Mayor and staff talk fire protection

Mayor and staff talk fire protection

Postby Drip_Torch » Sep 9th, 2017, 6:00 pm

In case you missed it: ... protection

I watched the city meeting regarding water supply to rural areas and found it encouraging, interesting, and yet, somewhat baffling. It seems weird to me that it is framed as an extension of fire protection, when really all it’s about, is delivering minimal fire flows to areas that are already semi protected.

A couple years ago, I was on a mission to improve fire service delivery in this area and met with a number of our “somebodies”. One of the questions I was asked was why didn’t I stick with the fire service and remain a firefighter. This meeting and presentation by staff is exactly why I didn’t stick with the fire service and why I’ve almost, all but given up on improving fire service delivery in our region.

First, huge supporter of accredited alternative water supply, frankly (and the time has come to say this out loud) I can’t believe the lack of capacity Penticton currently has. The accreditation criteria has been around since the late 80’s. Accredited superior tanker shuttle service (ASTSS) is a way to provide rural fire service residents with a means to achieve a better FUS grading, leading to lower insurance premiums. It’s not the only way, and nor is it a sure way. While the Fire Underwriter’s encourages insurance brokers to recognize the accreditation – they are in no way obligated to do so. Alternatively, many established departments that aren’t currently accredited, receive the superior grading due to the fact that they’ve proven over time to be reliable tanker shuttle operators.

Goals, strategies, tactics – this is where I found the whole staff presentation and the Mayors walk away understanding of it all, to be somewhat muddled and perhaps even misaligned. The ASTSS is a strategy, combined with a set of tactics to achieve a specific goal. That goal is to provide a minimal water supply for fire ground operations involving one typical single family dwelling structure fire.

It seems like the goal of the Riddle Road resident that took this to council is to have a fire hydrant placed near the parking lot of the KVR trail – for other reasons. I thought Councillor Sentes showed a little insight into the situation, noting that the three blind mice trail system has increased the risk of a Wildland Urban Interface incident through increased human activity in the area. Staff spoke to the need to provide and augment fire flows in a number of areas and used several wineries that have built their own reservoir systems as examples of how we may be able to ease their financial burdens.

What is the goal? The fire chief explained the goal simply and without too much detail as, to achieve a 200 gallon per minute flow and maintain it for 120 minutes. If the department can do that through trial runs, we could then look at purchasing one, or two water tenders to achieve this accreditation. Cost per tender is estimated around $250,000 and no one asked where these were going to be housed, or what the annual fleet service costs would be. (I don’t know if you’ve looked at our fire halls lately, but at least one of them has an asbestos warning near the entrance doors and there are spare trucks already parked outside.)

I’m a huge supporter of standards, in fact I love standards for the advantage of providing predictable results. But, that’s dependent upon the person administering the standard understanding the intent; and administering the whole standard as it written – not just as the administrator would like to read it.

Some limitations that weren’t mentioned. The city needs to be NFPA 1142 compliant and exceed those standards in a number of areas – chapters 7 & 8. The ASTSS standard spoken to in the meeting, will provide additional service areas and better coverage to personal insurance lines taken out on houses within 8 kms, by road, of the first responding pumper and water tender. Those houses need to be within 5 kms of an approved water supply point. It will not cover commercial lines of insurance (PFPC)– there is a whole other accreditation criteria for that, with even more limitations. The system needs to be available 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. From a risk management perspective I would ask; what happens when the trucks go out of city limits to service the outlying contract areas; what happens next Kaleden, Joe Rich, Peachland, if the trucks are requested for mutual aid? What liabilities would the city be taking on, beyond the immediate suspension of the accreditation?

So, as much as I support the implementation of the standard, I am baffled when it comes to staff presenting it as offering advantages that clearly it won’t. Gaps in the industrial areas, wineries, contract fire suppression services outside of Penticton… etc.

I’m also baffled when hearing about these “complex” reservoir systems that several wineries and large houses have been required to put in place. I mean, I understand why those systems have become so complex (I’ve dealt with city hall), but I don’t understand why those systems have been allowed to become so complex. Fire underwriter’s grades dry pipes with an adequate volume of water the same as municipal fire hydrants. So, to achieve a NFPA 1142 fire flow equivalency, these operators should have been allowed to put in a tank with a dry pipe. A dry pipe is about as complex as it sounds – it’s a dry pipe. Why has the city allowed this to become something other than what it needs to be?

Why am I glad I left the fire service? 200 gallons per minute within 8 kms of the fire hall, and we’re talking about ½ a million dollars upfront. If I were at my last job and tomorrow they dropped a script on my desk that called for 200 gallons a minute, for two consecutive hours, up on Riddle Road, 8 days from now; - it would be a meeting to confirm lockdown, a budget alert for $30,000 with a 50% contingency. The only reason I'd need to do a budget alert is because currently, FD cooperator tenders wouldn't be available and I would need to go to industry and convince them to allow me to modify their trucks. It would happen, and each time it happened after that, it would be cheaper. (I could say no, I can't make it happen right now, but I better get used to saying, welcome to Walmart - after that.) Once I had the right equipment available, it would drop down to about $4000/day, with contingency. I’d leave most of the liability and all the fleet servicing costs, in other people’s hands. My operational risk matrix would be low risk/high frequency - whereas, FD's will always remain high risk/low frequency.

I don’t wish to knock our current fire chief, he’s trained the same as all of them and working in a system that appears to me, to be completely upside down. Currently, our chief is too busy working for Emergency Management BC to be giving any time to this project. He suggested that it could go out for contract to a consultant. Seriously, I can’t think of a time in our recent history when a local fire chief should be thinking more about water supply in our local rural neighbourhoods – but that’s not how the system works today.

A quick and dirty look at the Riddle Road situation as far as the proposed fire hydrant goes. Our department, using LDH should be able to almost reach the proposed hydrant placement. Currently FUS grades LDH departments up to 300 meters beyond the fire hydrant. Google earth suggests it’s about 600 meters to the top of Riddle Road from the closest fire hydrant. There is also an alternative supply accreditation for Large Diameter Hose Lay, and with that accreditation FUS will extend a superior grading out up to 600 meters. It’s approximately 240 feet of elevation to overcome. Is it achievable today, probably not, but it is achievable and it is an alternative. Frankly, if the goal is to provide fire flows beyond those typically needed for single family dwellings, like a WUI scenario, this may be a much better option than attempting to run trucks up and down a very narrow road that will be extremely busy anyway.

I’m not convinced that having the ASTSS accreditation is going to provide all the advantages that staff spoke to, or really fulfil the intentions everyone expressed. Having said that, I’m a huge supporter of ASTSS, but more than that, I would scream out loud from the top of my soap box, we need to look at alternative ways to increase water supplies for rural fire protection – not just for Riddle Road, but for Sutherland Road, Todd Road, Spiller Road, West Bench, Valley view and beyond.

What is the Goal? If it’s to offer a few residents lower insurance rates – the ASTSS is the path to be going down.

All of the above, IMHO, based on NFPA 1142, FUS volume 2 – Alternative Water Supplies
Drip Torch - an upright and steadfast keeper of the flame, but when tilted sideways the contents spill and then our destiny is in the wind...

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