Recycling or reduction of fire water run-off

Control Measure Knowledge

Fire water run-off is a form of polluting material and should be dealt with as such. In order to reduce the amount of polluting material being produced, it may be possible to either recycle the water being used to extinguish a fire or reduce the amount of water being used.

Fire water run-off recycling

Pumps can be used to recycle fire water run-off, but it is important that this process does not make the situation worse. Repeated recycling of fire water run-off will increase the concentration of pollution, and the risk of spreading contaminants contained in the recycled water spray.

Controls need to be put in place to ensure that the spray or steam from recycled fire water run-off cannot cause harm to emergency responders attending the incident or the local population, depending on their location and distance from the incident.

Before starting to recycle fire water run-off, the potential impact of the material involved in the fire should be identified and assessed. Recycling fire water run-off from mixed or household waste should be avoided, as it can contain organic material such as nappies and food. For all other recycling sites that contain materials such as wood or plastic, recycling the fire water run-off along with other tactics, including controlled burning, presents a viable option for reducing damage to the environment.

It is likely that there will be debris in the fire water run-off that can block pumps, or the nozzles of branches, being used to recycle the water. Suitable pumps and other equipment, such as smooth bore branches, should be used to avoid blockages.

A strategy for recycling fire water run-off should consider:

  • Monitoring the impact of recycling fire water run-off and any identified risks
  • The use of dams, pools, containment tanks or lagoons to reduce the possibility of blockages from particles contained in the fire water run-off
  • Replacing a proportion of the recycled fire water run-off with fresh water, to reduce the level of pollutants and debris in the water being applied
  • The need to decontaminate equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE)

Disposal of used recycled fire water run-off may present a problem for the fire and rescue service towards the end of an incident. Specialist advice on the initial or continued use of recycled fire water run-off, including it being tested for pollutants, and its disposal may be required from:

  • Environmental agency
  • Public health organisation
  • Tactical advisers:
    • Bulk media
    • Waste fire
    • Hazardous materials
  • Sewerage undertakers
  • Scientific advisers

For more information refer to Foundation for environmental protection – Additional pollution control techniques.

Reducing the volume of fire water run-off

The impact of fire water run-off on compacted materials and ground conditions should be considered. If appropriate, areas of operation where a reduced use of water strategy can be initiated, without significantly increasing the risk of firespread or compromising safety, should be identified.

The amount of water used, and therefore the amount of fire water run-off, can be reduced by using appropriate techniques and equipment, such as water sprays instead of jets or hand-held jets instead of ground monitors.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions