Vision, Reliability and R&D: An Interview with Raffaele Gerbasi

The MARK-3® is an iconic pump that’s been trusted by firefighters for decades. What makes the pump so popular?

The MARK-3® pump has been around since the early 1960s. Around the world the standards were written for that pump! Firefighters learn how to fight fires with the MARK-3® and they spend their careers using that pump. It’s the most widely used pump in forest firefighting, and in fact we say that the MARK-3® pump has likely moved more water fighting forest fires than all other pumps combined.

Given the success of the MARK-3® series, why did you decide to make changes?

Our purpose at WATERAX is to help wildland firefighters move water. And one of their most important tools is the lightweight MARK-3® fire pump. We felt that we had an important product, that firefighters depend on, and that it needed to evolve technologically. Customers had been asking about new technologies to make the MARK-3® easier to handle and lighter. For us it was important to respond to their needs.

Did the request to make a lighter and improved pump come from firefighters?

Yes. Over the years, firefighters have always asked if there was a way to engineer a pump that’s lighter, easier to start and easier to store. There’s also a lot more diversity in the firefighting community than before. Some firefighters are smaller and lighter, and although the MARK-3® is extremely reliable, it can be a hard pump to start. The one thing that firefighters did not ask for is reliability. They don’t ask for that because reliability is implicit. Reliability is a “must-have”, it’s a deal breaker if a pump isn’t reliable. Every other fancy feature is completely off the table if a pump isn’t reliable. Firefighters have always counted on the reliability of the MARK-3® pump. They know that a MARK-3® will run all day long, while maintaining pressure and performance. Other companies have tried to make lighter pumps, but firefighters need performance they can 100% trust.

Can you tell us about the role of R&D at WATERAX?

R&D is a key part of who we are at WATERAX. We’re always looking to improve our products and take them to the next level. A big challenge for our R&D engineers is to take our customers’ requirements—and their ideas—and convert them into real products that we can then manufacture.

Because the MARK-3® is the “gold standard” fire pump, did you have concerns when you started the project?

Our main concern was that to reduce weight and size, we had to design a purpose-built engine. It was the first time a pump manufacturer custom-designed their own engine! It was a major challenge because we know that the engine is crucial for a pump’s reliability and performance. We addressed some of these concerns by partnering with the right people: experts with a proven track record designing reliable engines. To achieve the same horsepower from a smaller and lighter engine was an incredible accomplishment.

“We’re always looking to improve our products and take them to the next level”

When you think about the development of the MARK-3® Watson Edition, what are you most proud of?

We’re really proud to have built a pump that’s smaller, 30% lighter and both looks and works great. We’re also very proud to have run several pumps for over 100 hours. That’s a big step that shows just how reliable the engine is. To get that level of endurance on a number of units was a very proud moment for our entire team. The other thing that made us proud is the reaction of our customers. We went on a cross-country tour to show the MARK-3® Watson Edition to customers and gave them the chance to demo the pump outdoors. The feedback was very, very positive. It gave us a huge boost!

Topics

The MARK-3® is an iconic pump that’s been trusted by firefighters for decades. What makes the pump so popular? The MARK-3® pump has been around since the early 1960s. Around the world the standards were written for that pump! Firefighters learn how to fight fires with the MARK-3® and they spend their careers using that […]

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