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How to buy portable dump tanks

Here's a look at seven tank options and which applications they best fit


Firefighting dump tanks are a critical water supply tool for firefighting operations in locations where hydrants and other water sources are scarce. Models such as open-top onion tanks and folding-frame tanks give firefighters a compact structure that is easy to transport from one location to the next.

Once on site, pumpers and tenders can quickly fill the dump tanks to supply hoses and other equipment. This enables the supply pumper to continue supporting firefighting operations while water shuttle apparatus travel between the fill site and the dump site.

Here's a look at seven tank options and some key questions to ask before buying.

Single fold, exterior frame
This is one of the first dump tank types to appear in the fire service and still one of the most commonly found aboard fire apparatus. Single-fold tanks are typically rectangular and have an exterior metal frame that supports the tank liner.

The tank is folded for storage by pushing its long sides together with the liner in between. Some examples include Advantage by Fol-Da-Tank and Leading Edge Tank by Husky Containment.

Double fold, exterior frame
The double-fold dump tank offers a more compact structure than its single-fold sibling. After the tank frame is folded like a single-frame model, joints in the middle of the long sides allow the frame to be folded in half, which means less storage space used on the apparatus.

The double-fold dump tank is also somewhat easier for firefighters to deploy because of its smaller configuration when folded. Some examples include DBL-FOLD Folding Frame by Fol-Da-Tank and Leading Edge Tank by Husky.

Reduced footprint exterior frame
Many manufacturers have added dump tanks with a narrower footprint to their product lines. Typically, these tanks are 8 feet wide, which make them ideal for use in areas with narrow or one-lane roads; the narrower tank footprint allows access for apparatus to get around the tank and not be forced into the ditch.

Dump tanks with a narrower footprint can also reduce the need to close down both travel lanes on a two-lane road. They also provide better options in wooded areas with limited space or even between standing structures. Some examples include Portable Containment Skinny Tank by Husky and Single Lane Tank by Fol-Da-Tank.

Combination exterior frame
These exterior frame tanks have the capability for deployment as either a full-sized tank or reduced to a skinny tank configuration depending upon the available space for deployment. Leading Edge Tank by Husky is one example.

Free standing
As this tank (onion or pumpkin) begins to fill with water, its design allows it to supporting itself. No frame is needed, which reduces the amount of storage space needed on fire apparatus. Self-supporting tanks can offer some tactical advantages over both exterior and interior frame dump tanks.

  • Lays flat when empty for easier placement.
  • The hard suction hose attaches to the bottom of the tank, which can eliminate loss of suction and makes it easier to get all of the water out of the tank.
  • Larger water capacities than frame-supported dump tanks (up to 20,000 gallons).
  • Can function as pre-positioned water stores in remote locations.

Some examples include Fireflex Low Profile by SEI Industries and the Tank and the Hydrostar Onion Water Tank by Portable Tanks.

The pumpkin tank is another free-standing dump tank that is especially suited for supporting wildland firefighting operations where helicopters are deployed using water drop buckets. The water in this style of tank is deep enough for a full air drop bucket. 

Some examples include Fireflex Pumpkin Tank by SEI Industries and Self-Supporting Frameless Portable Water Tank-Forestry Service Model by Fol-Da-Tank.

Interior frame
This type of dump tank has the advantages of a framed tank with the mobility of a self-supporting tank. First, the tank is properly placed and unrolled. Then the metal support frame is opened inside the tank and the corners of the tank are secured to the frame's corner posts.

Like a self-supporting tank, an interior-frame dump tank can easily be positioned and assembled by one person. This design can conform to uneven ground to prevent rolling. Rol-La-Tank by Fol-Da-Tank is one example.

New tank liner
Husky Containment has a new folding frame tank liner which it calls the PRO500. This liner has bladders welded to the side walls that, when deployed, will add approximately 500 gallons of capacity to the original size of any of exterior-frame tank.

The standard PRO500 has four bladders, two on each folding side. When deployed, the bladders extend out from the frame to create the extra capacity.

Each bladder can be deployed on its own. If space is an issues on one side of the tank, only deploy the opposite side and still get approximately 250 gallons more water storage. The bladders are secured with a strapping system that allows them to be rolled up when not in use. When the tank is drained, secure the bladders with the strapping system and it will fit in a standard portable tank frame.

Before you buy
Dump tanks come in many shapes and sizes and configurations. Before making the purchase, here are three key questions to answer.

  • What tactical firefighting operations will the dump tank support?
  • How many firefighters typically respond to fire incidents where the dump tank may be used?
  • How much space is available for the safe and efficient use of the dump tank?

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