Sunday, April 13, 2014

The fire pump

We live way out past - well - lets just say the post office doesn't deliver to our gate, which also means we are not close to any emergency services out here either so, in the spirit of personal responsibility, we have a 250 gallon water tank on a wagon and a proper fire pump which puts out a hundred pounds of pressure without even straining and uses the same hoses and nozzle that Forest Service crews use.

Yes, it was a bit pricey, but then watching a barn burn down because you couldn't control a grass fire is expensive too. We do get a break on our home-owners insurance for having the pump, the same deduction as if there was a fire hydrant within 100 feet of the property. So I figured out the fire pump will pay for itself in - oh - a century or so. . . .

As is our normal strategy, the fire pump is only one line of defense against fire.

First and foremost is prevention!!

We start with a rock solid electrical installation and careful maintenance of it. Electricity is one of the prime fire starters so we make special efforts to keep those nasty little electrons inside the wires where they belong.

There were no banks or other interested parties involved when we built this place with our own hands and the only inspection required by the county is for septic system installations so we had no inspectors to worry about but we were careful to build to at least national electrical codes and often beyond that (For instance we have no 14 gauge wiring at all, even though it is allowed by code for many circuits, instead our minimum is 12 gauge.)

We are especially careful with hot work, hot stoves, burning, and anything else along those lines as well.

But if we do end up with a fire, inside or out, our next line of defense is smoke detectors and/or cell phones.

After a disturbing incident during which I filled the place with smoke by making charcoal out of a slice of apple pie and yet the smoke detector never went off even though it tested fine with the button, the smoke detectors now get tested with actual smoke once a month.

Of course knowing there is a fire isn't going to do us much good unless we can do something about it other than get the marshmallows out. We can use the cell phones to call out the volunteer fire department but they are 20 to 40 minutes away even if the volunteers are sitting right there in the fire house. So we have 12 fire extinguishers, most of them big commercial type units, spread out among the various barns, tractor, 4-wheeler, generator cart, and vehicles.

Then finally we have the fire pump.

We can feed the pump with either the water tank or the pond, but it's not going to do much good if, like so many things expected to be used only during emergencies, it's thrown into a corner somewhere under all the other junk and then won't start when we need it, or if it does start we find mice have chewed up the hoses. Which is why, along with the generator, the fire pump is pulled out, hooked up and run once a month.

We have printed up and laminated detailed, step by step instructions on how to hook up the pump and get it running. This is stored right there in with the hoses where you can't miss it. Since we do this every month we don't really need the instructions but in the panic of the moment they could come in handy if we need the pump for real some day.

In the picture below, the black hose going into the top of the tank is attached to the pressure valve and recycles water from the pump back to the tank when the nozzle is closed. The white hose feeds water from the tank to the pump, or the end currently attached to the tank can be tossed into the pond if we need a larger water source. The 1" yellow fabric hose, which roles up flat and fits into the bag on the fire cart, obviously feeds the nozzle but what you can't see is that we have 2 of these 50 foot hoses that can be hooked end to end. We usually only hook one of them up during the monthly test and alternate the hose we use every month. (Keeping track by the order they are placed into the storage pouch. The one in the front is the one to use and it's then put away behind the other.) Not visible here is a garden hose coming from a hose bib attached to the well that we use to top the tank back up right after each test session.


 The nozzle is a standard fire-fighting nozzle and can be adjusted from a wide mist to a pin-point stream.

With the pump running at 100 pounds pressure the stream will reach out about 150 feet or so and still dig a hole in the ground!

You start the spray by pulling the black handle back towards the hose, but you better be hanging on tight because this thing has quite a kick!

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