One Stop Fire Products
|Fire Fighting Pumps For Your Farm, Camp or Cottage!
|Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
ALERT ... Ethanol Additive in Small Engine Fuel
Small engine repair shops are reporting a sharply increasing incidence of the deterioration of soft fuel system components -- such as gaskets & fuel lines. The suspicion is that the ethanol additive in fuel may be the culprit.
In order to maintain reliability of your small engine and reduce service issues, it is suggested that you avoid the use
of gasoline with ethanol. Some premium gasolines do not have ethanol added -- and premium is beneficial
for most small engines. Also, some larger gas stations actually have an ethanol-free pump — usually away from the main pump islands.
Do check your engine manual regarding recommended fuels. If possible, choose a gasoline that does not have ethanol added. The gasoline pump should clearly identify if ethanol may be present.
This issue applies to many small engines powering lawnmowers, chain saws, generators, etc. as well as fire pumps. The older the engine, the more critical this issue.
- What is the difference between a 2 and 4 stroke (cycle) engine?
- A 2 stroke engine uses a fuel mixture of gasoline and oil. It tends to be more powerful, lighter but with a greater noise
level. It is considered to polute more and does not meet emission standards in California. Fuel/oil mixture varies from engine to
engine. A 4 stroke engine burns gasoline only -- with oil placed in the crankcase like most automobiles. They tend to be
quieter but are considerably heavier and produce lower power for their weight.
- What are pump stages?
- Pumps are designed using an impeller inside of a pump housing. Typicially, a pump that uses 1 impeller is called a
single stage pump. A pump using 4 impellers inside of the housing would be a four stage pump. An impeller gives the pump
the ability to move the water and thus generates the water pressure. A single impeller has limits as to the pressure it can generate
-- typically about 100 psi. To get higher pressure, a multi stage pump is used. Forestry pumps range from 1 to 4 stages.
- Can I use pumps in tandem?
- Yes. This technique will not increase the water volume moved, but will generate higher pressures by making
your system multi-stage. Pressure (head) will approach the sum of the abilities of the individual pumps. Should you experience
a fire that is a significant distance from (or high above) your water source, tandem pumps may prove valuable. Whether you
place the pumps together at the water source or you distribute them throughout the hose lay depends on the fire location,
the abilities of the pump and the hose quality. If you are considering this option, plan in advance as additional fittings
or adapters may be required.
- My pump has a 1½" suction port. Should I upsize to a 2" suction hose?
- The size of the suction port is considered by the manufacturer to be the acceptable size for the suction hose. Increasing
the size of the suction hose by one step should lower pump stress somewhat -- but may not be noticeable to the operator.
Frequently, the suction hose size remains unchanged but the footvalve is upsized -- ie from 1½" to 2".
- What is the difference between a fire pump and a general purpose pump?
- A fire pump is designed for fighting fires. It produces high pressures and delivers as much water as possible while
maintaining the increased pressures. It is pressure that is critical in the lifting of water and the shooting a stream from a nozzle.
General purpose pumps (trash & dewatering) are designed to move as much water as possible with pressure not being a
priority. Often these pumps are designed to accept water containing solid contaminants which reduces the ability to
produce pressure. General purpose pumps usually lift water only a few feet so. General purpose pumps often have limits
of 60-80' of head -- meaning that they cannot lift the water any higher. Fire pumps have head ratings of 200-800' or more.
For more information on pressures & head, look at our reference pages.
- Why are fire pumps more expensive than general purpose pumps?
- Fire pumps are designed for fire fighting where lives are at stake. These pumps must be reliable, easy to maneuver,
and produce high pressures. To achieve these goals, the pumps often are multi-stage and manufactured to very fine
tolerances using aluminum and other lightweight materials. A lot of research goes into the design of these high
- Honda sells pumps that can be used for fire fighting. Are yours better?
- We believe that our pumps are superior for fire fighting applications. Our Wick/Wickman, Floto-Pump™,
Goliath and BlackRiver (Davey) pumps have been engineered and extensively tested primarily for fire fighting uses. Both
are recognized and in service by fire crews around the globe. The Honda WX15CX1, WH15XK1C1 and WH20XK1C1
models cannot make the same claim. Although Honda products are respected for quality, pump performance does not
measure up (in fire fighting applications) to what we offer. Weight is an issue as is rated head/pressure output. Of the Honda
models listed above, the maximum head of 164 ft. is below that of our lowest performer, the Wick 80-4H at 170 ft. For fire
fighting, head/pressure is critical to reach the high or distant fire pockets. It is also the pressure that allows the operator the
safety margin of being back from the flames.
- What about electric fire pumps?
- Electrically powered fire pumps require a lot of electricity in order to deliver the quantities of water
required for fire fighting. Such pumps are also very expensive in the sizes required. Also, electricity is not reliable in fire
- Can I get electric start pumps?
- Electric start pumps are available in the larger sizes but the do tend to be less portable due to greater weights. The
feature adds about 10 lb. to the engine plus the weight of the battery - 10 to 20 more pounds. The price is also higher
- $100 to $500 more, typically. Dedicated regular maintenance and testing is required. Our smallest pumps do not have electrict start options, but most medium & larger pumps offer the feature.
- What about an electric start pump that plugs into a household outlet?
- These are not generally available. However, anything is possible at a price. Also keep in mind that electricity may not
be available in a fire situation.
- How often should I test my fire pump?
- We recommend testing (using) your pump every 2 weeks. This keeps the equipment in good order -- but more
importantly, it keeps the operator familiar with the operation. It is suggested that your pump be used for other tasks such
as watering your landscape, washing your deck, boat, car, etc. to achieve the same objectives and provide added value.
Be sure to "test" your pump when you have visitors. Have them participate so that they are comfortable with
everything. If you then experience a fire situation, your guests will be helpers and not spectators.
- How far can I place my pump from the water source?
- The pump should be placed as close to the water source as possible. Our Floto-Pump™
actually floats on the water's surface. The critical issue is the vertical distance from water to pump -- cannot be more
than about 25' -- realistically, about 20'. For more information on suction lift, look at our
- How far can I push water with my pump?
- The significant factors here are the pressure generated by the pump, the vertical distance (lift), and the friction of the
hoses in use. Each pump has a maximum head rating often given in PSI or feet. (1 psi is equivalent to 2.3 ft.) This is the
best it can do under ideal conditions. For example, a pump rated at 100 psi can push water vertically
100 x 2.3 = 230 ft. At that point the water pressure approaches zero psi and water flow will stop.
As water passes through a hose, there is friction loss that translates into an effective reduction of PSI or head. For 1½"
hose with a flow rate of 60 gallons per minute, that loss would be 7 psi (or greater) per 100', depending on the type and condition
of the hose. Most of our hoses are in the 7 psi range. Again using our 100 psi pump, you could expect to be able to pump
a horizontal distance of up to 1400'. If a lower flow rate were used, a lower friction factor would result meaning that water
could be pushed much farther. For more information, look at the Lift & Head
- What fuel will my pump use?
- All the engines of pumps shown on this website burn gasoline. The 2 stroke engines -- Wickman 100, Wick 250,
Wick 375 & Floto-Pump should be given premium gasoline with the appropriate amount of high quality 2 cycle oil
mixed in. The precise ratio of oil-to-gas is specified on the engine and in its manual. The Wick 80-4H, Goliath, Versax and
Striker pump engines are 4 stroke and work well on regular gasoline. *** Avoid the use of Ethanol enhanced fuels.
There is concern that the Ethanol can contribute to early failure of some fuel system components. See next also
- Should I use Ethanol enhanced gasoline?
- There has been increased concern about Ethanol possibly being responsible for the failure of the soft parts in
the fuel systems of small engines. At this time it is advised to avoid using gasoline with an Ethanol component. Some
premium gasolines do not use Ethanol -- and premium fuel will provide better engine operation. If that gasoline may
contain Ethanol, then you should see a sticker on the pump.
- What is a "primed" pump?
- A primed pump is one that has the housing surrounding the impeller(s) completely filled with water. All
centrifugal pumps must be primed before starting. A dry pump will not pump water. Allowing a dry pump to run will
probably cause damage to it and will probably not produce any water.
A fully primed pump is one where both the pump housing AND the suction hose have been filled with water. This pump
will produce water flow immediately upon starting. A self-priming pump is capable of starting with only water in the impeller
housing. It is then being able to draw water from the water source into the dry suction hose to completely fill the system.
A self priming pump may take up to 3 minutes to draw water up the suction hose and produce water flow -- a time when
wear & tear on the internal components is the greatest. We recommend fully priming the pump before starting.
The process should only take 30 seconds.
- When and how do you prime the pump?
- The pump should be primed immediately prior to starting it. Once all of the components have been positioned and
attached, it can be primed. Techniques vary depending on the pump and the circumstances of the moment. Some pumps
have a priming port -- an opening that will allow water to be poured in -- filling both the pump housing and probably
the suction hose. A simple technique is to use a hand primer pump. With
the intake of the suction hose in the water and attached to the fire pump, attach the primer pump to the discharge port of the
pump (where you would attach the fire hose). After several strokes of the hand pump, water will be drawn into the suction
hose and then into the pump housing. When water exits from the hand pump nozzle, the pump is primed. Remove the
primer pump and attach the discharge hose. Start the pump.
Note: The foot valve on the suction hose will preserve the
- What are the advantages of a floating pump?
- If your water supply has a depth of 6 inches or greater, a floating pump can be used. Since
it sits on the surface of the water, it draws the water directly into the pump without the need of a suction hose assembly.
With no suction hose there is no head loss on the suction side. There is also no need to purchase a suction hose or foot
valve ... money is saved. With the pump being on the surface of the water, priming is no longer a problem. No suction
hose means fewer operational issues.
- What is the proper way to pull the starting rope?
- Improper procedures when pulling the rope can result in damage to the starter and render your pump inoperable. The proper technique is as follows:
1. Secure or hold pump firmly against ground so that it cannot move.
2. Firmly grasp "T" handle of starting rope.
3. Slowly pull rope out a short distance until resistance is felt
*** step 3 important to prevent starter damage***
4. Sharply pull rope to start engine — stop pull before end of rope is reached.
5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until engine is running.
- What is the difference between suction hose and discharge hose?
- Suction hose conducts the water from your water source (lake, river, pond, etc.) to your pump. Since it operates under
a negative pressure, it constructed to maintain its round shape and not collapse when used. It must be carefully handled
to prevent kinking or compression. A vehicle driving over the hose will destroy it. It typically has a short length of 20' or
less. Discharge hose delivers the water from the pump to the nozzle. Typically it is " lay flat" -- what we know as
fire hose -- there are many types to choose from. Several hundred feet of it may be attached to the pump and subject
to pressures as high as 600 psi.
- How much discharge hose do I need for my fire pump?
- Be sure to have enough to easily reach all areas to be protected. Remember, fire hoses do not like sharp bends.
An easy way to estimate your needs is to measure the distance as you walk a leisurely path from your pump
position to and all the way around your most distant point to be protected. Do not crowd any buildings, etc. In a fire
situation, you need the ability to approach from a variety of directions in order to avoid eating the smoke as you
generate an effective attack. For many situations, 300' is a common starting point.
- What diameter of discharge hose should I choose?
- Hoses come is all diameters. The standard size for wildland fire fighting is 1½" which provides a good
balance between water flow and maneuverability. Larger hoses become just too difficult to move when charged with water.
A 1" hose is appropriate when lesser water flow is acceptable or where hoses must be handled by individuals with
physical limitations. On this site, our focus is on 1½" hose. If you are considering a different size, please
- What is the difference between single and double jacket hose?
- Modern single jacket hose is manufactured of a circular woven fabric -- usually polyester. Bonded to the inside of this
fabric tube is a soft, smooth rubber lining to enhance strength and water flow. A double jacket hose consists of a single jacket
hose inside of a second woven tube. This provides a very tough and strong hose for extreme conditions. The trade-off is an
expensive and heavy hose -- appropriate for fire departments where hose lays tend to be short -- but not appropriate where
hoses require carrying or a lot of maneuvering. Forestry hose is single jacket.
- What is the difference between weeping and non-weeping hose?
- A weeping hose is manufactured to allow moisture to wick from the inside to make the exterior damp or slightly wet.
It does not spray water or leak like a common lawn soaker hose. The purpose is to allow the hose to self-protect from
flying embers and hot spots. Weeping hose is popular in forest fire fighting. Non-weeping hose remains dry on the exterior.
- Do I need a footvalve/strainer on the suction hose -- or just a strainer?
- A footvalve will allow the pump to maintain prime when it is shut down for changing hose lays or refueling. Without
one, the pump must self prime which is very hard on the unit and takes considerable time. We strongly recommend the
use of the footvalve/strainer unit.
- Should I use an intake (foot valve) filter?
- Fire pumps are clean water pumps. If you will be drawing water from a guaranteed contaminate free source such
as a closed water tank, then an intake filter is not necessary. When drawing water from an open source such as a lake,
river, pond, etc., then an intake filter is advised. When firefighting, even a clean
swimming pool can quickly become contaminated from fire debris. Your intake cannot be allowed to suck in sand, grit
or other nasties that might cause damage to the pump or impair water flow. A filter will allow you to simply drop the
suction hose into your water source without fear of drawing in foreign material. For fire fighting this will allow you to
start pumping more quickly as you don't have to spend critical time positioning the foot valve.
- How do I care for my hose?
- After each use, inspect the hose for wear or damage. If it has become dirty, flush with water. You can also use
warm soapy water and a scrub brush to make it look almost as new. You can also use moderate water pressure. Avoid
the use of pressure washers capable of high pressures as these may cause the lining to separate from the fabric.
For 100% polyester hoses, drying is not required but some basic drying is not a bad idea. Roll the hose and then store out
of the sun in a protected area. Do not store in a sealed container as the hoses need to breathe. Polyester hoses are resistant
to mould and mildew -- however, dirt or contaminants on the hose will support mildew.
- What is a fire hose made of?
- Many hoses are made of 100% polyester fabric with a soft rubber or synthetic lining. Some are of reinforced rubber.
Older hoses were made of woven cotton possibly with some polyester. These are becoming scarce as the cotton hoses
MUST be thoroughly dried after each use.
- How do I store my hose in the off-season?
|Inspect the hose for wear or damage. Wash with a mild soapy detergent if it has become
dirty. Rinse thoroughly and allow it to dry somewhat -- does not need to be 100% dry. Roll into coils and store
either on edge or on flat in a secure place. Protect it from rodents and other critters & vermin as well as
incidental abuse. Do not store in a sealed container. Keep away from sunlight and heat sources. Can be stored
in unheated area. Be sure that it is in a state so that it can be brought into action in a hurry, if needed.
Hose damaged by mice.
- How long will my hose last?
- A properly cared for hose should last 10 to 20 years (or even longer) under casual homeowner use. If it is used heavily,
the lifespan will shorten. Causes for hose failure include abraision from dragging over abraisive terrain; snags from sticks,
rocks and sharp objects on the ground; animals; machinery and general human abuse; and continual
kinking from short radius turns. Do not leave the hose exposed to the sun for long periods of time (ie. weeks/months, etc.).
Although hoses do have UV protection, continual heating/cooling cycles will cause aging. Of particular concern is the ongoing
vibration that a hose is subjected to during operation. If the hose comes in contact with sharp or abraisive ground points,
wear will occur quickly. The 10' of hose closest to the pump is most vulnerable to failure as vibration is greatest near the
pump. To get the maximum life from your hose, rotate the relative positions of your various hoses in the hose lay -- just
like rotating your automobile tires.
- Do I need to dry my hose after each use?
- Most hoses are now 100% polyester and do not require drying. After use, hoses should be allowed to drain thoroughly
to permit easy rolling. It is wise, however, to dry your hose at the end of the season or if the hose will be stored in freezing
temperatures. Hoses with a cotton component require drying after each use.
- What type of discharge hose coupling should I use?
- The 2 most common coupling standards for fire fighting hoses are threaded and (quarter turn) Forestry
Quick Connect. Camlock fittings are not appropriate as they are bulky, difficult to drag over the terrain, and can unexpectedly
release if caught on ground debris. Municipal fire departments use threaded fittings while forest fire crews typically use the
quarter turn quick connect. We recommend quick connect for most cottage/camp applications. Check our reference section
for more coupling information.
- My site has a lot of sharp rock. What discharge hose should I use?
- Fabric hose will not survive long in a hostile abraisive environment. In this case, a preferred hose is one substantially made of rubber and used for industrial applications. They are somewhat more expensive and about twice the weight of fabric hoses — but much more durable. They are readily available but may be special order.
About Planning & Design
- Where should I store my pump?
- Pumps should be stored so as to provide quick and easy access while being protected from the environment. Security
from theft or vandalism is also an issue. Many owners construct small sheds for the larger pumps. The smaller pumps can
often be located in some existing secure facility with easy access. Make sure that your storage area is well ventilated. Try
to avoid storing your pump in a high fire risk area. It is embarassing (or worse) if your "firehall" burns down.
- When choosing a pump, how much pressure do I need?
- Pressure serves 2 purposes -- to push water to higher elevations, and to shoot water out the nozzle. If your property
is high above the water, then it will take pressure to simply get the water up the hill. For most situations under 50 ft. elevation,
a 100 psi pump is adequate. For higher elevations or for protection of high buildings and tall trees, you may need to look at
higher pressure pumps. Look in our reference area for additional information on this topic. Firemen
rarely use hose pressures above 100 psi -- mainly because it is not necessary. To shoot a stream of water 50 feet from the
nozzle, 75-80 psi is all that is required. A good nozzle distance is desired to allow you to stay well back from the smoke
& flames and to reach rooftops, etc. However, the higher the hose pressure, the more difficult the hose is to handle.
Very high pressures are unsafe even for professionals. Do note, however, that most pumps can reduce pressure by
throttling back and operating with a lower engine speed.
- Will my insurance company give me a discount if I have a fire pump?
- You would think so but ... Some home owners have been successful in obtaining a discount, but most have not. The
insurance industry is being approached and does look with favour on equipment being present, but there is no formula
in sight. It will come in time, but for now, don't hold your breath -- but make the pitch to your agent anyway.
- Will my equipment be compatible with local fire services and nearby equipment?
- You should contact those around you to see what exists. Specifically ask about compatability. Note the coupling
standards and sizes for hoses. When we work with you to design your system, compatability with nearby equipment
will be addressed. The products that we sell are the same as that used by the MNR and municipal fire departments. There
are choices in many areas so compatability is not automatic. Often, a couple of adapters are all that is needed to integrate
with nearby equipment. Place these in your equipment box in advance.
- Is it important that my equipment be compatible with nearby equipment?
- In a serious situation, a better defence can be launched if there are more options available. One example is hose.
If a fire is distant from the water, then hoses from several sources can be attached for the extended reach. Also, pumps
can be placed in tandem to get increased pressures and push water farther. The ability to seamlessly pool resources will
make your equipment more effective.
- Can I add hose and other options in the future?
- Our systems are all open so that they can be extended as budgets permit and need develops. Just make sure that
you are aware of compatability issues such as sizes and connection standards, and that you are familiar with the
equipment you currently have.
- My budget is limited -- where do I start?
- Look for a starter kit. Focus on choosing the best pump for your situation and get enough hose and accessories to
do the basics. Once you have the unit, the hands-on experiences of the next few months will allow you to decide what
additional components are needed. Budget for those for next season.
- Should I be leaving this fire fighting activity to the professionals?
- Your safety and the safety of those around you, is the most important issue. The first few minutes of a fire are critical.
While the fire is small, it can be easily handled with minimal equipment and training -- preventing a major situation. You
may also be able to slow the fire down until help arrives. A rule of thumb is the "4 foot rule". It states that if the
flames are under 4 feet tall, then you can consider attacking the fire. If the flames are above 4 feet tall, you have a serious
situation and retreat should be foremost in your mind. You may be able to control the spread or buy time until help arrives.
What you do may be a life and death issue -- every situation is different. You are not a fireman or fire department.
Do what can be done safely.
- What if I personally am away when a fire situation occurs?
- Make sure that everyone around you is aware of the fire fighting equipment that is available and that they know
how to use it. A fire pump is a family asset -- not Dad's toy. Most fires start when you are not around -- but someone
else is. Make sure that everyone knows what to do.
- Will my Property Owner's Association buy fire pumps to protect community property?
- In the past, many associations invested in common fire equipment. Often, only a few members took an interest in
the maintenance and operation with the result that the program was not as effective as you might like. Recently, the liability
issue has forced many associations to cease that role. Most are now encouraging their members to, individually or in small
groups, make the investment. Usually, they are more than willing to assist in co-ordinating acquisitions so that community
equipment is appropriate and compatible -- and also negotiate savings on bulk purchases. Familiarization and training
seminars are frequently organized by the association. Additionally, many associations interact with local fire services
and insurance companies on behalf of their members for mutual benefit.
- How effective are roof-top sprinklers?
- The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is a world leader when it comes to the use of sprinklers for fire control.
In the British Columbia fires of 2003, Ontario MNR crews installed sprinklers on approximately 80 structures -- not one of
those was lost. Sprinklers are most valuable in situations of advancing wildfire where they will deflect the wall as well as
prevent flying embers from getting established. The secret is to have them operational for 12-24 hours in advance.
See Roof-Top Sprinkler page.
- What about rodents and other critters and my equipment?
- Mice, squirrels and other critters will take an interest in your fire pump system. If allowed, they will set up a nest inside
the pump housing or in a hose coupling or other fitting. They may also chew on hoses or other soft parts -- they love to
nibble along the edges. You may have to be creative to outwit them. Also, protect from animal/bird droppings as these may
have a caustic effect -- not to mention the 'yuk' factor for humans.