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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Water Mule

The Water Mule
There are legendary people in Minnesota’s public safety community, and there are also legendary machines. Nisswa Fire Department’s Engine #9915 is one such legend. The truck is a 41-year-old Peter Pirsch and Sons fire engine, and in the words of Nisswa Fire Chief Richard Geike: “That truck can pump!” They call it “the water mule.”

While all fire engines pump water, this truck excels at drafting (pulling) water out of lakes, ponds, and portable tanks. Drafting water is not like connecting to a hydrant or using the water from the truck’s tank. Drafting takes an airtight pump and hose, a strong primer, and a lot of horsepower as the fire engine needs to create a vacuum to pull the water up into the pump and then push it out through hoses.

The Nisswa Fire Department acquired the 1974 Pirsch from Spring Lake Park, but it came with a blown engine. Nisswa was able to find a mechanic who could repair the large-block, six-cylinder Waukesha gas engine that has 12 spark plugs. When there is a fire, this truck is sent to the closest lake to supply the other engines and tankers with water. None of the new diesel fire engines can match this truck’s pumping capacity.   

Chief Geike said the 1974 Darley pump is rated at 1,250 gallons per minute, but the truck can pump in excess of 1,700 gallons per minute while drafting. The department added a pre-connected 20-foot, large diameter hard-suction hose that wraps around the truck to be quickly deployed when the truck arrives at a lake. It looks a little odd, but it is very effective.

This truck out-pumps newer trucks.
During the large fire at the Breezy Point Resort a few years ago, the truck drafted from Pelican Lake and supplied water to the Brainerd ladder truck and to three additional two-and-a-half inch lines (hoses). Chief Geike said the motor ran “a little above idle.”

With parts being hard to find, Nisswa has looked at the possibility of taking the truck apart and putting it on a trailer or on another truck—but none of the mechanics or engineers will guarantee that the end result would match its current pumping capacity. It has the perfect synthesis of mechanical components, and it’s a perfect fit for the Nisswa lakes area communities. And heck, it even has a nickname.

Up next: Risk Management at NASA

In the meantime, be careful and stay safe.


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