles do offer the advantage of being highly scalable. You can easily flow 1500 GPM with a water shuttle. Need 3000 or 4500, just add more shuttles and ponds. Granted, the fires where you need more than 1500 are far and few between, but we do get them.

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    All other things being equal and operating correctly.

    It doesn't matter.

    My preference? Hydrants. 15' from the intake of the engine would be perfect.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    Given our annual LODD's are nearly 50% driving adding more apparatus with more miles for more calls makes this a no brainer. As with Buff, +2.

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    It would be nice if we got to choose our water suplly situation, but we don't, so you have to be trained to work with what you do have.

    We actually can move more water with tankers than through our hydrants, so we will often pass up a low-flow hydrant 1000' away from the fire and run a tanker shuttle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Given our annual LODD's are nearly 50% driving adding more apparatus with more miles for more calls makes this a no brainer. As with Buff, +2.
    Except that 50% of those LODDs occur when the apparatus is returning to station.

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