Master Stream Device Controls Ultra-High Pressures

Master Stream Device Controls Ultra-High Pressures

Two-Inch Tip at 300 psi Controlled with One Hand; Unit Inspired by Placer Mining Pipe


Shown here is large fog stream being controlled by one hand.

Editor’s Note: The increase in number and severity of conflagrations throughout the nation, and continuing threat of enemy-provoked atomic fire storms, has focussed more than ordinary attention on the problem of large-scale fire attack and defense.

Foremost among those fire forces that have given this subject serious consideration is the Philadelphia Fire Department, through its able and energetic commands.

In the past few years this Department has been outstanding in the development and application of specialized fire control facilities, as previously reported by FIRE ENGINEERING. But for the most part, these innovations, which many of them were, have dealt primarily with fire attack strategy rather than large-scale defensive measures.

A number of potentially disastrous situations arising from fires in highly hazardous occupancies, of which the city has an excess, has led the heads of Department to studies of and experiments with heavy-duty fire appliances, out of which have come the interesting “weapon” and “weapons carrier” described in this Special Report.

The editors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of Fire Commissioner Frank L. McNamee and Deputy Fire Commissioner, Chief of Department, George E. Hink, and their aides, Captain Joseph T. Gibbs, author of this Report, and Lieutenant Robert Kennedy, whose pictures illustrate it, in making it possible to bring this firsthand detailed announcement of this interesting development to the Fire Service.

WHAT quite possibly may prove one answer to many present and future large-scale fire protection operational problems was unveiled in Philadelphia recently when the Philadelphia Fire Department dedicated publicly a new attack apparatus, knowm as SS-99, Giant Deluge.

Philadelphia Counts on Master Streams

The present administration of the Philadelphia Fire Department, since its inception in 1952, has continually advocated the use of master stream appliances. In line with this strategy the department has procured seventy-five portable deluge guns, which have proved a formidable addition to the many permanent-mount deluge appliances affixed aboard its booster pumpers and specialized apparatus.

Many of these portable deluge guns are lightweight in structure, providing for easier transportation to roof-top or sub-surface areas. Specifications for apparatus to be procured in the future will include provision for additional deluge appliances.

New techniques in the application of master streams have been developed by the department, the practice of which at many major operations, has resulted in successful confinement and extinguishment of fires and resultant reduction in injury to fire personnel. Past issues of FIRE ENGINEERING have featured Philadelphia Fire Department operational reports graphically illustrating how the use of master streams materially assisted in confining a potentially hazardous fire in flowing cumene, and a large volume fire in an alcohol processing plant.

Constant training of Philadelphia’s fire fighters in the application of master streams has resulted in widest practical usage of these deluge appliances at all multiple alarm fires. The effectiveness of this training has been evidenced by the speed and dexterity with which these devices have been placed in service.

These developments in the field of heavy-duty fire fighting were being matched in improvements in the department’s attack strategy, with the introduction of “Special Service” units, all, as part of predetermined policies of the heads of department to provide Philadelphians with the best that can be attained in fire protection and prevention, in order to meet the challenge imposed by hazards growing out of modern working and living conditions.

The pattern adopteu by the Commissioners and their aides has been to stop at nothing in the form of research and trial-and-error that could possibly contribute to improvements in fire suppression techniques. One could prepare a lengthy list of these efforts, out of which have come such noteworthy advances, (in addition to extensive use of heavy duty fire appliances) as water fog in volume, and at high pressures fog-foam; wetting agents; mechanical ventilation tpowered air movers and circulators); innovations in apparatus, such as the introduction of foreign-design-Americanmade mechanical aerial metal ladders; conversion of “pipe line” units into booster-pumpers and many others.

Prominent among these modern fire suppression facilities, which have brought the Philadelphia Fire Department to the forefront of the nation’s more progressive organizations, is the “Attack Fleet” of which the “SS-99 Giant Deluge” is the latest addition.

A word or two about this fleet of “weapons carriers” may be in order at this time.

Strong Fire Attack Force

In 1953 the Philadelphia Fire Department introduced its Chemical Attack Fleet, SS-100 and Chemical No. 1, 2 and 3. SS-100 provides the Fire Department with a compact unit capable of discharging large quantities of low expansion foam or wet water through multiple hose lines. The attendant units of this attack fleet. Chemical No. 1, 2 and 3, not only serve as supply carriers for SS-100 but are also equipped with all the components necessary for specialized service including mechanical smoke movers, cascade systems for on-the-scene replenishing of breathing air bottles, dry chemical extinguishers with extension hose, applicators and large recharge supply kits for the stoppage of leaks in chlorine carriers.

Giant deluge gun mounted at rear of special deluge wagon.Demonstration of giant deluge on pier beneath Delaware River Bridge at Philadelphia.

In the fall of this year, the Department introduced the latest development in master stream appliances and the mobile unit to operate it. In April of this year, Chief Hink, after a long search for a device of this kind, discovered that a firm in California was manufacturing a large volume discharge gun for placer mining. The representative of the local distributing firm consulted with Chief Hink and discussed with him the possibility of adapting this deluging unit tor fire fighting use. From this discussion evolved this latest weapon in the department’s expanding arsenal of fire control facilities;—a unit bearing the Departmental designation, “SS-99 Giant Deluge.”

Fire Department engineers of the Special Service Section, in conjunction with the distributor’s engineer, and personnel of the Automotive Maintenance Division of the Department of Public Property, began and completed the process necessary for the adaptation of the new deluge appliance for fire fighting purposes and, at Philadelphia’s opening day ceremonies of Fire Prevention Week, Chief Hink dedicated the SS-99 in the name of the Citizens’ Council on Fire Prevention in recognition of that group’s fine services contributed to the Fire Department.


The Giant Deluge was tested many times at the Department’s Proving Grounds and it has constantly demonstrated its ability to discharge through a 2 1/2-in. tip a powerful water stream of 2000 gallons per minute with an effective striking range of 300 feet. Presently, the deluge gun is equipped with stacked tips from 1 1/2-in. to 2 1/2-in.; and in the event the weapon is required for demolition purposes, the tip size can be decreased. Although, thereby volume would be sacrificed, an increase in velocity would be gained, contributing to the desired greater impact.

This giant deluge gun, now permanently mounted on a former high pressure piece of mobile apparatus, is supplied by multiple intakes servicing either 2 1/2-in. or 3 1/2-in. hose. The water then feeds through a gated valve into a 58 1/2-in. horizontal supply pipe, four inches in diameter. All pipe turns are gradual and sharp turns and flanges have been eliminated to decrease friction loss. The length of the deluge gun, measured from the horizontal supply line to the extreme end of the stacked tips, is 81 inches. Incidentally, the large volume device can be mounted on any type vehicle.

The deluge gun itself is constructed with a helical barrel four inches in diameter, with a 270 degree loop. The large loop construction is maintained in order to balance all vector forces. The loop eliminates the necessity of splitting and remarrying the stream passing through it as is done in conventional appliances. thereby utilizing the maximum presures available at the pumps.

The entire deluge gun is hydraulically operated through vertical and horizontal pistons, each controlled by a three-way valve. The main water supply is taken through a by-pass into the three-way valves, which, in turn, either load or relieve the cylinder pressures for the desired action. The motion of the appliance can be speeded or retarded by hand valves which feed the control levers. This construction permits one man to safely and effectively direct the large volume stream.

As an added safety factor, with slight modification in construction, the control levers can be made portable, permitting the operator, if necessary, to operate the deluge gun by remote control front a safe area. With pressures increased to 300 psi, it was demonstrated that this appliance will perform smoothly and efficiently with no increase in manpower attendance. For heavy-duty fog application, a large volume fog head has been developed which will produced 2500 gallons per minute of finely divided fog, or semi-solid stream at 150 psi. It is confidently expected that this volume of fog may lead to an entirely new approach to the question of blanketing large areas while providing personnel protection for operating forces.

In addition to the large volume, long range, hydraulic gun, SS-99 unit is equipped with conventional portable deluge guns which can be operated from their position on the apparatus or removed for portable service. Carried aboard SS-99, too, are the tools and adapters necessary for the servicing of the deluge appliances; included in the equipment also are all types of portable extinguishers, which contribute to the self-sufficiency of the apparatus.

Tested By Fire

The adaptability of this type of hydraulic gun for fire service operation has already been clearly demonstrated. Recently, and even before it was officially dedicated, SS-99 was called into service to combat a large mill fire on an island in the Schuylkill River where normal fire operations were practically impossible to perform. The island is inaccessible from three sides and access is gained only by way of four foot bridges from the Philadelphia mainland.

Giant Deluge 99’ demonstrates master fog application in November master stream tests, during which discharges exceeding 1000 gpm were developed. Using a straight stream, this Big Bertha of fira defense literally tore down and levelled a burning 3-story bride building.

SS-99 was removed from the shops and dispatched to the fire scene, where, from the mainland, it discharged its large volume stream from the hydraulic gun, preventing the raging fire from engulfing the 650 feet of the seven story building that had not been affected by the fire.

In addition to its effectiveness as an efficient appliance for fire departments everywhere, Chief Hink anticipates a wide and effective use of this new weapon installations of the armed services, chemical plants, refineries, industrial plants, etc., where these guns may be mounted at strategic positions and operated by remote control.

They can be utilized to effectively and safely discharge not only water, but foam or other extinguishing agents, thereby eliminating the danger of fatalities or injuries to fire fighting personnel which, of course, is always present at large-scale fire attack and defense. Hydraulic deluge guns of this type quite conceivably should be of great value in combatting fire storms resulting from enemy attack or multiple conflagrations, as they may be used for attack or defense where the effective operation of other fire fighting appliances would be minimized.

The complete story of this newest fire extinguishing weapon, and weapons carrier, still remains to be told. That it is a distinct contribution to the science of modern fire suppression has been and is being exemplified in actual fire combat operations. But neither Commissioner Hink nor his technical aides has reached final conclusions concerning its large scale fire defensive possibilities, whether as a mobile striking force, or as applied in fixed positions in industrial and other high hazard occupancies.

What is encouraging is that the addition of this latest newcomer to the fold of heavy duty fire killers takes the fire service a long step further toward finding the answer to the serious problem of coping with present-day, and possible future, conflagrations on a vast scale. With its ability to effectively deliver large volume streams and heavy water fog patterns considerable distances for extinguishment, exposure coverage and heat dilution, as well as to provide personnel protection where necessary, the SS-99 may well prove the highly essential “Big Bertha” of fire service weapons.

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