Exercise nets successThe time to beat Saturday morning was 26 minutes. With the goal in mind, volunteer firefighters from the towns of Parkland and Superior shuttled water from a hydrant at the corner of White Birch Trail and Billings Drive to a drop tank at the end of Kilner Bay Drive.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The time to beat Saturday morning was 26 minutes.
With the goal in mind, volunteer firefighters from the towns of Parkland and Superior shuttled water from a hydrant at the corner of White Birch Trail and Billings Drive to a drop tank at the end of Kilner Bay Drive.
“If they dump, fill up, come back and dump again in 26 minutes, we will have a successful operation,” said Battalion Chief Scott Gordon of the city of Superior Fire Department.
The water was sucked in by a pumper truck, then sent through hundreds of feet of hose to the home of Dave Leslie. There, city firefighters sprayed it into a ravine on a course to the St. Louis Bay.
“We want to know now what kind of response we’d get in a fire,” Leslie said. “To see that they’re able to do this makes me feel more confident.”
The test, which involved five trucks and more than a dozen firefighters, could lead to closer connections between departments and cheaper insurance rates for residents.
“I’ve always been concerned about it,” said City Councilor Mick MacKenzie, who represents the area. “It’s just been an issue with people out here who have kind of minimal fire protection.”
The training, he said, gave the 14 homeowners on Kilner Bay peace of mind.
Todd Campbell has lived along the road for 23 years and there’s never been a fire. But there could be.
“I’m glad to see they’re thinking of us,” he said.
The closest hydrant to the Kilner Bay Drive community is two and a half miles away. But with three tankers shuttling more than 2,000 gallons each run, they created a steady stream.
“This is the dance,” Gordon said. The first truck took 18 minutes from one dump to the next, far less than the required 26. After that, there was a 15 minute turnaround time per truck. After 15 minutes of pumping 350 gallons a minute without even taxing the process, firefighters opened the hoses up to 750 gallons a minute, although most fires require about 500.
“For us to be using 750 at a fire is pretty rare,” Gordon said. They kept it flowing at the higher pressure for 21 minutes with only two 90-second lulls, proving it could be done.
Key to the partnership was a piece of equipment that feeds smaller town hoses into the city’s 4-inch lines.
“The city stops there,” Gordon said, pointing to the red connector. The incompatibility between town and city lines was discovered about two years ago when town of Parkland volunteers were called to provide mutual aid to the city at a taconite plant fire.
“Luckily it wasn’t a very significant fire because things didn’t go very well,” said Jon Prendergast, second assistant chief for Parkland. “The trucks are set up with two different types of pumping. So we had to get adaptors to do this.” Two of the Storz connectors cost the department about $900, he said.
Volunteer firefighters said they were happy to give up a Saturday morning for the event.
“This training’s going to help us out a lot, too,” said Jon Webber, a firefighter/EMT with the towns of Parkland and Superior departments. “It’s going to help us get used to the equipment, get used to the area.”
With a successful test under their belts, the next step is to make the process automatic so if a fire call comes in from the Kilner Bay area, both town departments would be dispatched by the communications center.
“We’re all for mutual aid. We rely on it heavily out in the country. We wouldn’t be able to operate without it out there,” Prendergast said. “Now it’s just adding another department that we’re going to work with.”
Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger said once the mutual aid agreements are in place between the towns and city, the process will become automatic.
That move could lower the area’s Insurance Services Office fire service rating, which is currently a nine, far higher than the five for the rest of the city. ISO ratings are a rate driver that essentially equate to how well a business or home can be protected, according to Bob Zimmerman, a firefighter for the city and town of Superior who has also worked in the insurance industry.
The training and partnerships are part of a drive by Panger to decrease the city ISO rating and save taxpayers money. Another piece already in place that could help lower the rating includes an increase in the number of firefighters through a federal SAFER grant.