Access and Water Supplies: Fire
Flow: An Introduction
No. FP-2013-36 September 3, 2013
student will be able to describe the purposes of computing fire flow values.
Today, we begin a
multiple-week series on fire flow. There are few topics in the fire service
that generate as much discussion as water supplies for fire protection.
How much water is enough?
There is no single “correct” method for establishing fire flow in the
structural fire protection world; the overall objective is to provide enough
water effectively at the right place to suppress the heat energy released by
the fire and protect exposures. The availability of the water supply and the
fire department’s pumping capacity to
deliver flow may be the limiting factors.
Several mathematical formulas exist to determine water supply
requirements. Some of these formulas are intended to be applied during building
construction, calculated during preincident planning exercises, or assessed for
insurance underwriting purposes, and others are intended to be quick references
for an Incident Commander confronted with an emergency. We will cover the
variety of formulas and their results in upcoming Coffee Break Training
Fire flow sources may be dynamic (municipal or private water
systems, water tenders, elevated tanks) or static (ponds, lakes, reservoirs,
underground tanks or seashores). Regardless of the source, there must be
adequate water to extinguish a fire, or the fire likely will consume all
combustibles in its path.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers a comprehensive, two-part
report titled “Water Supply Systems and
• “Volume I: Water Supply Systems Concepts” discusses water system anatomy, water
distribution system design concepts, water quality, consumer consumption and
needed fire flow, alternative water supply systems, fire department water
supply officer, water supply and effective fire protection, and emergency water
• “Volume II: Water Supply Evaluation Methods” covers the evaluation of municipal water supply
systems, water system hydraulics, storage capacity, water supply system
computer modeling, and establishing a community program to document effective
water supplies for fire protection.
Both volumes are available free at http://1.usa.gov/12t0TDQ.
Fire flow is the amount of water needed to extinguish a fire and
Eligible for Continuing
Education Units (CEUs)
For archived downloads, go to: