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  1. #1
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    Default Draining Fire Pumps During Cold Weather

    For 30 years, our department has been draining the fire pumps on the rigs, (not the water tanks) when the outside temperatures gets below freezing. Is this really a problem? Temperatures here tonight are expected to be 18 degrees. However, has a fire pump really frozen in the short time it is exposed to the cold air? What is your departments policy? I can see if we were to sit at a call for hours not in pump mode. I have not seen it happen! Any comments? Thanks!


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    how hard is it to turn three handles to drain the pump and the lines? Its a smart idea. Specially when you consider the amount of surface area that the plumbing presents. Ice was thought to be the blame for the Black Sunday fire forcing a change in our manuals which now require all lengths of hose to be disconnected and drained and reattached at the rear of the engine thus verifying that the water has escaped.

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    Forum Member RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    http://forums.firehouse.com/search.php?searchid=497915

    Tried to narrow the search down for you, but this is as close as I could get.

    There are a number of threads that should help you out.

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    Drain 'em. We had an MVA last night and it was about 10 degrees or so. The pump to drive froze up in the short time they were there. Luckily they were able to crawl underneath and work the linkage manually.

    So yes, stuff can freeze in a short time when it is extremely cold.

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    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vbladder View Post
    Temperatures here tonight are expected to be 18 degrees. However, has a fire pump really frozen in the short time it is exposed to the cold air?
    Have you not ever caught back, to back, to back, to back runs and been out of the house for longer than "a short period of time"??
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    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Default Great Comments

    Thanks fellas for the comments.

  7. #7
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    We simply put the rig in pump and recirculate the water on every call we respond to when the temperature gets into the 20's and below (like tonight).
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    Ran wet pumps for years in the coldest reaches of the northeast and had very problems.

    The reality is that it will take longer for a wet pump to freeze than a dry pump because of the quanity of water in the pump. It takes much longer for the larger volume of water to freeze in a wet pump than the smaller amount left in the dry pump.

    In almost 23 years of northeast winter firefighting I have only seen a wet pump freeze 2or 3 times enroute to a call.

    The trick is circulating water every time the truck stops for the entire period of time the truck stops.

    A spray bottle of antifeeze carried on the truck applied every time a cap is put back on and sprayed into the valve itself will help with any freezing issues.

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    Forum Member len1582's Avatar
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    A problem we've had in the past wasn't with the pumps themselves but the plumbing into and out of the pump freezing and fittings splitting. Not on the fire ground but with rigs left outside for a few days at our repair shop.

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    So many of the valves on our rigs leak the only way we could run dry is if there was no water in the tank. We have to leave the caps off the discharges so they'll drain and not fill the elbow with ice.

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    Up here whenever its winter we have dry pumps and they stay dry until summer unless they are needed, the pump drain stays open so before we leave for a fire the driver must make sure it is closed.
    www.firehall.com - check it out

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    We used to drain everything in the winter, but leaving the pump dry for extended periods can be hard on the packings. So, we now leave the pump wet, drain the individual discharge lines, circulate the pump if parked in the cold for long periods, and have had no problems with this.

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    MembersZone Subscriber dadman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    .
    A spray bottle of antifeeze carried on the truck applied every time a cap is put back on and sprayed into the valve itself will help with any freezing issues.
    Mixed or un-mixed antifreeze?
    How about a spray bottle with a light lube oil, like UltraLube, WD-40, LPS1?

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    Back In Black ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vbladder View Post
    For 30 years, our department has been draining the fire pumps on the rigs, (not the water tanks) when the outside temperatures gets below freezing. Is this really a problem? Temperatures here tonight are expected to be 18 degrees. However, has a fire pump really frozen in the short time it is exposed to the cold air? What is your departments policy? I can see if we were to sit at a call for hours not in pump mode. I have not seen it happen! Any comments? Thanks!
    YES, it could be a problem.

    Even if you keep the water circulating by keeping the pump operating and opening the tank fill and tank to pump.

    We have 45 degree elbows. We actually had water between the gate and the cap of the discharge freeze and split the pipe. The pump and the tank were drained, but we forgot to open the caps and the gates.
    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.

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    Forum Member BKDRAFT's Avatar
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    We drain the pumps here as well.

  16. #16
    Forum Member RRFD77's Avatar
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    We drain the pump also for one simple reason that is what the captain wants me to do!
    Fir Na Tine

    "You can't help anyone, without getting there first!"

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber dadman's Avatar
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    We had an Engine go OOS the other day after a run.
    Wasn't able to get it inside due to mechanical problems and apparatus shuffle.
    The pump was drained, using all drain valves.
    After a few hours outside, any knook, cranny and low spot that had water or moisture froze up.
    The driver/left LD inlet/draft butterfly was left open. At the butterfly shaft lower bearing area, there's a low recessed valley in the pump/inlet housing. A little water was left there and couldn't be drained. Caused the butterfly to be stuck open.
    Various other discharges, aux inlets and small drain valves were frozen solid.
    Temp was about 10 deg F when Eng crapped and got to about 20 during maintenance.

    Moral of the story is, it's possible to have drained the pump in the station, go to a scene or mutual aid of some sort and not be required to get water going to the pump due to en-route cancel or a non-fire call.
    Going en-route, being parked for awhile and returning to quarters might be enough time to freeze up a pump and it's components if the pump wasn't completely drained and water free.

    I'm leaning towards keeping the pump filled, engaged while parked at scene and circulating water during any cold weather call. Fire, CO check, blocking traffic, cat in tree, coffee and fuel run, etc.

    It didn't take much to lock up some valves.

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    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    We have found the same thing; It's the small amount of water that causes the freeze ups.

    When we used to drain our old 79 front pump, it froze up somewhat regularly with just a tiny bit of water. It was better if we left the drains all open, so the water could settle out and drain, but that was a PITA when you really wanted to get the pump flowing fast.

    We do not drain the pumps on our new apparatus, and we have yet to have any kind of freeze up problem. We do circulate water on any standing response in freezing temps.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  19. #19
    Forum Member BKDRAFT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell View Post
    We have found the same thing; It's the small amount of water that causes the freeze ups.

    When we used to drain our old 79 front pump, it froze up somewhat regularly with just a tiny bit of water. It was better if we left the drains all open, so the water could settle out and drain, but that was a PITA when you really wanted to get the pump flowing fast.

    We do not drain the pumps on our new apparatus, and we have yet to have any kind of freeze up problem. We do circulate water on any standing response in freezing temps.
    Close the drains and prime it. Takes an extra 30 seconds top. After the pump is drained you can even leave all the drains closed. Then all you have to do is prime and your ready to pump.

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKDRAFT View Post
    Close the drains and prime it. Takes an extra 30 seconds top. After the pump is drained you can even leave all the drains closed. Then all you have to do is prime and your ready to pump.
    Yup, sure. Until the operator who doesn't get as much pump time as he should forgets and can't figure out for two minutes why he can't get a prime, or how the pump "Broke" cuz it's leaking all over. Or worse, the drain freezes OPEN, and you have one hell of a problem now. Training issues, sure. Fact of rural volley life, that too.

    Like I said, never had a single problem running wet pumps. Why fight it?
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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