Elevated Master Streams

Sooooo, my mouth got me into some trouble the other day.  Again.  I was working at one of the Tower units in my city and they started talking crap about how they get called into all the big fires because the towers have the “Master” of Master streams.  I noticed that the tip on their monitor didn’t look very “Master of Masters”.  Nope, 1 3/4″ smooth bore.  What is the discharge on that?  Right  800-ish GPM.  Wow, impressive.  NOT.  The Captain of the company had decided that a solid stream is better than an adjustable nozzle for surround and drown operations.  And I full heartedly agree.

But if you are being called to the scene because your apparatus is equipped to deliver 2x the elevated stream punch as any ladder pipe, why, oh why, would you put the same tip on your elevated stream as every other one in the city?  Dunno.

“But, But, But!!!  We have a 5″ waterway.  We need an engine dedicated to us at a fire.  But we can just increase the pressure to get more water.  But all those reducers we had to put on the monitor to get the pipe down to size does not restrict the amount of water that can go through it.  But, fog nozzles need 100psi at the tip, sometimes it’s hard enough getting 80psi up there.”

Oh I’m going to need to do some work  here, or just drop the whole thing all together.  Yeah right, I can’t let this go unchallenged.

So I ask them for the fog nozzle that they had removed.  They had it nearby.  Good for them.

Written right on it “1000gpm @ 50psi, 2000gpm @ 80psi”.   That was 1 “but” out of the way.

The average pump in our city is rated at 1250gpm @ 150psi.  Generally we need just under that to get the 80 at the tip.  If you raise the psi anymore the GPM’s go down.  “You mean to tell me MORE psi means LESS water?” Yes, but that’s a discussion for another day.  Look at the chart on the pump. Dammit, another “but” off the list.

I asked them where the reducers and tip came from. “An old ladder pipe” was the answer.  Really?  you’re using the same equipment as everybody else and expect it to do something different for you?  You have a 5″ waterway and you squeeze it down to a 2 1/2″ so the tip will fit.   I think that “but” took care of it’s self.

I’m no master of hydraulics, and I may have told them some outright lies.  But the idea that command staff believed the towers have a large capacity to deliver water to hard to reach areas, and they do.  To handicap your ability to perform that function is a great disservice to everyone on the scene.

After that little drill and associated research(5 hours) all of us have a better understanding of the capabilities of the tower and now they are looking for a siamese for their intake and starting to tell co-workers that 1 pumper just isn’t enough for their “Master, Master Stream”.

Tip of the day; Don’t arbitrarily change something because that’s the way it used to be.  New technologies can make some pretty cool things a reality.


  • Kevin says:

    I would submit your pumper is rated at 1250 GPM at a draft, if you have a good water supply it will pump more. Some are actually derated so they will always pass a pump test.

    I think tower operations will soon pass the PPV fan in misuse soon.

    More of a concern than the 800 ish flow would be how it is applied. Cracks me up to see “We can flow 2000 GPM of the tower!” Cool but your over the building with the roof intact and the roof is doing it’s job, keeping water out. The other move is they are so high above the fire the water is being eaten up before it gets to the seat of the fire.
    The other side to the 2000 GPM coin is, how fast can you supply the 2000 GPM to the tower?
    You are 100% correct in the adapting down and causing tubulance. You have to “shape” straight streams. I have a little nozzle combo that “looks and handles great” Once we get a flow meter on it if it works out I will share it here.

  • Ohh… anchorpoint1, this is going to be too easy. So, the Tower/Ladder guys were having trouble grasping the concept of large waterways and high flow nozzles? Me believes it’s because truckies are notoriously bad with mathematics. Truckie using algebra to determine pump pressures? Ain’t gonna happen. Using the gpm’s, multiplying by a constant, subtracting 10 to get a friction loss requirement? You’re kidding, right? Use of the “finger method” to calculate friction loss? Truckies are all over that one!!


    Also, I noticed your indication this Tower wasn’t equipped with a pump. Even the administration knows truckies can’t pump; admin didn’t even waste the money equipping the vehicle with its own pump!

    Yes, truckies are very easy to pick on…. Seriously though, what was this company thinking with nozzle choice? Did the guys realize their charade would’ve been blown on the first call? Here’s how:

    Simulated radio transmissions between Tower company (with 800 gpm nozzle) and a water supplying Engine company:

    Tower: Engine, can you supply my 5 inch line? Also, another company will be laying an additional large diameter supply line to me. I’m gonna be hitting this with high volume flow.

    Engine: Yes, tower. To calculate an accurate pump discharge pressure and make sure I can meet your high flow requirement, how many gpm will you be flowing?

    Tower: 800.

    Engine: 800? 800 gpm? Brush truck, get off the radio. I’m trying to communicate with the high flow Tower……

    Seriously, glad you were able to identify a problem and help the company see where improvements could be made!

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    Kevin, thanks for the test info. We have yet to go out and test the flow/range differences and to see what our pump can do for water delivery. It’s on the list of things to do. But every time we run master streams we generate a few central station alarms because of pressure drops. My city is getting better with tower usage. We don’t flow into a vent hole, that’s as silly as it sounds. But the bucket can also go down to the ground so we put it outside whichever window we want and blow the fire out the back of the building.
    Nice Freddie, I half resemble that remark. I think you’re right too. A pump with a stick? Worst of both worlds. No experience with them myself but I’ve got the Truckie mentality and I hate to wait outside while my crew disappears.

  • Kevin says:

    I think trucks with pumps have an application just not for “Urban Firefighting”.

  • Glad to see ya’ll took my pokes with laughter…. I should have been more clear in my comment about having a truck company equipped with a water pump. Nearly all my truck company experience was with a platform. In my very limited (very, very limited) truck company experience, the platform did 10x more work used as an elevated stream than the company did performing ladder work.

    I wonder if this was because most IC’s and others saw the platform as more of a water delivery device than as a true ladder? The sticks equipped with pumps didn’t seem to flow water as much as the platform. Perception problem?

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