Put Your Tanker to the Test
Charles D. Clark - Colerain Twp. FD
Ross County, Ohio

Is this tanker approaching the end of its critical dump time?  Critical Dump Time is how long the tanker spends dumping water until it reaches the point that it would appear to be more efficient to move on to refill.  How much water is left on the truck? conducts many water movement classes and raw data is posted on that website.  Vacuum tankers are rated by I.S.O at 100%.  No loss of water; complete fill & dump!  The vacuum tankers have a whole different flow rate pattern when charted.  The vacuum tanker basically dumps @ about 1,700+ GPM from the first to the last drop of water.  There would be no slope in its flow rate on the chart.

We performance test our pumpers every year.  How often do we performance test our tankers?  When you spec. out a tanker do your specs. say "Tanker shall dump 99% of its water tank capacity to either side or rear within 90 seconds...There shall be no water spilled out of the tanker as it travels to a fire scene.."  Do tanker manufacturers provide data on the water delivery performance of their trucks?  At 80% efficiency 1 tanker out of 5 is purchased to drive around in circles empty!  Anyone approving budgets/grants needs this info.

When you spec. out your next tanker will you research water delivery efficiency before placing your order? "...after all its only a tanker..."  (As a former vocational educator I know that people will only perform up to your minimum expectations.)

Maxi Tanker Pumper and an Engine
Earl Drury - Port Crane Fire
New York

Following is an essay submitted by Earl Drury, Truck Committee Chairman for Port Crane, NY, detailing the numerous factors which lead them to choosing a Firovac for their next tanker:




Like most small rural fire departments, the Port Crane Fire Department is faced with limited manpower & limited water resources. The Port Crane Fire Department has 35 members who operate out of 2 stations. The fleet includes two 1,500 GPM pumpers, two tankers, rescue, EMS vehicle, brush truck and ATV.

Port Crane is a small rural area with a population of 4,500 located in the Town of Fenton, Broome County, New York. The fire district is 29 square miles with hilly, curvy, narrow roads, mostly a bedroom community.  The hamlet of Port Crane has the New York State Police Forensic Lab, New York State DOT (Department of Transportation) facility, Town of Fenton Town Hall, Fire Station Number 2, Baptist church, lawn & garden center, two convenience stores, a few small businesses and residential homes. There are 185 driveways over 300 feet long, several are over 900 feet. Seven manufactured home parks are in the fire district. There is not a static water supply. The water supply is provided from 7 dry hydrants and limited drafting sites for an engine to draft from on the river, streams or ponds. The nearest dry hydrant to the hamlet is 3.6 miles and the furthest is 4.2 miles. All water for fire suppression must be provided by tankers.

A Truck Committee was formed that includes the chief, two assistant chiefs, captain, lieutenant and two firefighters. Their responsibility was to prepare specifications for a tanker to replace a 1979 tanker with a 750 GPM pump and 2,500 gallon tank.

The fire department is funded through a fire tax placed on the residences for a contract to provide fire and EMS services in the fire district. The mortgage on the new station was paid off this year and the Committee wanted to keep the payments for a new tanker close to what the payments had been on the station mortgage.

The Committee studied the fire alarm data for the past 5 years. Many important factors were found in the data that was an aid to the Truck Committee. The most important was that 59% of the fire alarms were between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM with an average of 4 to 7 firefighters responding. The Committee prepared a 20-year apparatus replacement plan. The needs of the fire department, community and assistance to the mutual aid fire departments was also taken into consideration when developing the tanker specifications. General specifications calling for an International chassis, 2-man cab, 430 horsepower diesel engine, automatic transmission, 3,000 gallon tank and a 3,500 gallon portable tank with a hydraulic rack were sent to 9 tank manufacturers. This provided the Committee with design features and a price range for this type of apparatus.  Demonstrations were arranged for fire department members and the Truck Committee. We also visited neighboring departments and observed demonstrations of their apparatuses. Several apparatus and trade shows were attended to help with ideas.

With limited manpower and water availability, the Committee chose a "Firovac" tanker/pumper manufactured by Firovac, Apple Creek, Ohio. The unit has a 1,000 GPM PTO pump, 3,000 gallon tank and two 3,200 gallon portable tanks with a hydraulic rack. The unit has a vacuum pump that is capable of drafting water from a source 60 to 80 feet away with a lift of up to 28 feet. With the vacuum pump, water can be drafted through a 6-inch drafting hose from either side or from the rear at 1,000 GPM. The pump can also dump from either side or the rear at over 1,000 GPM. Cameras are on the officers' side and rear of the tanker to assist in safe one-man tanker operation. Utilizing the vacuum pump and connecting the drafting hose provides a water deliver system operated by one person and the ability to draft water from a source that an engine cannot access. A normal tanker operation requires a tanker, engine and 4 or 5 persons to operate. The Firovac tanker will deliver twice as much water as a conventional tanker. The Firovac tanker added 28 additional sources in the district.

Utilizing the information from the fire reports for available manpower during daytime response to a fire, the Committee decided to go with a maxi tanker/pumper (1,000 GPM pump, 3,000 gallon water tank) an engine (1,500 GPM pump, 1,000 or 1,250 gallon tank) with four to seven persons that would be able to arrive on scene and "hit it hard from the yard" until additional resources become available.

The new tanker can stand alone if it arrives first on the scene. There are two preconnect 200 feet, 2-inch lines and a 3-inch, 200 feet preconnect with a "blitz" nozzle. Water is supplied to the preconnects through a 4-inch line from tank to pump. All of the intake and discharge valves are heated and drop down chains are included on the tanker for winter operations.

If an engine arrives first on scene, it can set up operations. When the tanker arrives, it connects a feed line ("piggyback") to the engine for additional water supply. Two narrow road 3,200 gallon portable tanks are carried in a hydraulic rack. They are removed and set up for tanker shuttle operation. One of the tanks has a 6 x 6 flange that a drafting line is connected to from the engine to the flange for drafting. A 6-inch drafting hose is attached to a new Firovac low level strainer (HVLL) and placed in the second tank for transfer of water from one tank to another.  The low level strainer will sit on the floor of the portable tank and will not lift up, which allows a higher volume of water to be transferred from tank to tank. This method uses 75% less parasitic water.

A hose bed of 1,000 feet LDH 5-inch hose, 18 foot roof ladder, 4'x4' folding tank for foam operation, 2.5-inch foam nozzle and educator & a Firovac multipurpose ice strainer are all included with the unit. Two compartments have adjustable shelves. Three compartments have slide out trays, a brow light, LED fire ground lights and a Federal "Q" siren completes the package. Total cost $350,000.00. The tanker was purchased without an increase in the fire tax.

The Truck Committee met its goals. Dedication, cooperation and the ability to "think outside of the box" enabled the Committee to prepare specifications for a tanker that provides the department with what is needed.

The tanker is designed to deliver a large amount of water with minimum manpower to the scene and do something with it when it arrives there, either "stand alone and hit it from the yard" or deliver large quantities of water to the engine. Planning has paid off.


Earl Drury

Chairman, Truck Committee

December 4, 2014

Why can you do it?

To respond to a recently asked question as to why Firovac vacuum fire apparatus can do some things that others cannot, the answer follows:

1.  Firovac's vacuum system CAN transfer water through LDH because it is designed specifically for fire service.  It is not desisgned like an industrial unit.

2.  Firovac's vacuum system CAN pump and roll with the fire pump OR vacuum system because it is designed specifically for fire service.  It is not designed like an industrial unit.

3.  Firovac's vacuum system CAN go from vacuum to pressure without having to vent the tank because it is designed specifically for fire service.  It is not designed like an industrial unit.

4.  Firovac's vacuum system CAN do much more because it is designed specifically for fire service.  It is not designed like an industrial unit.

2014 Polar Vortex
Earl Everhart - VTEC
Plainfield, Massachusetts

During the recent Polar Vortex (Winter 2014), Plainfield, Massachusetts Firovac unit was the only apparatus that did not freeze up at the fire they were fighting.

"Water Moving Machine"
Chief Linette M. Hutchison - Harlan Fire Department
Harlan, Kentucky

"I originally saw a Firovac demonstrated at the State Fire School in Lexington, Kentucky several years ago, then again at FDIC in Indianapolis, Indiana. I watched the ease of loading and unloading water. After watching another demonstration here, in Harlan, of water being obtained 40' down a steep embankment and at a river, I was sold. We took delivery of a 2000 Gallon Firovac unit in September of 2006. We have never regretted the decision; it is truly a water moving machine."

-Chief Linette M. Hutchison

Fitting in to the Present System

Fitting in to a present system may make you sit in line with all other tankers giving personnel time to stand and watch the loading process.

About a half mile from this hydrandt there was a large static water source. The vacuum units could have loaded through their 6" ports instead of the 2.5" or 3" from the hydrant. Anyone can understand loading through 6" hose provides a much better flow rate than a 2.5" or 3".

Furthermore, a hydrant system can be enhanced by running an extra line to a portable tank. Firovac can then load from that portable tank at 1400 to 1500 GPM.

Vacuum Tankers Fitting in to a Water Shuttle
Fitting In

Firovac is specifically designed to fit in to any present water movement system as shown in supplying water to this furniture factory fire. However, the water delivery rate would be no better than that system.

Delivering BIG WATER
Colerain, Oh

Three members from Colerain, Ohio went to Morrisvale, West Virginia on October 23, 2011 to see a water shuttle conducted by Mark Davis of Got Big Water.  Following are quotes from Charles D. Clark's observations.  Got Big Water's water shuttle classes are conducted according to ISO requirements.

"Morrisvale FD had the dump site completely set up and flowing water within the I.S.O. recommended 5 minutes - with minimal man power (4 people - 2 on pumper and 2 on tanker)!  All this efficiency allowed them to achieve a rare accomplishment - they did not tie up a nurse tanker to buy time for the dump site to be set up.  What does this make possible?  That first tanker on the scene dumps its water and is quickly on the way to get refilled and return in time to meet your water supply needs at what could be called that golden 15-20 minute mark.  This is the critical block of time before mutual aid water arrives on the scene.

Prompt return of first tanker to dump site is critical.  During a real fire situation when manpower is low and mutual aid is slow the 15-20 min. point is when you could expect to run low on water - especially if you are pumping more than the minimum of 250 gpm on the fire.  Morrisvale's first tanker was refilled and waiting to move in to dump for the second time before the first mutual aid tanker was finished dumping its first load of water (at approximately the 17.5 min. mark of the drill).  That is exceptional! during most drills it is nearly 30 minutes before the first tanker to dump returns from the fill site.

I've estimated the following times for this first vacuum tanker:

1. set up dump tank:..............1.5 min

2. dumper 2,000 gal. water:..1 min

3. drove to the fill site:...........4 min

4. set up the fill site:.............. 5 min (as allowed by ISO)

5. refilled with water.............. 2 min

6 drove back to dump site..... 4 min

             Total:......................17.5 min

Accessing water near the fire scene and refilling quickly with low manpower - these are some of the major advantages of vacuum tankers.  There were 5 vacuum tankers and four suction tubes available.  They could fill at the same fill site at the same time @ over 2,000 GPM.

No waiting to dump and no waiting to fill - that's the key to moving big water! A tanker sitting still is not moving water!  Think of pit stops in NASCAR: There are two pit stops per lap during tanker shuttles!  The race can be won or lost in the pits.

Self filling vacuum tankers can free up pumpers.  We only have two pumpers (1,250 GPM & 1,000 GPM).  We have several long lanes in our rural community which require laying LDH back the lane.  One of our pumpers is needed to relay pump back the lane from out on the road.  When we relay pump back a lane we have no pumper available to fill tankers (remember the delay involved in waiting for mutual aid pumpers to fill tankers). During our 2001 I.S.O. certification test we only got credit for one pumper for fire scene pumping capacity.  The other pumper didn't count because it was not attacking fire - it was filling tankers! If we don't need pumpers to fill vacuum tankers we can park that pumper at the I.S.O. mock fire site and get credit for its pumping capacity or during an actual fire that pumper can be on hand at the scene as a back up to the attack pumper. Besides getting 100% I.S.O credit for water tank capacity, vacuum tankers can also help you get maximum credit for all of your pumpers.

I've been doing a lot of figuring since having this eye opening experience in West Virginia.  5 tanker drivers + 2 dump site people + 1,000+ GPM or 143 GPM per person

During our most recent tanker shuttle drill we determined that it would take 23 people; 9-10 of our current tankers; and 4-5 pumpers to deliver 1,000 GPM...................That's 43 GPM per person.

Vacuum vs. Conventional Tankers:

6 trucks vs. 15 trucks to move 1,000 GPM

7 people vs 23 people to move 1,000 GPM

Besides being a fire fighter I'm also the Township Fiscal Officer. I'm constantly calculating what we can afford: I can't help but wonder how much fuel would be saved over the course of a long fire incident if you were running 6 vs. 15 trucks.  during these tough economic times governments are asked to do more with less.  Vacuum tankers are the perfect example of getting more bang for your buck."

Note: a complete article can be requested through this web site.

Can't Leap Tall Buildings
Chief Mike Sullivan - Tolland VFD, Massachusetts
SMOKE Showin' Magazine

It can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Tolland's new Supertanker is the future of tankers.

Chief Sullivan invited all of Tolland's Local Mutual Aid Departments to send representatives....with the goal of focusing on local cooperation, discuss common issues such as training, firefighter certification and regional grant possibilities. Tolland took this opportunity to introduce the attendees to the new "Vacuum Tanker".  Tankers from Cummington, Massachusetts and Drakeville, Connecticut similar to Tolland's new tanker gave demonstrations of their capabilities. A vacuum tanker can transform fire ground operations.  For fire scenes with easy access to water, no longer will we be limited by the water in the pumpers and a folding tank. 

The most challenging scenario for a volunteer fire department is a mid-day, mid-week call-out when only a few volunteers are available. Having to take firefighters and a major piece of firefighting apparatus away from the fire scene to conduct a refilling operation severely limits the department's ability to successfully battle a fire.

Excerpts from Winter 2012 Issue of SMOKE Showin'.  Read more there.

If you would like to learn more, contact Chief Mike Sullivan at

"Awesome Truck"
Kenneth Crump - Fleet Maintenance
Matanuska Sustina Borough, Alaska

"Awsome truck. I appreciate that I can get to things to do maintenance on our Firovac unit. It is much easier to work on than other units we have."