Fire season from HELL

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This summer is shaping up to be the bushfire season from hell. Fanned by unprecedented conditions that combine a dry summer, and lingering drought conditions in some regions

Warwick Lorenz from Aussie Pumps gives us some qualified insights into what makes a well-equipped arsenal for fighting bushfires as Australia’s capital cities, and country towns are facing the potential of a bushfire catastrophe at its worst.

With several seasons of unabated accelerated growth of underbrush it means national parks, forests and bushland present a huge risk.

It only takes a few 30-degree plus days to turn vegetation into bushfire fuel.

Warwick Lorenz of Australian Pump Industries, the leading supplier of portable lightweight fire pumps has prepared this brief for AFDJ readers to be armed for any impending fire event.

Aussie’s Fire Chief is regarded as the world’s best light weight portable fire pump, primes fast with a massive suction lift of 7.6 metres

Warwick has been behind the successful push to improve both quality and performance of fire pumps.

Warwick’s company works with engine manufacturers like Honda, Yanmar and Kubota to maximise pump performance using the available power and torque to the best advantage from these respective drives.

The result is a range of pumps that extends from 5kg Ultralites, powered by Honda four stroke engines, all the way through to larger and much more capable equipment for fire-fighting.

The star of the company’s product range is their Aussie Fire Chief, claimed to be the world’s best portable lightweight fire pump. The Fire Chief simply offers bigger water passages than others on the market and a larger diameter impeller.

That combination of large water passages and huge impeller, perfectly balanced so as not to overload the engine, is the secret of the Aussie Fire Chief success.

The philosophy behind the development of the Fire Chief was to produce a product that maximised the use of the engine without overloading it.

John Hales – Aussie Pumps’ Chief Engineer with a Mine Spec version of the 76mm (3-inch) Yanmar diesel transfer pump

“We started out thinking about the application and opportunities for design without worrying too much about cost.” said Aussie Pumps’ Chief Engineer, John Hales.

“Price is a factor of course, but we believed that if you start with a 76mm (3-inch) instead of a 51mm (2-inch) pump, you ultimately wind up with more capability because of the ability to use bigger impellers and volutes,” he said.

The resulting fire pump was designed with a removable, and replaceable 51mm (2-inch) suction port.

“If the water can’t get into the pump, it can’t get out,” said Hales.

“We see fire pumps with 38mm (1.5-inch) inlets and four separate outlets.

How on earth can that pump ever be expected to push water through more than one outlet from a 38mm (1.5-inch) suction port. It’s a marketing gimmick, not a practical solution.”

Aussie Pumps’ also found customers wanted a reliable base for the pump to sit on.

Most traditional fire pumps don’t have either roll frames or steel skids to keep them steady.

Fire pumps are often used in stressful situations and in environments where the ground is uneven, making the product subject to “toppling”.

“Fire pumps without the stability of skids or frames have a potential to topple during the excitement and adrenalin rush of a bushfire.

A tug on a fire hose can cause the pump to topple and stall,” said Hales.

Australian Pump focuses on providing all pumps with either skids and anti-vibration mounts or roll frames.

“We decided to put our smaller fire pumps on steel skids with anti-vibration mounts, starting with our 25mm (1-inch) baby the Ultralite, and going all the way through to the mighty Aussie Fire Chief,” he said.

All Aussie QP pumps with larger Honda engines with power of 4.4kW (6hp) and above come standard in roll frames. This makes them easier to carry and adds protection for the unit.

Twin impeller pumps

Twin impeller fire pumps deliver more pressure but not more flow. While ideal for applications requiring more head, it’s important the engine provides adequate power to drive the twin impeller pump.

“Our big twin impeller pumps need a minimum 6.6kW (9hp) engine to drive them. Anything less wouldn’t even deliver more performance than our single impeller Fire Chief,” he said.

Aussie Pumps’ build twin impeller pumps with heavy duty single piece impellers that handle contaminants in water.

Some manufacturers use a bolt or cap screw to hold together their impellers, which is a cheaper, less robust option. The Aussie system has a stub shaft, with a massive bolt holding the whole “rotating group” together.

“We don’t sell many spares for our pumps, instead we have a lot of happy customers.” said Hales.

Diesels can deliver and they’re safer

The move to diesel powered firefighting pumps was in fact pioneered by Australian Pump.

Now, all key government departments around the country use them because of their intrinsic safety.

Even farmers are now moving to diesels for crop protection. During harvest time it pays to have a water tanker following the combines in case a spark catches.

“Refuelling a petrol pump during an ember attack is madness”, said Hales. “Most farmers are going diesel these days for many reasons, but most important, nobody wants to lose the crop, the pump or the combine harvester.” he said.

Aussie Pumps’ produce the “Brigade Boss” Series of 76mm (3-inch) and 102mm (4-inch) pumps, delivering high head and high pressure.

Available with either Kubota OC95 or Yanmar 7.4kW (10hp) engines. These great pumps are self-priming champions. They will prime from depths of 8 metres due to the huge tank that is integrated into the body.

Bush fire fighting from the sea

One of the big problems with firefighting anywhere in national parks or settlements is lack of water.

The irony is that many of these locations are accessible by boat.

Aussie builds a range of pumps that are configured to handle brackish or even sea water.

Called the “Sea Skipper” range, they were initially designed for the Australian Navy for use on patrol boats.  The pumps are used for both salvage and firefighting at sea.

The CFA in Victoria has picked up on this and are trialling the big 102mm (4-inch) Sea Skipper.

It can replenish tankers in an emergency from the sea, lake or lagoon, or alternatively, be barge mounted to fight fires from waterways.

“This is a new dimension of firefighting and is going to play a big part in the coming season,” said Hales. The company now produce the Fire Chief, Mr T twin impeller pump and Brigade Boss units in a corrosion resistant configuration.

“The pumps have brass impellers and volutes, are epoxy coated inside and out and come with stainless steel fasteners and zinc anodes. It’s not rocket science”, he said, “but it really works.”

Keeping safe in a brutal fire season

For the last 10 years, Australian Pump has produced an annual “Fire Survival Guide” for home owners, farmers and government departments.

Government authorities also hand out these guides to consumers with particular emphasis on home owners in urban or semi urban locations.

“You can imagine the business executive with his dream home on the outskirts of Melbourne or Sydney, bushland setting, equipped with swimming pool or water tank.

Without the right pump, he’s vulnerable if a fire comes running up a gully at the back of the house.

We hear horror stories about people who buy a third world pump at a bargain price in a hurry when they smell smoke.

Their lives, property, pets and assets are in jeopardy if the engine won’t start or the pump won’t prime. Our free Survival Guide helps people to be prepared,” he said.

The Survival Guide is a summation of everything Aussie Pumps’ has learned about firefighting and fire preparedness over the past 20 years.

It is an excellent starting point for anybody preparing their house or property for a tough bushfire season.

For more information and a free copy of Aussie’s Fire Survival Guide, call Australian Pump Industries on tel: 02 8865 3500 or call into an Aussie Pump distributor, see the website