Firefighters often rely on portable water tanks to supply water in situations where a reliable water source isn't readily available.
Fire departments often rely on portable water tanks to store the water brought to the scene by engines and tankers. It’s imperative to have reliable portable water tanks that can keep up with the fast-paced tempo and complexity of a rural fireground.
This article will explain the benefits and tradeoffs of the major types of portable water tanks. The second part of the article will highlight of a few of the best options within each major portable water tank category.
Portable Water Tank Selection
There are several factors to keep in mind when searching for a portable water tank. Key considerations often include the following:
- Speed of deployment.
- Frame and rail design.
- Weight, size, and storage requirements.
- Hose connections.
- Liner material.
Your exact preferences will likely depend on how frequently you participate in tanker task forces or other operations that utilize these types of tanks.
Portable Water Tank Types
Portable water tanks vary in size, material, and design, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Collapsible Portable Water Tanks
Collapsible or foldable water tanks are lightweight, easy to transport and can be used in a variety of terrains. These water tanks are also known as onion tanks due to their shape.
Collapsible Water Tank Pros:
- Easy to transport due to their collapsible design.
- Quick setup times.
- Various sizes available.
- Can be used on uneven ground.
Collapsible Water Tank Cons:
- Durability can be an issue, especially if they are frequently moved or transported.
- May require more frequent maintenance or replacement.
- Vulnerable to damage from sharp objects or rough terrain.
Rigid Frame Portable Water Tanks
Rigid frame portable water tanks maintain a firm or rigid structure. This means the shape of the tank does not change or collapse when it's empty. This is in contrast to collapsible or foldable water tanks that can be folded down for easy transportation and storage when not in use.
Rigid portable water tanks can be made from a variety of materials, including hard plastics like polyethylene, and metals such as stainless steel or aluminum.
Rigid tanks often come equipped with handles, valves, and hoses for easy filling, dispensing, and draining of water. Some designs also feature a built-in stand or base for stability.
Rigid Portable Water Tank Pros:
- Tend to be highly durable and puncture-resistant.
- Generally longer lifespan compared to collapsible tanks.
- May offer larger water holding capacity.
Rigid Portable Water Tank Cons:
- Can be bulky and more challenging to transport.
- Usually requires flat terrain for setup.
- Longer setup and breakdown times.
Steel vs Aluminum Rigid Frame Water Tanks
Rigid portable water tanks are most commonly offered with steel or aluminum frame tanks. Before choosing a frame material, it is very important to fully understand the benefits and tradeoffs of each material type.
Aluminum Frame Portable Water Tanks Pros:
- Lightweight: Aluminum is significantly lighter than steel, which can make these tanks easier to transport and set up.
- Corrosion Resistance: Aluminum is naturally resistant to corrosion, which can help extend the lifespan of the tank, particularly in wet or salty environments.
- Less Maintenance: Due to its resistance to corrosion, aluminum tanks may require less maintenance than their steel counterparts.
Aluminum Frame Portable Water Tank Cons:
- Lower Strength: While still strong, aluminum is not as strong as steel, which can make these tanks less durable or prone to damage under high stress conditions.
- Cost: Aluminum tends to be more expensive than steel, which can make these tanks more costly to purchase.
- Deformation: Aluminum can be prone to deformation under high heat, which may be a concern in fire fighting situations.
Steel Frame Water Tank Pros:
- High Strength: Steel is stronger than aluminum, which can provide a higher degree of durability and resistance to damage.
- Heat Resistance: Steel can withstand higher temperatures compared to aluminum, which can be a significant advantage in fire fighting situations.
- Cost: Steel is typically less expensive than aluminum, making steel-framed tanks a more cost-effective option.
Steel Frame Water Tank Cons:
- Weight: Steel is heavier than aluminum, which can make these tanks more challenging to transport and set up.
- Corrosion: Steel can corrode over time, particularly if not properly maintained or if exposed to wet or salty environments. This can shorten the lifespan of the tank and increase the need for maintenance.
- Maintenance: Due to potential for rust and corrosion, steel tanks often require more maintenance than aluminum tanks.
Grey Water Pillow Tank Bladders
Pillow tanks, also known as bladder tanks, are collapsible water storage units that inflate to a pillow-like shape when filled. They are named this way due to their pillow-like appearance when filled with liquid.
Pillow tanks are typically constructed from a high-strength, flexible material, such as PVC or elastomer coated fabric, that is resistant to punctures and tears.
Gray water pillow tanks are typically used by firefighers because gray water pillow tanks hold waste water that is not suitable for drinking.
Firefighters often use pillow tanks for rapid response scenarios where a temporary, portable water supply is needed. This type of water tank is particularly useful in remote locations, where access to a reliable water source may be limited.
Gray Water Pillow Tank Pros:
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- Can be used on a variety of terrain types.
- Quick setup times.
Gray Water Pillow Tank Cons:
- Less durable than other portable water tanks.
- Smaller capacity sizes.
- Need to be more carefully handled to avoid punctures and other damage.
Fol-Da-Tank Portable Water Tanks
Fol-Da-Tank offers several different models and a lifetime warranty on workmanship and material defects. Frames are available in steel or aluminum.
During use, hinge protectors ensure that teams can easily position Fol-Da-Tank frames without having to worry about pinch points.
Tanks over 2,500 gallons in size are also equipped with two drain sleeves for added convenience.
Fol-Da-Tank Portable Rigid Frame Water Tank
The standard square tank can hold between 600 and 5,000 gallons of water. The largest tank opens to 17 feet wide, and all sides are 29 inches tall regardless of capacity.
The single-fold 1,500-gallon tank collapses to roughly 10.25 feet by 7 inches. The double-fold model collapses to approximately 5.25 feet by 1.25 feet. There are very slight variations depending on whether you select a steel or aluminum frame.
For the liner, you have a choice between Fol-Da-Tank’s proprietary High-Performance Rubber (HPR®) and 22-ounce vinyl. The 28-ounce vinyl floor is an optional upgrade.
- Steel Frame Tanks with Vinyl
- Steel Frame Tanks with High Performance Rubber
- Aluminum Frame Tanks with Vinyl
- Aluminum Frame Tanks with High Performance Rubber
Fol-Da-Tank Single Lane Water Tanks
The Single Lane Tank (SLT®) Type I and Type II are designed for use in narrow areas where a larger square tank may block the flow of traffic. Multiple tanks can be placed end to end to allow apparatus to freely pass. Both styles can support 2,000 to 3,000 gallons.
The SLT® Type I is rectangular, while the Type II resembles an elongated diamond with straight sides. The main difference in dimensions is that the Type II is longer and slightly narrower.
For example, the 2,000-gallon model is 14 feet by 8 feet for the Type I and 19 feet by 7.75 feet for the Type II. The sides for all tanks are 29 inches tall.
In terms of the liner, the SLT® Type I and Type 2 are available in 22-ounce vinyl, HPR®, and 30-ounce vinyl. You may also select one type of liner for the sides and a stronger material for the bottom.
Fol-Da-Tank Portable Frameless Water Tanks
Fol-Da-Tank offers a full line of lightweight, collapsible portable water tanks. These tanks are used by fire departments to fight fires in rural locations and other areas without easy access to fire hydrants.
The frameless tanks benefit from a lightweight design with easy portability. Fol-Da-Tank offers two major options: a fire department design and a forest fire line:
- Fire Department Frameless Water Tank: 250 gallons to 10,000 gallons.
- Forest Service Frameless Water Tank: 250 gallons to 20,000 gallons.
Fol-Da-Tank Grey Water Pillow Tank Water Bladders
Gray water pillow tanks or water bladders offer a cost effective solution for transporting grey water to remote location for fighting fires. These water tanks are highly durable with a mildew resistant design and the ability to withstand temperatures that decline to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fol-Da-Tank offers two main product lines: a flying gray water pillow tank and a standard grey water pillow tank. The flying gray water pillow tank can be transported by helicopter to remote rural locations. These tanks offer storage capacity that ranges from 72 gallons to 300 gallons.
The standard gray water pillow tanks provide more flexible storage capacities that start from 25 gallons and increase all the way to 5,000 gallons.
Browse all Fol Da Tank water tanks available for sale.
Husky Portable Water Tanks
Husky’s line of portable water tanks includes a standard full-frame tank and a “skinny” tank that can be used in many of the same situations as the Fol-Da-Tank SLT® Type I and Type 2. Husky Tanks also has some unique designs that may be appealing if adaptability is your top priority.
All Husky tanks include easy-lift liner handles and quick-release drain tubes that can be activated by pushing the button tab that secures the drain tube. The steel and aluminum models are both equipped with pinch-free frames.
All Husky Portable Water Tanks include a lifetime warranty on all welds and welded seams.
Husky Standard Folding Frame Tank
If you need an easy to use folding frame tank, you can't go wrong with Husky's flagship folding frame tank. This portable water tank offers an easy setup and easy teardown design.
The tank include's Husky's patented easy lift handles and quick release drain tube. This is an ideal tank for fire fighters that need a rural water supply or for water shuttle operations.
Choose from the following options:
- Steel or aluminum frame.
- 22 ounce, 28 ounce or 30 ounce sizes.
- Vinyl or Exlon liner.
- Available sizes range from 500 gallons to 5,000 gallons.
Husky Leading Edge® Tank
The Leading Edge® (LE) Tank is built like a classic tank with a full frame, but it can convert into a skinny tank with a width of only 8 feet. This style is available in 150-gallon increments ranging from 1,450 to 2,050 gallons.
Liners are available in 22-ounce vinyl, 30-ounce vinyl, or Husky’s proprietary Exlon® material. Exlon® liners come with a 10-year warranty against UV damage or degradation from exposure to the elements.
Husky Narrow Folding Frame Drop Tank
This narrow folding frame drop tank is specially designed for shuttling water on a narrow or one lane road and other tight situations such as in wooded areas or in between standing structures.
The narrow folding frame drop tank is available in vinyl or exlon liner. Choose from 2,000 gallon sizes to 3,000 gallons.
Husky Double Folding Frame Water Tank
The Double Folding frame tank is specifically designed for limited storage space. These tanks have a second folding point on the long side of the frame. This allows you to fold the frame tank in half an extra time which cuts the overall length in half.
The Double Folding Frame Water Tank is available in sizes that range from 500 gallons to 5,000 gallons.
Husky PRO500® Tank Liner
Husky tanks can also be made or retrofitted with the PRO500® liner. This upgraded liner includes several bladders that can expand the usual rated capacity of the tank. Each of the four bladders extends between the upright tank supports, so there’s no need to modify the frame.
Bladders can be stored in a rolled-up configuration and selectively deployed based on the orientation of the tank. For example, you might have bladders installed on two sides of your tank, but you can choose which ones to use if you don’t have a need for all of them at once.
When unfilled, the bladders only add up to 30 additional pounds, which is more than manageable for any Husky frame. Even with water added, the additional weight and force aren’t significant enough to destabilize the tank on a sloped surface.
Additionally, Husky will customize the PRO500® liner to your specifications if there’s something you dislike about the standard design. The number of bladders and the overall capacity can be adjusted upon request.
Husky Self Supporting Frameless Water Tanks
This onion style tank is designed for situations with limited storage or manpower options. This tank can be easily setup with a single person. With the frameless design, no assembly is required.
The frameless water tank is available in sizes that range from 250 gallons to 50,000 gallons.
Husky Helicopter Water Bladder Tanks
The Husky Helicopter Tanks are designed to be used as water shuttle tanks transported by helicopter for use in remote areas. These tanks are available in sizes that range from 72 gallons to 134 gallons.
- Browse all Grey Water Tanks for sale.
Portable Water Tank Attachments and Accessories
Once you decide upon the ideal tank design, you should also consider which attachments and accessories you’ll need. Fortunately, accessories are generally universal and can be used between various tanks even if you switch to an entirely new brand.
Some of the most important accessories you’ll need for a portable water tank include the following:
- Supply line brackets that secure directly to the frame for relay pumping or otherwise filling from farther away.
- Patch kits to repair any tears or holes in the liner.
- Strainers and floats to protect your systems from debris.
- Flange mounting plates that allow you to use a strainer through the liner wall without adding weight to the top of the frame.
- Ground covers to protect the bottom of the tank.
- Suction inlet elbows if you plan to use narrow tanks and position them in line with the pumper.
As you research any items you may need to put your tank into service, pay close attention to connectors and thread sizes.
Browse our selection of portable water tanks for sale to see all available options and sizes.