Can you put out a fire with a pressure washer?

Nobody wants to have a fire at home. If a home fire is inevitable, however, everyone wants to be as prepared as possible, and many different tools can help with that preparation.

Yes, a pressure washer can put out a fire. Pressure washers produce more water vapor, cooling the area faster. The high pressure pushes water deeper into the burning object, cooling it faster. Soap in the pressure washer will also accelerate the smothering of the flames.

Pressure washers are a totally valid method of fighting a fire, though some contend that more traditional methods are superior. Real world examples demonstrate how effective pressure washers can be, and why they have advantages over other firefighting methods.

Civilian use of pressure washers in firefighting

It’s easy to find examples of everyday people becoming heroes when it comes to fighting a fire, and examples of people using pressure washers in these situations are far more common than you might think.

One example comes from a lawn care employee in Alabama. The man regularly used a pressure washer to clean fences and walls, so he was familiar with the use of the machine. When driving home, he noticed a fence on fire, got out his pressure washer, and put out the fire before extensive damage or injury occurred to anyone. His story is in the video below.

A second, almost identical, story has also happened in Georgia. This time, an off-duty firefighter who pressure washed houses as a side job put out a fire as he was returning home from the side job. He saw a car that was on fire, stopped, and put out the fire with his pressure washer.

These stories are about neighborhood heroes, but they prove that pressure washers can be used to put out fires. The second man was an off-duty firefighter, and he thought that a pressure washer was sufficient to put out a flaming car, so a pressure washer can definitely address the firefighting needs of the average person.

Use of High Pressure Systems in the Fire Department

While it isn’t directly connected to your at home pressure washer, it is interesting to note that in recent years, American fire departments have moved towards the use of Ultra-high Pressure (UHP) hoses. This means that the fire-department itself is recognizing the legitimate alternative of high pressure rather than a system that moves a large volume of water.

As someone who isn’t a firefighter, watching footage of firefighting departments utilizing UHP systems is absolutely incredible. Some videos display firefighters putting out full house sized fires in under a minute. It’s truly impressive.

These UHP systems achieve power levels of 20,000 to 25,000 psi. For reference home pressure washers reach levels of no greater than 3000 psi.

Pressure Washer vs. Hose

Among fire fighters in the United States, there is some debate around whether a high pressure system is actually better than a low pressure system. The debate has gone on for some time, and some think there are major concerns with high pressure.

The primary concern among these is the claim that high pressure pushes the fire to spread away from the source of water. Some think that the increased force sends sparks and embers away from the fire, risking fire catching elsewhere, in addition to the initial source of fire.

This does sound like a major cause for concern, that your pressure washer might just fan the flames, rather than extinguishing them. However, all testing and evidence seems to point to the fact that high pressure fire fighting methods are faster and more efficient than low pressure alternatives.

Obviously, this argument is mostly looked at for firefighting on a commercial level, not in your home. However, a test done on low pressure vs high pressure firefighting by U.S. Air Force Research Lab at Tyndall Air Force Base revealed information that fully applies to the average pressure washer owner.

The test found that a high pressure system, defined as any hose running at 1200 psi or higher, is the most efficient way to fight fires. It found that high pressure systems put out fires in half the time on average, and used less than 15% as much water. The average home pressure washer exceeds that pressure threshold, so it should work just fine.

What makes a pressure washer better?

A traditional low pressure system–which could be a hose, or a bucket, or really anything used to carry water–fights fires by saturating the burning material, cooling it, and starving the fire of oxygen. Pressure washers do the same thing, they just do it better.

When it comes to saturating the burning material, it isn’t hard to see how a pressure washer would beat out the alternatives. Using high pressure, the burning material will be saturated much more quickly that a low pressure method, and in the process, the material will be cooled more rapidly,

Fires feed mostly off of oxygen, which is abundant in our atmosphere, so it is important to cut the fire off from the fuel. Pressure washers launch water droplets into the air, which displace the oxygen, accelerating the rate of starvation for the fire.

Additionally, you may be able to add a soap to the pressure washer that will also help to starve the fire, as the soap displaces additional oxygen molecules.

Pressure washers also use far less water, which will save you money as you put out your fire.

How to put out a fire with your pressure washer

The process of putting out a fire with your pressure washer is every bit as simple as you would think. All you have to do is hook up your pressure washer, fire it up, and aim for the source of the flames.

With any luck, none of us will ever be forced to put out a fire in our own homes, or on any of our own property, but it never hurts to be prepared. Next time you have a fire, remember to reach for your pressure washer. It could save your life.

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