Going large

Published:  02 June, 2017

The increasing size of industrial facilities is driving the design of ever more powerful and versatile response equipment; Jose Sanchez de Muniain speaks with Chris Ferrara of US Fire Pumps. 

The introduction of a mobile, remote-controlled monitor that can flow at nearly 18,927lpm (5,000gpm) is the latest innovation unveiled by US Fire Pump to assist the safe extinguishment of large-scale incidents.

The Ferrara name became famous when the manufacturer’s Inundator Super Pumper broke the Guinness World Record for highest pumping capacity fire engine with a flow rate of 20,789lpm (5,492gpm) measured in 2015 in a test performed under NFPA guidelines. While the company founded by Chris Ferrara changed hands in April this year to the REV Group, Chris Ferrara’s other company US Fire Pump is continuing the tradition of offering specialist solutions for large-scale industrial incidents.

A number of developments have been made to the existing range manufactured by US Fire Pump. The performance of the High Velocity Pump on the record-breaking Super Pumper has been enhanced to pump over 23,650lpm (6,250gpm) from draft and to over 37,800lpm (10,000gpm) from a pressurised source. The pump, which was originally offered in cast iron only, is now available in bronze or stainless steel to accommodate salt water applications. The constant search for pushing the limits of water application, says Ferrara, is purely driven by the market: “When you look at industrial facilities, they are getting larger; storage tanks are getting larger while the footprint of these facilities is getting smaller. So there are smaller alleyways and smaller access areas. Years ago it would take four or five fire trucks to fight a fire but with this equipment it takes one fire truck, which means you can get closer to the fire,” says Ferrara.

Bigger fires also require bigger flows of water, continues Ferrara: “When you look at a fire column, the heat produced is so great that an aerial device flowing only 4,731lpm (1,250gpm) is not even going to break the thermal barrier to penetrate the fire. You have to have a delivery device of 30,283lpm (8,000gpm) to penetrate the thermal column and put the fire out. Big fires take big water devices and big water flows,” he says.

High-hazard industry appears to be taking the message on board. Last year a Super Pumper was delivered to Sasol’s emergency management team in Secunda, 120km east of Johannesburg, replacing a 16-year old Eagle 1 fire truck. Also last year Oman’s largest oil company, Orpic took delivery of a Skyflow SP-100 Ladder capable of flowing nearly 19,000lpm (5,000gpm) from a 30.5m height; the specific requirement here, says Ferrara, was tackling a potential fire on a coker unit positioned 75m above ground.

More recently the company has taken an order from a large refinery in Canada for seven large industrial Mobile Pump Units, each capable of supplying up to 23,658lpm (6,250gpm), which will be configured into two sets trailer-mounted fire-fighting systems and one for training and back-up: two MPUs will push each 17,034lpm (4,500gpm) from draft at 4.5m to a relay MPU that will push 34,068lpm (9,000gpm) of water at 175psi.

However, the key message isn’t just about size, emphasises Ferrara, who points out that a solution has to bring together a number of elements, starting with the hazard: “Ideally we like to visit the site and develop a water system from which an operator can chose a total solution, from a fire-fighting standpoint. We are just filling the needs of our customers.”

The latest answer to the complex and changing requirements of high-hazard industry is the Remote Track Monitor, launched at the Fire Departments Instructor’s Conference held in Indianapolis in April.

A patent-pending device that is specifically designed to tackle hazardous incidents without putting firefighters’ lives at risk, the system comprises a remote-controlled monitor and a separate remote-controlled vehicle that runs on two tracks and which transports the monitor. The Remote Track Monitor can be controlled from over 400m away, using its forward and rear mounted cameras which transmit footage to the operator’s tablet; at night the vehicle’s LED lights enable its movement to be visually tracked.

The unit, explains Ferrara, has been two years in designing and testing. The rubber tracks were specifically selected to enable the unit to push through any debris likely to follow an explosion, as well as to manoeuvre over tank dykes, mud or snow. The remote-controlled monitor is transported on a trailer which means, depending on the type of incident, it can be operated while on the trailer or, if necessary, deployed with the track unit into the hazardous area. There, the track unit can then offload the monitor and leave the fire ground or remain on scene. “If the track unit is pulled out then it can then be put to other uses, such as transporting foam totes to the monitors,” says Ferrara.

The diesel-powered unit is capable of lifting just under 1.5 tonnes in weight but its operation does not require a certified forklift truck driver, as per US Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, which increases its versatility. An optional grabbing attachment also widens the unit’s range of applications, enabling an operator to remotely take a hazard and transport it to a less sensitive location. “There are other remote controlled monitors that flow around a fifth of the water than this one, but we wanted to achieve more versatility,” says Ferrara.

The theme of doing more with less runs through other innovations that the company introduced in April, as demonstrated by a new lightweight and compact submersible pump and power unit that is capable of flowing over 11,000lpm (3,000gpm). “The basic concept here is that you can turn your three-quarter-tonne pick-up truck into a 3,000gpm pumper capable of feeding three fire trucks from alternative water sources,” says Ferrara.

While the FDIC saw a whole raft of innovations from US Fire Pumps a big announcement is planned during Texas A&M Engineering’s Industrial Fire School taking place in July. While Chris Ferrara is not revealing anything at this stage, whatever is planned is likely to involve water, and lots of it.

  • Operation Florian

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