Bushfire System Automation

Remote Start Systems

I know there are a few remote start systems about but I only know of two system designs. The main issue is that it must be possible to start the pump without town electric power. Both systems have electric start engines so in both cases a battery must be kept on permanent standby charge.

Generator Powered Pump

This system uses a generator to power an electric pump. The system I know of uses a 5kw electric start generator with an automatic choke. This seems like an elegant solution to me. I only learnt of this system after I was well advanced with my own.

The advantages of this system are:

  • Simple to start.
  • Provides an automatic starting generator. Very useful in power failures. If you need a generator anyway, then this is almost a zero cost as far as the fire system is concerned.

Possible disadvantage:

  • My fire pump has a 6.5hp engine. This is the equivalent of about 4.8kw. I'm unsure if a 5kw generator can start a 4.8kw pump, the surge may be too large. I do not know the availability or cost of 5kw electric pumps.

But, if a high powered pump is not required then this is a winning design.

Electric Start Pump

An electric starting pump with an automatic choke would be easy to start remotely. Unfortunately my Davey Firefighter 5 does not have an automatic choke and it does require some choke to start reliably, even on a hot day. As a result I needed to have the computer control the choke. This has proven to be very successful but it was an unforeseen complexity. I had assumed that the pump would start without choke on a hot day.

The advantages of this system are:

  • Suited for systems that require high flow rates.
  • Pump speed can be varied to maintain pressure under different flow conditions. More complex to vary the speed of an a/c electric motor.

Possible disadvantage:

  • If the pump does not have an automatic choke, complex to start.
  • Any remote start or control equipment must be independently powered.

Our System

Internet Connection

The fire system uses an Internet connection for:

  • Remote start (currently by RDP)
  • CFA updates
  • Notifications (currently by email)

This means that the Internet connection must be maintained during a power failure. Our system has a bank of 12V batteries and power to the modem/router can be provided by either 240Vac via an inverter or directly from 12Vdc. 12Vdc is much simpler. Inverters are cheap but that option requires 240Vac wiring and is less reliable as it is more complicated.

Our current system uses a Linksys WRT54G and a ADSL modem. These run off 12Vdc and 9Vdc. The 9Vdc is supplied by a cheap dick smith inverter designed for cars. This system has worked well for for the last 1-2 years but in the last month the ISP connection has become unreliable, especially on warn days. My options to fix this are:

  • Move the current modem down under the house with the control computer (cooler location) and use a range expander to maintain wireless coverage (e.g. WRE54G).
  • Buy a new router/modem and use my current WRT54G as a wireless access point. This would allow me to purchase a modem/router just in case the problem is the modem.

The modem/routers I've looked at (Jan '08) are:

NetComm NB9W & NB6plus4W

These NetComm devices are powered by 24Vac (via provided plug pack). The specification do not mention if they can be supplied by 12Vdc so I assume they are not suitable for us.


I do like the diversity reception provided by the Linksys dual antennas and my current router has been very reliable.

Billion 7402

Update (March '09): We have been having trouble with our ADSL connection so I got a 3G modem and tried using a Billion 7402GX. The idea was to increase reliabile by having ADSL and 3G with automatic fall back. But, so far the 7402GX has not been reliable.


I keep my notes on the cameras here.

Web Scraping

Update (March '09). I'm no longer web scraping. The CFA now have an RSS feed and I written/writing a custom reader. It is an open source project VicFireReader. More info here.


I'm currently (March '09) trialing Ecava IntegraXor software. So far okay but it is not rich with documentation so I'm keeping notes here.

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