Water tender

A water tender, also known as a tanker in some regions (not to be confused with an air tanker), is a specialized firefighting apparatus designed for transporting water from a water source to a fire scene.[1] Water tenders are capable of drafting water from a stream, lake or hydrant.

This class of apparatus does not necessarily have enough pumping capacity to power large hose lines (like a fire engine), though it utilizes a smaller pump to draft from bodies of water. Water tenders are used when there is no working fire hydrant within reach of other fire equipment, potentially supplying the fire engine(s) with a very rapid connection. Most water tenders are designed to carry loads of 1000 gallons (approx. 3800 litres) or more. In the US, 1000 gallons is the requirement in the NFPA standards.[2] Some may carry up to or even upwards of 5000 gallons (approx. 19,000 litres) of water – even more with a trailer.[3][4][5]

Typically water tenders support engines and/or trucks like aerials during fires and hazardous material incidents. Some water tenders carry fire fighting equipment and crew much like an engine. These water tenders are able to operate relatively independently. Some water tenders actually combine a fire engine and water tender. This kind of unit may have seats for up to six firefighters, a water tank of more than 3000 gallons (approx. 11 000 litres), and basic equipment for firefighting and rescue.[6] This configuration may be found, for example, in rural areas, where a fire engine (with rescue equipment) and water tender are supported by a combined fire engine/water tender unit in overlapping fires or accidents. Numerous wildland water tenders have remotely controlled nozzles mounted on the front bumper to allow them to drive alongside a fire or smoldering area and efficiently wet it down without the crew leaving the rig. Very light water tenders are sometimes used in wildfires. For example, a small tank of 265 gallons (1000 litres) can be carried by a cross-country vehicle to extinguish smoldering stubs on rough terrain.[6]

A water tender typically carries some fire fighting equipment. There are various national standards and recommendations on equipment to be carried on water tenders.[1][7] Some water tenders may carry various kinds of hoses and spray nozzles for use in forest, building, or industrial fires, as well as a portable water tank. In addition, tools like axes, flashlights, chemical portable fire extinguishers, a water extinguisher, an SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), a first aid kit, adapters, and a hydrant wrench can be required.

Some tenders carry also foaming agents, and extinguishing powders or gases. Sometimes these materials are carried in larger amounts on very specialized, separate units like hose trucks, powder trucks, carbon dioxide extinguishing trucks etc. Specialized Airport Crash Tenders are used at airports to carry larger amounts of water and foaming agents.

An Australian Water Tender can range from a standard fire engine, with a larger-than-usual capacity (usually called a tanker), to a Water Tender equipped with specialty equipment such as fixed monitors and long-throw foam nozzles (usually called a Bulk Water Carrier). Several areas also own converted semi-trailer fuel tankers, capable of holding many thousands of litres of petrol, foam or other retardant. These are most often used in severe HazMat situations, such as oil refinery fires or fuel tanker accidents, where a large and continuous volume of water is needed.

See also


  1. Pelastusajoneuvojen yleisopas: säiliöauto. (A general guide for rescue vehicles: water tender) (In Finnish). Ministry of the Interior, Finland. Retrieved on April the 28th, 2007
  2. NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, Chapter 7: Mobile Water Supply Fire Apparatus. 2003 edition. National Fire Protection Association.
  3. Tarvasjoen vpk (Tarvasjoki Voluntary Fire Dept, Finland 2006)
  4. For example, specifications of Amthor International Fire Tankers, www.amthorinternational.com, retrieved April the 28th, 2007
  5. Example on a 12,500 litres (approx. 3300 US gallons) water tender with 9000 litres (approx. 2377 US gallons) trailer: Fire Dept. of Kittilä, Regional Rescue Services of Lappi in the Northern Finland. retrieved on April 28, 2007.
  6. Pelastustieto (in Finnish)
  7. NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, Chapter 7: Mobile Water Supply Fire Apparatus. 2003 edition. National Fire Protection Association.
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