Wildfire water pump fuel can go stale; Pumps may run poorly, or not start at all

Safety Alert Type: 
British Columbia
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
MacLeod Forest Services
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

Pumps kept at a forestry operation for wildfire response may not be run regularly enough through the season to circulate old fuel. These pumps are emergency equipment.

Modern fuels deteriorate rapidly (as little as 30-60 days) and can cause gumming in the pump fuel system. This may create the possibility of the pump performing poorly or not starting.

Using marked gas makes the problem worse. Fuel stabilizers provide limited success in preventing this problem.

Learnings and Suggestions: 
  • When storing the pump, even for only a short time, empty the old fuel and fill the tank with *Alkylate fuel. Run for 5 minutes so the carburetor and fuel system have the new fuel throughout. This fuel will remain good for two years and eliminate the potential for gumming jets and fuel lines.
  • Normal gas can be used during ongoing response activities but should be replaced with the Alkylate fuel when the pump is going back into storage.

*While considerably more expensive, the Alkylate fuel will reduce pump maintenance costs and help ensure it is running efficiently when needed for emergency use. There are several brands of alkylate fuel and it is available at most small engine/power tool stores in two and four stroke versions.

Other pump-related issues identified during training and drills:

  • Storage of equipment and supplies - Establish a central location; Secured storage; Pre-hookup of components for readiness (best practices)
  • Shutdown and Storage Procedures - Shutting the fuel off and running the carb dry is a common practice but not recommended as there is always a little bit of fuel left that deteriorates rapidly.
  • Several pumps were observed stored with the fuel supply valve left open. The float valve may stick open and if the fuel supply is open the combustion chamber and crank case can fill with gas rendering the pump inoperable.


For more information on this submitted alert: 

Doug MacLeod, MacLeod Forest Services (250) 499-1075 macforserv@gmail.com

File attachments
Safety_Alert_Fire_Pump_Fuel_Issues-MacLeod FS-July 9-2019.pdf
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