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When to choose pump and roll

Increased firefighter safety and reduced manpower are two of the reasons to consider a pump-and-roll option on your next rig

Climate change along with continued human encroachment into the wildland urban interface is making many fire departments realize that they need wildland firefighting capabilities, and these departments are not all west of the Mississippi River. Those departments are finding that their Type I and II engines, the traditional pumping apparatus with an in-line pump, are not the right fit when combating fires and protecting structures in the WUI.

Thus, the re-emergence of pump-and-roll firefighting. NFPA 1906: Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus, defines pump-and-roll as delivering 20 gpm at 80 psi while traveling 2 mph. Yet, there are several options, and it is important to select the one that’s right for your department and community.

Let’s take a look at the different pump-and-roll operations.

Walk-along pump-and-roll
This application is where the firefighter walks alongside the apparatus while flowing a hand line. The key considerations for this operation are the ability:

  • To maintain an apparatus road speed at or below 2 mph.
  • To maintain a low-pressure and low-flow hand line — 100 to 120 psi out of the pump with a nozzle discharge pressure of 50 to 70 psi would be ideal.
  • To minimizing nozzle pressure fluctuation for easier hand line control and less operator fatigue.
  • Of the driver to maintain visual contact with the firefighter operating the hose line.
  • Of the operator to maintain a consistent road speed and stay aware of road hazards and the pumping pressure.

Walk-along pump and move
Here, the driver/operator moves the apparatus from one operating position to another — while keeping the pump engaged — and stopping to let the firefighter flow water before moving on to the next position. This method allows the driver/operator to proceed from point to point at road speeds greater than 2 mph; it also eliminates the need to maintain consistent water pressure. The driver/operator still must maintain line-of-sight contact with any firefighters operating around the vehicle.

Apparatus pump-and-roll
This is the “one firefighter show” that leverages the newest pump-and-roll technologies to enable the driver/operator to operate both the vehicle and the fire flow using in-cab controls. The benefits of using this method are:

  • Drivers can focus on driving and directing the fire stream; they don’t have to keep an eye on firefighters outside the vehicle.
  • Bumper turrets eliminate the concern of the driver/operator for nozzle pressure fluctuations.
  • The firefighter, in this case the driver, is protected by the apparatus cab and has radio communication with the incident command in a noise-controlled environment.

When is it smart to have a pump-and-roll option?
The answer to this question should be contained in your community-risk assessment. You do have a CRA, right? If you’ve identified an emerging interface fire risk, then you should be looking to add pump-and-roll firefighting capabilities to your fleet.

Another trigger should be your staffing levels. Today’s pump-and-roll technology can put a tremendous amount of firefighting capability in the hands of one firefighter, the driver/operator. Firefighter safety gets a big boost because that firefighter is in a protected position, the apparatus cab.

Bumper-mounted turrets are becoming more popular as fire departments realize having personnel sitting on the bumpers with hand lines is not the safest method of fighting fire. The new-generation bumper turrets are motorized and controlled by the driver/operator using an in-cab joystick. Newer models are capable of fire flows of 100 gpm or more.

Having the driver/operator in the protected apparatus cab also reduces risk to the other firefighters on the rig because they can stay inside as well. Fewer firefighters exposed means fewer firefighters at risk.

Foam options
Class A foam and Compressed Air Foam can both be used with pump-and-roll technology. NFPA 1906 recommends, but does not require, a Class A foam system.

However, federal agencies require cooperators to have a foam proportioner on Type III wildland engines and tactical water tenders. Here are three ways foam, especially CAF, can reduce risks to firefighters during WUI firefighting operations, particularly when used with pump-and-roll-capable apparatus.

1. CAF reduces water supply requirements. The less water you need for extinguishment, the less you have to bring to the scene and the fewer firefighters you have to expose to the scene.

2. CAF reduces air pollution. Not many people are snickering over this type of comment anymore after what we’ve seen from wildfires in the western states in the past two years. Quicker fire knockdown and ultimate extinguishment means less active burning and less release of products of combustion into the atmosphere. That’s good for firefighters on the scene because they are exposed to less smoke.

3. CAF has superior ability to penetrate and adhere to fuels. A National Interagency Fire Center study concluded that 90 percent of the water used on test fires failed to extinguish the fire because the water did not penetrate the surface of the burning material. The adhering and penetrating properties of CAF, and to a lesser degree Class A foam, make them ideal for protecting and pre-wetting exposed structures and vegetation.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.