Fire Pumps

What is a fire pump?

A type of pump used to move water through a fire sprinkler system or to manual hose bibs in a commercial building or industrial plant. The pump’s intake is usually connected to the external water supply, although in some cases it may be connected to a local water source such as a well, tank, or body of water.

The fire pump system, of which the pump is the critical component, is designed to quickly deliver enough water to efficiently douse a fire before it has a chance to spread. In many areas, they are required to be periodically tested and certified by the local fire inspection agency. They are commonly used in buildings with upper floors that are too high to be reached with the pressure of the local water supply, or where there is not enough fire fighting capacity from the local water supply.

They generally work within the following ranges:

  • Flow rate ranges between 20 and 5,000 gpm
  • Total head (pressure) ranges between 100 and 1,200 ft
  • Horsepower ranges between 10 and 800 hp

Fire pumps and the rest of the system are required to meet the requirements of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory), and, in Canada, CSA (Canadian Standards Association). These requirements are quite detailed as to both the hydraulic and the mechanical requirements for the pump, driver, and controls. There are a limited number of NFPA, UL, and CSA approved pump suppliers. Local standards and the owner’s insurance requirements should be studied carefully before selecting a fire pump type and supplier.

How do they work?

They are usually centrifugal pumps and are powered by either an A.C. electric motor or a diesel engine. When one of the sprinklers in the building detects a high level of heat, the pump begins working immediately. In some cases, the fire regulations may require a fire pump to have an emergency generator as a back-up in the event of a power failure. Small, portable engine-driven configurations are used in forest fire fighting applications.

Fire pump mechanisms

The most common types are horizontal split case and vertical turbine. Some applications for lower flows may include end suction or vertical inline. Many fire systems also use a jockey pump. This is a small centrifugal pump that runs continuously to keep the fire system piping filled and under pressure. This ensures that the sprinklers will be immediately effective when they are opened and the fire pump is started.

Fire Pump Manufacturers
Patterson Pump Company (Pump Manufacturer)

Patterson manufacturers the Sentinel™ Series fire suppression pumps. The pumps are available in several different types and configurations including: horizontal split case, vertical in-line, end suction, and vertical turbine. The fire pumps allow for max flows up to 5,000 gpm (18,925 liters/min) and pressures in excess of 390 psi (24 bar).

Ruhrpumpen (Pump Manufacturer)

Ruhrpumpen produces vertical turbine, horizontal split case, and skid mounted pump designs for the fire protection service. The company’s fire pumps are used in high rise buildings, power stations, oil and gas onshore and offshore oil platforms and much more. Ruhrpumpen’s pre-packaged fire system is built with either an electric motor or diesel engine and is also available as a mobile fire pump system.

Expert Advice

So now what do you do? As many of you know, this is a fairly common occurrence, particularly with pumps that have been around a long time. Here's some advice on what to do.

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Industry Updates

Switch to: Expert Advice | Pump Tweets

ITT Corporation recently announced an agreement with Shell Global Solutions to provide the petroleum company's operations with centrifugal pumps. ITT's Goulds Pumps will supply American Petroleum Institute (API) pumps in several configurations to Shell operations and affiliates worldwide.

Colfax Fluid Handling has created an online energy savings calculator for oil and gas industry pump applications, World Pumps reports. The calculator allows comparisons between centrifugal pumps and rotary positive displacement pumps in single and multiple pump applications.

A recent National Geographic story notes the water-lifting device called a treadle pump as one of most transformative technologies ever developed.

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Pump Tweets

Blackmer announces the options of Neoprene mechanical seals and O-rings for its SGL Series of sliding vane pumps. According to a company press release, the Neoprene components have improved resilience characteristics and high tensile strength properties.

Colfax introduces an online energy savings calculator for oil and gas industry pump applications. The calculator allows head-to-head comparisons between centrifugal pumps and rotary positive displacement pumps in both single and multiple pump applications. Check it out at the Colfax website.

KSB has purchased a majority stake in the Danish pump manufacturer Smedegaard. Smedegaard produces circulating pumps used in heating systems.

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