Design of Pumper Units for Prescribed Burning

There are many kinds and configurations of water pump units.  Functionality of the unit is the most important feature to be aware of. When designing a pumper unit, make sure the vehicle supporting the pumper can handle the terrain (preferably four-wheel drive) and is suited for the amount of water the tank will hold. Vehicles with over-sized water tanks for their carrying capacity may struggle to traverse rough terrain.  Getting stuck when a fire escapes is the last thing a burn boss needs to worry about.

When deciding on the type of pump, hose, and nozzle, make sure to choose low volume and high pressure components. High volume nozzles are usually reserved for extreme cases in wildland fire. Low volume-high pressure systems allow burners to conserve water in environments where it may be difficult to resupply.  The high pressure systems also help to smother the fire in addition to the moisture they deliver to the fire.

Here are some examples of pumper units used on prescribed fires from across the country:

200 gallon tank with roller pump

300 gallon tank with drafting capabilities pulling water from windmill tank

2 ton truck with 600 gallon tank and other equipment

Pumper unit on trailer, 300 gallon tank, foam unit, other equipment

55 gallon tank with diaphragm pump on UTV

5 ton truck with 1600 gallon water and four wheeler on burn in OK

Homemade pumper unit

What equipment do I need to conduct a prescribed fire?

The following list provides an inventory of the basic equipment typically used on most prescribed fires. However, because no two burn units and therefore burn plans are identical, equipment needed for one burn may not necessarily be required for another.

  • Drip torch and fuel
  • Slip-on pump unit, ATV sprayer, and/or back-pack sprayer
  • Fire rake
  • Fire shovel
  • Flapper
  • Chain saw
  • 2-way radio
  • Mobile phone
  • Fire weather kit

See What Clothes Should I Wear to Conduct a Prescribed Fire for more information about personal safety.

See Using Prescribed Fire in Oklahoma for a detailed list of prescribed fire equipment (page 23).