Lexington County Fire Service puts new style water-tankers in service

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Lexington County Fire Service has taken delivery of several new water-tankers that are being used to replace older, high mileage ones. They are dramatically different in many important ways.

First and foremost, the tankers have a much shorter wheelbase, 4’ shorter than the ones the county has had in the past. This makes them easier to maneuver in tight spaces, especially in the more rural areas of Lexington County. The two that have been delivered are already in service at Sharpe’s Hill and Edmund. One more is being built for delivery sometime in the future. It hasn’t been decided where that one will be stationed.

These new tankers hold 2,000 gallons of water and can dump it off the truck through what’s called a quick-dump valve in approximately 80 seconds! The water is discharged into a folding tank that is carried on the side of the trucks, and can hold 2,100 gallons. The water is then used by a fire engine at the fire while the tanker runs to a water source to get more.

Over the past several decades, Lexington County has used jet-dump style tankers. They required that the pump on the truck be engaged prior to discharging its water quickly and it had lots of moving parts to break. The nozzle inside their tanks that provided the “jet” effect sometimes broke off from its frame, creating the need for a trip to a welder to have it repaired. The quick-dump systems are faster and much sturdier. Although they do have a pump, it's not necessary to have it engaged to get the water off the truck.

The new trucks do have a 500 gallon-per-minute side kick Hale pump that is driven off a transfer case alongside the transmission. This allows firefighters to push water through two pre-connected hose that are 1” and 1.5” respectively. These are loaded on the trucks in special bins and are folded so that they come off quickly and without kinks. There’s also a 1” forestry hose for trash or small grass fires.

These tankers carry a minimum of 300’ of 3” hose to resupply their tanks with water. They refill through a special valve known as a Fireman’s Friend that protects the truck’s pump and plumbing in case water is “hammered” by a firefighter that opens or closes the valves too quickly. These “water hammers” can do tremendous damage to the truck when they occurred in the past.

The new trucks have a Cummins diesel engine, a high-tech automatic transmission, and special exhaust “Jake Brakes” that save wear and tear on the trucks actual braking parts. They also have the latest 360-degree lighting packages that make them more visible from every angle. Of course, they also have the county’s new charcoal grey and red paint schemes.

In total, the new tankers cost in excess of $249,000 each. This is an amount that shows that fire equipment has greatly increased in price since the NFPA standards have become more advanced. Those standards, put out by the National Fire Protection Association, are intended to make equipment safer for the firefighters and the communities they protect.

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