Indian pumps have been around for decades and are used in every fire department in the United States. New, they ron from $150 U.S. (2010 prices) to $250 for a stainless steel tank equipped with wide propylene backstraps and a four-inch fuller cap.. The standard pump holds five gallons. I do not advise purchasing the smaller (4 gallon) version. The nozzle is adjustable for either a stream (reaching 35 ft.) or a cone spray.
They are often seen at salvage sales or flea markets. You can almost bet when purchasing a used one the pump will have damaged seals and need rebuilding.
This is probably the most valuable item you can have around the house if you live in an area where your home may be endangered by a brush fire.
These pumps are hard on the back, especially if used for several hours. I would purchase some foam or resilient padding to supplement that which comes with the unit. The back straps should be adjusted while the unit is empty. Most back injuries occur when lifting the unit, so ideally the unit should be at a height (such as on the back of a pick-up truck) when filled and then the straps slipped over the back. If refilled the best way (in terms of avoiding back injury) is to remain upright while someone fills it from a hose.
During brush fire season the Indian pump(s) should be kept filled. Off-season empty the water, dry the interiors and leave the caps off the filling hole. The stainless steel tanks are truly rust-resistant. Indian pumps are expensive, but worth their weight in gold during the brush fire season. If you live in a rural area, or near brush that constitutes a serious hazard, you need two Indian pumps. Or cooperate with your neighbor and each purchase one. A garden hose is just so long, and adding extra lengths is not always practicable.
But you aren't finished with the Indian pump. For each pump, purchase five five-gallon plastic (jerry-cans) containers for extra water, to be stored filled. These will have the added benefit of being an emergency supply of potable water for the household. Five jerry-cans, plus the five-gallons in the Indian pump will provide you with thirty gallons of ready water. If the supplemental water is taken to where you are using the pump this will provide you with thirty gallons of water for fire-fighting purposes. Five gallons is not going to be enough. The concept is to bring the water to the pump operator - not to have him come back to the water supply point.
How to get the water to the Indian pump operator is a matter for some thought. If you have a pick-up kept on the property, keep the five-gallon jerry-cans and the Indian pump(s) in the bed. You can also transport everything in the trunk of a vehicle.
Needless to say, it should become immediately apparent, fighting a brush fire is not a "one man" proposition.
With every person carrying an Indian pump have him/her bring a shovel or a hoe. This will enable them to continue fighting the fire if the water runs out, while someone else goes to the rear to get more water with the five gallon jerry-can.
During brush-fire season on the Indian pump keep two bottles of drinking water on a rope tied to the Indian pump. Leave these here throughout the season. If you are fighting a fire, you get thirsy mighty fast.
Another suggestion is to save some gallon plastic containers, fill them with water, and attach them together with a length of clothesline, so they can be slung over the shoulder and brought to the Indian pump operator.
It pays to have at least one "firefighting drill" fighting an imaginary brush fire near the property. Time how long it takes to get there, and pump out the full load to get an idea of the strength required (your arm does get tired) required, and how often you will require a refill. The pumps have a long hose, so if you are really tired, one person beside you can pump while you carry the tank. The downside here, is that this prevents the other person from contributing with a shovel or a hoe to beat out the fire.
One school of thought is to add a tiny amount of liquid dishwashing fluid to the water, to reduce surface tension, and improve quenching ability. This has become a fad. The problem is that you will forever contaminate the jerry-cans making the water inside unsuitable to drink.
You may ask why do I need one or more Indian pumps if I have a garden hose?
Here's the reason:
If there is a forest fire nearby the mains that feed the hydrants (in most communities) are the same ones that bring potable water to your home. A short distance away several heavy duty pumpers may be working and everyone else has their hose out. The result is you get a dribble of water from your garden hose. Arghhh! Not enough pressure may be available for a stream to reach the roof, where falling burning embers will be a prime cause of concern.
It is amazing that on every single site on the Internet, including those put out by the Canadian and U.S. government, no mention is made of this fact. Clearly, those who wrote the pages have had no first-hand experience in a community threatened by a forest fire.
A two and a half gallon pressurized water extinguisher will reach the roof, but the water will soon be exhausted with no way to re-fill and repressurize it.
It also means that if your home seems threatened, it pays to lay in extra water, including filling the tubs and every container, to prevail against the eventuality there may be no water available when the fire draws near to the community. And the reason why you really do need to have a half-dozen five-gallon refills readily available.
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