Water pumping for fire protection

SolaRevolutionSolaRevolution Solar Expert Posts: 407 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
I was hoping some of you old pros would write in with meathods you may have used to provide "fail-safe" water systems for fire protection

First, a tale of caution:

A natural builder friend of mine built his family's dream house a few years ago. Beautiful remote strawbale on a ridgeline. They had just finished their power system and had it in a proper space under the house. The week before they were going to move in, they were living onsite in an Air-Stream trailer. It was freezing and they had decided to use the temped-in construction generator to power a space heater. Around 4:AM the generator turned off on it's own. Gas?

At about 6:AM their dog woke them up, frantically barking at the windows. They looked out to see flames licking up from under the floor of the new house. My friend ran out and grabbed a hose. The water lasted less than a minute as the pressure tank drained and then nothing. The fire had started in the power room. No power - no water.

They had a direct solar pump to fill a 5000 gal storage tank which sat useless and full with no way to bring it to the fire. It took Cal-Fire about 40 minutes to get there and when they did they just pushed the walls in to smother the fire. The strawbales themselves did not really flame but the TJI flooring and ceiling did.



I keep this story in mind when I see new homesteads going in. Gravity feed with 10,000 gallons is ideal but not always possible. Fires are likely to start in the power room or where generator fuel is stored. Grid systems are vulnerable to power outtages during fires too.

Thanks,
Alex

Comments

  • firerescue712firerescue712 Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    The problem a homeowner will face is setting up a water supply system with enough gallon per minute (gpm) flow to extinguish a fire. The larger the fire, the more gpm required. Most solar and DC pumps are low gpm and pressure. They can offer one or the other. With a fire, you need both. Instead of having a system where the homeowner has to actively fight the fire, look into residential sprinkler systems. A sprinkler needs less water and can extinguish, or at least slow down, most fires. An explosion or gas-fed fire is different. Contact a local fire suppression system company and talk with them about this. Most insurance companies will give discounts for a properly installed sprinkler system. It is costly, but in remote ares will probably prevent a total loss. If a generator is in place, make sure it is far enough from the structure to prevent a spread of fire between it and the structure. Also, make sure the landscaping is set up to reduce the wildland fire danger. Search the web for discussions and literature on these items. Store fuels in a remote shed to isolate them from the house. Place smoke detectors strategically throughout the house. If the tank is gravity fed with enough elevation over the house, a smaller fire pump might be feasible. This can be determined by the fire suppression system installer. I hope this helped. I am saddened to learn of your friend's loss. The most important thing was saved, though.....the human life.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,362 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    I have 3,000 gal for fire, in a tank, 160' elevated feeding a 3" line for Cal Fire. That had to be installed before the shop was built. I can bring in 2 more 3,000 tanks if the first goes dry, all cross fed by 3" burried PVC
    Cal fire will also allow a grade base tank that they could hook up to, they just don't want to have to suck water from a pond.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,362 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection
    ajbelcher wrote: »
    ..... I'm usually deinstalling Halon which is expensive and dangerous. ....
    The dangerous part is promulgating that Halon is dangerous. It's the safest extinguishing agent I know of. It stops the burning reaction way before the o2 levels drop enough to snuff a fire or a person. Co2 systems have to displace nearly all the o2 before a fire is out. It's only used because of it's low pressure storage (600 psi @ room temp) and it's ability for a small tank of liquid, to vaporize into a huge volume to smother a fire. The frosty discharge does little to cool a fire, but is a great visual effect. But the EPA decided the risk to the ozone was too much so they banned it. Now if you are flying in a passenger jet at 30,000' and you have an engine fire, it can't be extinguished with a whiff of halon anymore. They must kill the engine, and hope it's lack of fuel, and not engine oil that will put it out. Big safety margin erased there. But Air Force 1 retains its halon, VIP's can bend the rules they impose on their peons.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    I have a NPT (with fire adapter) hydrant exiting our pump house plumbed into a 500 gallon water pressure tank which is supplied by two 1,700 gallon underground Norwesco water tanks with manhole covers. Each underground tank has a 220V 1/2 HP grundfos pumps in it. They can simaltaneously or, individually supply and pressurize the pressure tank (redundancy).

    I installed access caps on top of the Norwesco manhole covers to accept a fire emergency siphon suction hose which can be fitted to our high pressure 134 PSI, 4,800 GPH max head 302 ft, twin impeller 1 1/2" water pump. Stored in the pump house is 350' of fire hose and nozzles.

    If we still have power, I can use the hydrant. If we lose power, I can suction the tanks supplied by the well and lift water using the gas powered high pressure water pump. The well can also be pumped with a generator. Key is to have power and water supply redundancy.

    We've had two catastrophic fires on the National Forest that burned tens of thousands of acres. A similiar set up is a must for anyone living as we do.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • firerescue712firerescue712 Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    The system you have is great. It is rare to find anyone that thinks through fire suppression. Make sure you test the hose, pump, and associated equipment at least annually to make sure it still works. I have seen fire hose burst after being in service for only one year. This set up is good for a small fire. Be careful not to overestimate the abilities of the water stream to put the fire out. Have you ever looked into adding a foam injector into the system between the pump and the nozzle? This makes the water more efficient. On fire trucks, it allows the firefighter to put out up to 5 times as much fire with the same amount of water. Scotty Fire is one company I have used a few years back. All their equipment is plastic, so it will not rust or corrode. Be safe.
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    Thanks firerescue.

    Last year, USFS fought a wildfire here bordering the ranch that burned 220,000 acres of desert mountain National Forest. We were on the receiving end but everything was saved except losing our west boundary fences.

    I got to know the USFS Type I fire team pretty well. They also complimented me on our fire suppression system but said where the remote ranch is located and next to USFS it's essential.

    How does the foam injector work?

    I have a healthy respect for wildfire that can burn a desert mountain from 5,000 feet to a bluffy 8,500 peak in just two hours with 60 - 120 foot flame lengths out there! The noise like a herd of freight trains. Fire burnt all around us and licked at my panels but nothing lost thanks to the fire crew and rancher neighbors. Nearest town is 100+ miles away making it difficult.

    You're absolutely right about judiciously testing the fire hose and equipment every year. Will surely do it after being hammered by last year's fire season.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • firerescue712firerescue712 Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    It uses the venturi effect to draw the foam through a siphon hose into the water stream as the water flows over the eductor opening. The link below diagrams it in use. It is simple, but effective. The backpack is something new since I last visited their site. Foam is basically highly concentrated liquid soap. There are other additives in it, though. Soap works OK in a pinch, though. Foam is corrosive, so any metallic equipment is flows through needs a good cleaning after using it. The type foam is called Class A. The USFS came up with it. Talk with your local fire department and forestry officials about it. I am sure they will encourage you to add this to your fire suppression arsenal.
    http://www.scottyfire.com/scotty-support/technical-product-information.htm
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection

    Great input. Will do and thanks.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 437 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Water pumping for fire protection
    mike95490 wrote: »
    The dangerous part is promulgating that Halon is dangerous. It's the safest extinguishing agent I know of. It stops the burning reaction way before the o2 levels drop enough to snuff a fire or a person. Co2 systems have to displace nearly all the o2 before a fire is out. It's only used because of it's low pressure storage (600 psi @ room temp) and it's ability for a small tank of liquid, to vaporize into a huge volume to smother a fire. The frosty discharge does little to cool a fire, but is a great visual effect. But the EPA decided the risk to the ozone was too much so they banned it. Now if you are flying in a passenger jet at 30,000' and you have an engine fire, it can't be extinguished with a whiff of halon anymore. They must kill the engine, and hope it's lack of fuel, and not engine oil that will put it out. Big safety margin erased there. But Air Force 1 retains its halon, VIP's can bend the rules they impose on their peons.

    I've often wondered about the wisdom of banning Halon.

    A fire (in a boat) can be put out SO quickly using this chemical.

    By banning it, fire suppresion is limited to far less effective methods (dry chemical, CO2).

    So, which will create more havoc for the Ozone layer; a squirt of Halon, or the toxic fumes created when a fibreglass boat burns to the waterline?

    I think I know the answer.....
    Island cottage solar system with 2400 watts of panels, 1kw facing southeast 1kw facing southwest 400watt ancient Arco's facing south.Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT charge controller 8 Trojan L16's. Insignia 11.5 cubic foot electric fridge. My 28th year.
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