The Uses of Portable Water Tanks in Firefighting

Amanda Delatorre |

Portable Self Supporting Water Tank

In the field of firefighting, access to a substantial amount of water is essential to achieving the goal of extinguishing large flames. In order to accomplish this objective in a timely manner and minimize damages, such water must be readily available. As such, several water delivery options such as direct pumping from a water source close to the fire or backpack pumps are implemented.

Unfortunately, however, when large fires occur in remote, rugged areas, such methods aren’t always suitable, and access to water can prove scarce. In such instances, portable water tanks are often implemented. Below, we will supply a look into the main uses of portable water tanks in firefighting, as well as provide insight on the many different types of portable water tanks currently available.

What Are Portable Water Tanks?

First, let’s discuss what exactly portable water tanks are. Essentially, portable water tanks refer to collapsible tanks of water that can be transported from one area to another in a relatively unchallenging manner. In most cases, these tanks are lightweight, highly durable, and can be set up quickly and easily on the job site.

Generally, portable water tanks are transported to the fire site on a water tender and then deployed near the front of an attack or supply engine. Due to their highly efficient design, portable tanks can generally be set up in less than a minute with only two firefighters.

Different Types of Portable Water Tanks

Depending on the specific application, there are several different types of potable water tanks that firefighters can implement. Below, we will address some of the most commonly used varieties of mobile water tanks in the field of firefighting. 

Frameless Water Tanks

Frameless water tanks are collapsible water tanks that are made from a highly durable material and are generally self-supporting through the use of a float neck. Often, frameless water tanks can contain a substantial amount of water, with capacities ranging between 100 and 80,000 gallons.

These tanks are extremely easy to transport as they can be folded or rolled up and moved as needed due to their lack of a structured frame. It is important to note that you should not transport frameless water tanks while they are full unless they have been carefully secured in a specialized transport crate. In addition, the NFPA also recommends implementing a concrete base beneath frameless water tanks if possible due to their extremely heavy weight when full. Before utilizing a frameless water tank, always reference NFPA guidelines to avoid any potential safety risks.

Pillow Water Tanks

One of the most popular types of frameless water tanks are known as pillow water tanks. When filled up with water, this type of frameless water tank generally resembles a pillow in shape and can be implemented for water storage in emergency situations. In addition, they can also be used for sprinkler system water supply when necessary.

Onion Water Tank

Another commonly used type of structureless water tank is known as an onion water tank. These tanks are self-supported and have a self-rising option that allows for a quick fill-up during emergency situations. Like pillow tanks, onion tanks also have an open top for easy access.

Frame Water Tanks

Also known as structured tanks, frame water tanks are another popular option among firefighters for mobile water storage. As their name suggests, frame water tanks are reinforced by a metallic structure—usually steel or aluminum—which surrounds the tank ring. This structure helps ensure that the water is held in a fixed, secure manner. When the tank needs to be transported, the tank can collapse by folding the frame flat. This collapsible design makes frame water tanks easy to transport as well as set up quickly—often in just a matter of minutes. In terms of filling the tanks up or emptying them, they have an open top which makes both processes quick and efficient. Typically, supported water tanks have capacities ranging from 600 to 5,000 gallons. However, they may also come in larger, custom-designed sizes depending on the manufacturer.

Different Uses for Portable Water Tanks in Firefighting

Portable water tanks prove highly useful in a range of different firefighting scenarios. Some of the most frequent uses of these tanks include:

Firefighting in Remote Locations

One of the most common uses of portable water tanks in firefighting is for remote firefighting operations. When a fire occurs in a rural or remote location, firefighters may not have access to a readily available water supply in close proximity to the fire. In such cases, portable water tanks serve as a much-needed secondary source of water. In addition to transporting large quantities of water, the tanks can also be filled up with water from natural sources such as streams or creeks using a gas-operated pump. In doing so, these mobile water tanks will ensure that you can set up a water supply whenever and wherever the need arises. 

Short, Unobstructed Distances Between Fire Site and Water Source

Portable water tanks are also useful in situations where there is a short distance between the fire site and the water source. If there is a substantial distance, continuously transporting copious amounts of water to the fire site may not be feasible. 

In addition to a relatively short distance, there must also be a clear pathway between the water source and the fire site. If the incline between the two locations is too steep or if the ground is too rugged, the water tender will not be able to transport the tank to the scene of the fire.

Instances of Limited Personnel

As previously stated, portable water tanks have a highly efficient design which allows them to be set up in less than a minute with only two firefighters. As such, they are ideal options in situations when both water supplies and personnel are low. Depending on the type of tank being used, certain self-supporting tanks can even be set up with just one person.

The Supply Cache recognizes the important role that portable water tanks play in the field of wildland firefighting. As such, we offer a wide range of both frame and frameless collapsible water tanks that vary between 1,000 gallons to 3,000 gallons in capacity. All of our tanks come from highly reliable brands and are completely leakproof for optimum performance. To learn more about our high-quality products, contact us today.

The Uses of Portable Water Tanks in Firefighting