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"THEY SAID IT" archives
April-May, 2003

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Concrete truck tanker
Conceptual prototype of concrete tanker during wildfire drop.

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04/23 Does anybody have experience using concrete trucks as water tenders on a
wildland fire?

The firefighter who suggested the idea heard about it from the West Coast.
We tried one in training a few weeks ago. It dumped 1,400 gallons of water
into a porta-tank in 1 minute 15 seconds, with the drum spinning at idle
speed. At half throttle it dumped at a rate of about 2,000 gpm and still
slopped less than 10 gallons on the ground.

The water was very clear with minimal sand - probably cleaner than what we
usually get from drafting out of a river or pond. It might clog some of the
smaller forestry nozzles, but presumably this tactic would be used with
higher flow nozzles. It also would be good when using a pumpkin for a
helicopter fill site.

As for stability going down the road, the driver said it almost felt like
the truck was empty. The water in the truck weighed about 10,000 lbs.
versus a full-load of concrete weighing about 35,000. The mixing screw
pushing the water to the front of the drum acts like a baffle.

It seems like a good option for initial attack and minimum impact tactics.
Our '03 fire season outlook (not to mention budgets) may not justify all the
extra severity crews and air support we had last year. We'll have to rely
on less conventional resources.

vfd cap'n
04/24 Vfd capín,

Yup, its been done and from what I heard it worked ok. They were used once in a time of dire need when the poop was really hitting the fan here before I came on board. Also used were septic trucks (yech!), milk trucks, fish hatchery trucks (donít hold much water, but you take what you can get in a pinch). You can also look at local govt highway depts., pavement contractors and probably a few other govt or private organization as some of them may have large tank trucks you can use in a time of need (for a price of course)

04/24 vfd capt

The only problem I could see using a concrete truck like that is clearance. I suppose if you had clear roads with no over hang that would be fine. But if you got into a non-maintained road then you'd be stuck with ordering an actual tender (I.A. Scenario) and be stranded with a piece of equipment not used but sure paid for.

However, I think it would be great, like you said, for aerial support and even staging for a water source. We all know a lot of water in the middle of nowhere is always a good thing. By the way, out of curiosity, how fast can that thing draft?

04/25 Pulaski and DT,

The concrete trucks offer a couple advantages. One, they can spin out the last drop, even when backed in uphill. (Our tenders often pull away with several hundred gallons.)

Secondly, our firefighters are better utilized in staffing an engine or, God forbid, actually working on a handcrew. We trust non-fire types to pipe water to our hydrants (in the 2% of our district that is hydranted) so I'm more than willing to let an experienced driver haul water to whatever part of the remaining 98% a truck can reach.

The concrete trucks can't draft, but we're working on arrangements for the trailer-type overhead fill stations like are used at construction sites. Or, we could drop one of our 500 gpm portable pumps and some hose, or maybe commit a structure pumper to draft at a fill site. Even if it had to be a 30-minute roundtrip back to the batch plant, the fast dump time means that each truck could sustain about 50 gpm flow.

We have had good experience with the county road crews, using slip-in tanks on their dump trucks (which can also get the last drop out, but only through low-flow irrigation pumps.) Several construction company tenders and a 3,000 gal. tender from a metro water diversion project in our district routinely show up to our fires. Thus far we haven't paid them anything, other than splitting the cost of putting a 10-inch dump valve on a private tender.

The snowpack is decent this spring, so the ditches and ponds that were dry last year should have water. Maybe we won't have to shuttle water in at all, or at least not quite so far.

We do have the foam available to extend whatever water we have. When we got a good deal on class A foam last year, the subdivision homeowner groups kicked in for 1,500 gallons. Our fire chief was asked his opinion about the diaper-gel systems and said they'd get more bang for the buck if they bought something we would use in either attacking a fire or for structure protection.

vfd cap'n
04/25 Abs;

Concrete trucks, I love it! Just when ya think you've really thought things through (think outside the box ya know) and have achieved the level of operational nirvana usually achieved only after 22 days of hard work and even better sleep, along comes an idea like this that makes ya feel really dense.

Now I only have a couple of naive questions; just who gets to climb up the wash rack ladder with the 3" - 4" draft hose and what the heck do ya hook it to when ya get up that skinny metal ladder, or when the PTO is engaged to spin the drum and the draft hose gets wrapped around those pesky mixing fins inside the drum who gets to crawl inside the drum to retrieve the portable pump and hose that must have mysteriously filled this beast.

Ok, so when the drum empties the water into the porta-pad and those little concrete pieces get stuck in the Engine's pressure pump orifices who gets to disassemble the pump case and volute to get those little buggers out? Oh ya its the Teamsters because its a Union activity. So how do I get a Teamsters job delivering water to fires and get a free meal at fire camp to boot? I never get the good jobs!

R6 Engineslug
04/25 Hey -- On this Concrete Truck/Water idea --

Not to be too difficult, but what are we going to call
them? They're not Water Tankers, because that's a vfd

They're not Water Tenders....Water tenders must have
pumps, fittings, hose, etc to meet NWCG guidelines.

I suppose they could be a water truck, but then water
trucks need to be accompanied with a Single Resource
boss or higher -- Maybe CCTB (Concrete Truck Boss)?

Just as one another side note -- Contractors (people
that use the concrete trucks for hauling concrete)
typically work about the same time we do -- summers.
Meaning they might not be quite available. I would bet
most concrete trucks make more money hauling there own
concrete rather than someone elses water.

Finally, is there a shortage of Water Tenders?

04/26 Concrete Truck

Another side of this is if the truck can not draft, then who and how are they going to get water? They need to be supplied some how, tender maybe? Unless you had a very high pressure garden hose and a few hours. Not trying to be sarcastic here, but there a lot of logistics to be looked at if this is going to be a resource.

OK, personal story here, try not to laugh too hard every one. This was on a fire in Colorado last summer. For some reason one of our water tenders was a Rotor Router. It seemed fine, it could draft, hold a lot of water and get to wherever the overhead needed it to. HOWEVER, one thing they forgot to check upon check in. The owner never sanitized the tank. They flushed it out once with regular water then sent it on its way to our fire.

I did not find this out until my tank was full and stinky. I found out what all he had filled me with when I went over the first big bump in the road and my STL about lost his lunch. Needless to say I had to spend the next 4-5 hours sanitizing my whole engine and tank. I think the purchasing team was trying out different methods of getting water to fires other then an actual tender.

Why is this becoming an issue I have no idea. But it seems to me that if the feds (FS, BLM, BIA etc.) can't afford to build tenders or tenders are in short supply, then why not have the contractors build more? Once the national contract comes for a re-up, I think that would be the opportune time to propose more tenders. I know for a fact that the contractors would jump at that opportunity and the problem, if there is one, would be solved.

Just a suggestion.
04/26 On the cement truck/alternate tender issue.

I cant speak for the rest of the world, but in every rural fire dept I have
worked with, they are set up with a large "portable" pump unit dedicated to
fill their tenders on a fire. The units I have worked with have been on a
trailer, mounted on a pick-up or a drop off unit. The smallest I have seen
is a 500 gpm unit, but 750+ are more typical.

It wasnt always this way, but today all fire dept tenders have water pumping
capability, so when the poop is hitting the fan in an interface situation
they are used more as engines and not just as a tender. (...or "tanker" as
the structural service commonly calls them)

Keep in mind that the situation where we have used alternative tenders was
an extreme situation, where all fire resources in a several county area were
totally tapped out. As it is with most major fires here, if the equipment
is not going to get on scene w/in 4 hours at the very most it might as well
stay home. So contract equipment (or any other resources for that matter)
from far away isnt any help unless you want it for mop up the next day or
are going to have heavy staffing/suppression action through the night.

As someone stated the one big advantage to alternate tenders/water haulers
is that it frees up the true fire units to put the white stuff on the red

04/27 Re cement truck/alternate tender:

Just to add to what pulaski stated on 4/26. My rural
department will send a Main Line engine, with a 1750
GPM pump, to a water source and fill tenders two (2)
at a time. We have installed several 10" draft
hydrants to make this easier at times, but most often
we just draft straight from the source to the hydrant.
Just a little variable on how we do it here in
southern Wisconsin.

04/28 Ab,

Here's the corrected address for your sitemap link to the index of the Thirtymile Fire investigation findings:

At the bottom of that page they list a variety of documents as "background information." There's a one-page .pdf file titled, "Comparisons of Water Delivery Options" that explores the relative insignificance of the 5-hour delay in putting the helicopter in service. ( )

Even as good as I think the concrete trucks will work in certain situations, my first preference is to be able to develop a nearby water source. Several trucks traveling much distance at all would have a hard time keeping up with a working Mark III, let alone one of our 500-gpm portables.

Something else to think about - page 27 of the Thirtymile report, Equipment Findings section states: "The hose layout (e.g., arrangement, size of hoses, and pressure reducers) was not conducive to optimal water operations, and limited the amount of water that the crew applied to the fire."

If you're looking for a good assignment when the volunteer fire department shows up, put 'em to work dragging their 2 1/2" hose and fittings around the fire to get rid of the pressure loss. They may not know the first thing about wildland tactics, but most are pretty competent with water supply.

vfd cap'n

I corrected that link. Ab.
04/29 Aussie on concrete trucks:


We first got to use concrete trucks in the big fires of 1994. We had the
same initial problem of "how do you get the water?". Problem was solved by
taking the portable pump from the truck (all our rural units have them) then
pump the water from the mixing barrel to the top fill on the tank. Since
then we've used them a fair bit on airbase operations to mix retardant (sure
nothing new to your lot), but they can be set up with a buoywall
(collapsible dam?) which you keep running the cement trucks to dump their
load in to that. If all else fails (which it did initially in 1994), get
the concrete trucks simply to emply their water down the hill towards the


Expect the best. Prepare for the worst
04/29 With the massive shortage of Water Tenders this year,
it sounds like we all in contracting should build as
many water tenders as we can.

I think I'm going to purchase a concrete truck
tomorrow. Where should I send it for use?

Contact AB for my email address for the resource order
information. Feel free to request a water tender,


Snicker, maybe you should be haulin' that instant water we learned about several years ago. Good stuff, and a cement mixer seems perfect for mixing it. Ab.
05/02 Announcement: Our new foam system for tenders/ concrete mixers

Hi Ab,

We have been working on our water tender new foam system for years and with the recent suggestion of the use of cement mixer trucks we have finally brought our dream to fruition. We call our new system C.A.R.C.I.T., or Compressed Air Rice Crispy In Tank system.

When we first started experimenting with Rice Crispies, we had problems with the induction manifold/ pump bypass valve clogging (sometime's resulting in large explosion). Now, since we have traded our tenders in for concrete mixer trucks, the problem has been overcome because now the Crispies are batched mix.

The fireline scenario goes something like this; a Dozer first puts in 3-pass wide line. Next, a grader, then a 10-ton vibratory compactor build a hard surface. After that the mixer truck comes into play; a long line of chip trucks are standing by (full of Crispies) ready to keep the mixer supplied at all times. Additionally, a long line of oil field vacumn full of water are on scene also. The mixer should be able to lay-out 5 chains of line an hour. The mix should be applied 10 feet wide by 3 feet deep. We have found that a stiff mix ""stands" better.

Fire fighters should all be issued shot guns to keep elk, bison and bears from eating the line and thus creating a weak point where the fire could break thru. Once the fire actually bumps the Crispie line a 10-person camp crew should be ordered. Working with pole saws, misery whips, and machetes the camp crew should be able to cut and package the line in plastic wrap. A 10-person crew working around the clock should be able to produce 700 tons of Rice Crispie Treats, per 24-hour shift.

These treats could be used for sack lunch snacks, thus saving huge amounts of money because the incident would no longer need to purchase snack food for hungry firefighters. A long line of refridgerator trucks should be on hand to help transport and store the Treats. If the Incident was unable to use all the Treats on location, a Distribution Center shall be established. The center will distribute the surplus Treats to the Homeless, whom can use the Treats for food, packing material, shelter or fuel.

Of course, everyone involved shall attend a safety and dietary briefing before any line construction could begin. Of course, all personnel working near the Treat line should be issued and will ware white chefs' style hardhats, dessert smocks and sanitary paper slippers. All firefighter shall also carry 10 pounds (minimum) of Stay Puff Mashmallows.

Keep up the great work and we love to read They Said every day!

Kellog B. Redwood

Thanks for the update on your system Kellog. Nothing like this page for sharing such technological advances. Ab.


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Original photo by Kari Brown
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