Pool Water, Pump Can Save Home in Fire

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Abrams is a general contractor who writes on home improvement and other topics for The Times</i>

One of the saddest realizations of the devastating October fires is that although in many areas where homes were lost there was sufficient manpower to fight the fires, lack of adequate water supplies kept firefighters from saving many dwellings.

With hydrants tapped to their maximum outputs and homeowners frantically watering their roofs and surrounding foliage, local water flow often was reduced to a trickle.

Fire officials recommend that if you or your neighbor have a swimming pool, you should use it as a water supply source to douse embers or wet a wood roof and surrounding foliage in case of fire.


The key, of course, is to be well prepared in advance. Equipment needed to pump your pool water with adequate force is available from most larger hardware stores, plumbing suppliers, contractor’s supply stores or warehouse home centers and can be purchased for $400 to $500.

There are two ways to do the job. Either purchase a gas-powered pump with a one- to three-horsepower engine, or buy a 110-volt electric utility pump designed for garden hoses rated at one-half-horsepower or more and a gas generator for it that will put out at least 10-12 amps. Either way, you must have gasoline power, because during a fire household electricity may be interrupted.

Make sure your dealer supplies you with any fittings needed to connect the pump to a garden hose and an extension cord long enough to reach the closest electric outlet. Also, determine in advance how much hose you need to reach all areas around the house and have it on hand. The dealer can answer any questions about operating the equipment.

Although it may cost a bit more to purchase an electric pump and separate gas generator rather than a just a gas-powered pump, you have the advantage of using the generator as an electric power source to supply a refrigerator, electric heater or furnace if your house power is ever interrupted during a storm, earthquake or other emergency.

With this idea in mind, you might consider an even more powerful generator than that needed for just the pump. Ask your dealer. Be sure to test the pump system when you get it home. Make certain you can spray water with a strong stream where you might need it. Retest it every other month or so to keep all the moving parts well-lubricated. Store it where it is protected from the elements.

Lastly, because gasoline in storage can go bad in as little as 30 days, use a preservative in the fuel mix to prevent costly engine damage. I use a product called “Sta-Bil,” available from most auto parts stores and small engine dealers.