In this issue
Fire Service Institute helps rural areas find water supplies for firefighting
A fire in North Washington - a northeast Iowa community of 107 residents, an elevator and several other businesses - could be disastrous. There is no public water to supply the community's fire trucks. There is no water tower, only private wells and the Little Wapsipinicon River at the edge of town. Sometimes these water sources would be accessible, if the pumper could get close enough and there were enough hose to reach deep enough into the river. Many times they would not be available sources for firefighting.
This scenario is repeated across Iowa, in small rural communities, in areas where small rural housing clusters are springing up, and as more rural businesses are established and large livestock confinements become more abundant. Iowa State University Extension's Fire Service Institute is helping groups of fire departments like the North Washington and Chickasaw County fire departments find a way to solve this need for a water source.
"George Oster and Mike Cherry of the Fire Service Institute came to Chickasaw County and trained us on dry hydrants," said Ken Rasing, Chickasaw emergency management coordinator. "We had three people from every department in the county and two neighboring departments trained. We learned how to assess fire risk areas and determine the best site for a dry hydrant, and about hydrant installation, use and maintenance."
The Chickasaw County group was one of 26 Iowa groups to apply for some of the $100,000 appropriated by the 1998 legislature to purchase, install and train staff in the use of dry hydrants. Those dollars are being awarded to groups that are working in a collaborative effort, that will be trained by the Fire Service Institute or a like training entity and can provide 25 percent match of cash or in-kind dollars.
"The county fire chiefs determined that North Washington was our highest risk area six years ago," said Rasing. "We felt the same way after our Fire Service Institute training. Six years ago there weren't any funds for installing dry hydrants. Now that there are, we have made that area our top priority."
Dry hydrants are a way of providing large volumes of water to tankers at a fire scene in areas not served by water mains. Water is carried from existing lakes, ponds or streams in a simple system of permanently installed non-pressurized pipe, up through the ground, coming out as a two-foot piece of PVC pipe with a screw cap where a fire hose can be attached when needed.
The North Washington fire chief, Roger Tiemessen, is excited about the plans for the new dry hydrants near his community.
"The Fire Service Institute training helped us understand the importance of selecting an ideal spot to install the dry hydrant," said Tiemessen. "We learned to figure the water needs of the community, and how to assess the creek's flow, bottom and accessibility so we can place the hydrant in a location that will serve the department for many years."
The Fire Service Institute has scheduled training
sessions for eight groups and plans to keep working toward
helping rural areas have adequate water supplies for