So, is it OK to Yell “AIR!” in a Crowded Firehouse?
Well, maybe. That depends a lot on your local fire department, their current workload, and the Chief’s disposition towards lawyers.
A couple of weeks ago we wrote about some of the things you need to know when getting your PCP airgun cylinders filled at local dive shops. Depending on your equipment and pressure requirements, your local dive shop can be a great option. That’s because they offer tank filling for underwater swimmers on a fee-for-service basis. While they make their living selling fins, snorkels, and classes to aspiring Jacques Cousteau’s, most shops offer SCUBA tank filling for those customers to keep them happy and breathing. In theory, the shop shouldn’t care whether they’re filling a tank for underwater breathing air or a cylinder for squirrel and can busting. In reality, some shops may not be crazy about filling carbon fiber tanks as it’s a little outside of their steel and aluminum tank day-to-day business. There’s also the issue of different connection types for their fill hoses. Most of the diving world still runs on the yoke valve system while air gunners have moved to DIN and other connection types. Then there’s the issue of pressure. Most dive tanks top out around 3,000 psi. We air gunners want more, often half again more. You can read the details here, but know that dive shops are indeed an option, although you may run into some limitations or inconveniences.
Yes, we would love to have one of these in the garage...
Another tank fill possibility is your local fire department. Since they don’t get the free buoyancy benefit of working underwater, the weight of their breathing tanks matters. When climbing stairs and busting through burning walls, a light air supply makes a big difference. That’s why most of them have moved to carbon fiber tanks just like the ones air gunners use.
While similar in appearance, made of carbon fiber, and built to handle 4,500 psi, fire and rescue SCBA tanks use a different valve that has a male SCBA connector.
Well, almost just like the ones we use. One distinct difference you’ll usually see is that there’s a male/female reversal in play. Fire department SCBA tanks have a male connection on the tank end. The fill whip on that large compressor at the station is a female SCBA connection. So, you’ll need to accomplish two things to connect your tank to their compressor. Assuming you use a DIN tank like the Omega Air Cylinders model shown here, you’ll first need to account for the female to female connection challenge. Then you’ll need to deal with the firehouse SCBA to DIN 300 difference. Fortunately, you can solve both of these issues with a single part, available for $70 give or take depending on where you get it.