Fire apparatus design and pump locations have changed dramatically over the years. Back in the day when apparatus manufacturers like American LaFrance, Barton American and Seagrave engineered and built their own respective fire pumps, departments readily argued the merits of each pump design and capabilities. American LaFrance touted their Twinflow fire pump equipped with a 10.75 inch impeller which was larger than what was available from rival pump manufacturer’s Hale and Waterous.
Rural fire departments preferred front mounted fire pumps due to their simplicity and ease of operation. Often referred to as bumper pumpers the front mounted pump provided improved chassis weight distribution while allowing for larger booster tanks that were critical for rural water supply. In addition, the position of the front suction inlet was ideal for drafting from ponds and portable water tanks.
This 1962 Ford F series Barton American 750 gpm pumper served in Forestville, Maryland and was equipped with twin booster reels and rear body windshield to protect members riding on the rear tailboard. The tank to pump and booster reel control were still located midship to simplify routine operations.
For many years the preferred pump location was midship with controls on the left or right side of the vehicle. Fire pumps were driven through a transfer case with one or two impellers operating to produce the required flow and pressure. Pump panels were fairly spartan by today’s standards with a Vernier throttle to control engine speed, relief valves and direct linkage or swing controls for each discharge.
This American LaFrance 900 series pump panel was designed to have all of the principal controls including throttle, tachometer, master gauges and engine gauges all in one location. The control at the lower, right corner of the panel is a Ross intake relief valve with the transfer valve for the two-stage pump located between the 2.50 inch panel discharges.
As diesel engines came into prominence during the 1970’s the standard 750 and 1000 gpm rated pumps gave way to larger 1250 and 1500 gpm pumps as the higher torque diesel engines could outperform gas engines. When the first automatic six speed transmissions were installed on pumpers, special components were required to lock the transmission in direct gear to transfer power from the road to the stationary pump position. Fire departments began to specify multiple discharges including rear body and preconnected master stream appliances. The old rule of thumb of one 2.50 inch discharge for each 250 gpm of rated pump capacity was no longer valid, with a resulting increased complexity of the pump panel controls.
This pump panel is from a Los Angeles County Engine 130, a 2010 KME Predator pumper, showing direct swing controls for the left and right side 2.50 inch discharges. Note the three transverse hose beds with the two rear beds preconntected to a 2.50 inch gated wye. Each pressure gauge is located adjacent to the respective discharge control.
While traditional midship pumps still continue to be popular, alternative locations including rear mounted pumps are favored by some departments including Fort Worth, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. The rear mount fire pump layout requires less space and weight when compared to a midship pump and permits direct access to the pump piping and manifold for repairs and maintenance.
This heavy rescue from Chews Landing, New Jersey was built with a rear mounted Hale pump rated at 500 gpm. Note the gated inlet at the left side along with a preconnected attack line loaded in a slide out tray for rapid deployment. A number of new fire pump configurations utilize a small body, pedestal pump where the apparatus manufacturer designs and fabricates the intake and discharge manifolds. This concept permits a small, compact pump panel which the major piping located anywhere on the apparatus, out of the way of the pump operator. This pump panel design utilizes a combination of direct linkage and remote control, electric valves, permitting increased body compartment space for tools and equipment.
This Pierce PUC fire pump panel shows the smaller panel area along with the space available for hose, fittings and adapters. Note the location of the intakes below the transverse hose beds for four (4) preconnected attack lines and use of all wall surfaces for mounting adapters and appliances.