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Front Page » August 5, 2004 » Local News » Fire flow code discussion continues
Published 4,078 days ago

Fire flow code discussion continues

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Sun Advocate community editor

Fire fighters worry that they may not have sufficient water to fight fires in some mountain developments. However tests in Aspen Cove, show that the hydrants do deliver a decent amount of gallonage to do so. Response time to fires in the area is also of concern.

Fire flows can be all important to putting out fires in any area of the county and one of the things that the Carbon County Planning and Zoning department has been worried about is that the county has had no real codes on the issue.

"The state leaves it up to the counties and cities to adopt a code for fire flow and our code is silent on the matter at present," Dave Levanger told the Carbon County Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday evening during their monthly session. "It's up to us to come up with what is sufficient for our needs."

In last months meeting Levanger and his staff proposed a code, but Price Fire Chief Kent Boyack had some concerns about lumping residential fire flows with commercial parameters. But as the meeting on Tuesday night proved, there are even more concerns from fire fighting personnel about what water would be available in the case of a fire, particularly in rural, mountain cabin areas.

The discussion was highlighted by a letter from Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis, who was not at the meeting. However planning commission member Bob Welch was there and he is part of the towns volunteer department. He along with the chief, Mayor Joe Bonacci and Gary Harwood traveled to Aspen Cove Monday morning to do some tests on hydrants there, just to see what actually exists in terms of water.

Aspen Cove Subdivision was built a few years ago with the idea that the developer could provide proper water fire protection for the eventual residents of the housing project that is just west of Madsen Bay on Scofield Reservoir. The county required a minimum 200 gallons fire flow and 20 pounds per square inch of pressure (psi) at the time. The county also required a tank large enough to house 100,000 gallons of water.

Zamantakis' letter addressed both these situations.

"While at Aspen Cove, we measured the water tank to come up with the number of gallons it would hold," he said in his letter. "They (the homeowners association) told us that it would hold 100,000 and by our measurements this (gallonage) appears to be very close."

The group also went to three separate fire hydrants within the development to check the water in them. In the cases of flow, two hydrants exceeded the standard the county had set; one read 380 gpm and the other at 1300 gpm. The third hydrants gpm was not listed in the report.

When it came to pressure tests the results varied. One hydrant tested had a residual pressure of 60 psi while the other two were 10 and five psi. This concerned Welch.

"I hate to be picky but as a fire fighter, I have problems with the pressures in these areas and about the code being set too low," he said.

This discussion came on the heels of the planning commission giving preliminary approval for a new development called Scofield Mountain Estates that is west of Aspen Cove. The issue of fire protection came up with that potential housing project too.

"I can give you any pressure and flow you want as I develop this subdivision," said Jared Brown the developer. "I have a whole hill on which I can place our water tank. I can do anything you want, but you just need to tell me what it is."

The discussion also gravitated around what fire flows and pressures are like in the developed areas of the county. Helper City had also done some tests in their own town as well as in the Spring Glen and Kenilworth areas where they provide fire services as contracted by the county.

In Helper, where nine hydrants were tested, all exceeded present expectations for gpm with ranges from 2640 to 700. However pressures were lower on many of the hydrants than some would like to see them with four at 20 psi ranging up to 75 psi on a single outlet.

All that was tested in Spring Glen and Kenilworth was the gpm and all exceeded 400 gpm or more.

But the question of pressures still remained. As the discussion progressed Levanger told the commission that with the tests that were done in Aspen Cove he was satisfied because the gallonage was obviously adequate and that the fire trucks could create their own pressures as long as they had the water needed.

Not everyone was convinced pressure wasn't that important, so in the end the commission decided to go with a code that would required 500 gpm and 45 psi in the valley locations and 200 gpm and 45 psi in the mountain locations.

In another fire related matter the commission also discussed response time to mountain fires. Zamantakis' letter described an average of 27 minutes for engines to respond to Aspen Cove from Helper. It was also pointed out that response time from Scofield town itself is actually not that much better, only a minute or two. With the new subdivision having preliminary approval, concern was that the response time to that location would be even longer.

A couple of months ago Aspen Cove owners approached the county about the possibility of placing some equipment in the area and even certifying residents to operate it for initial fire protection. However, at this meeting there were concerns about who could actually be there year-round to operate such equipment if it were available.

"There are three full time residents in Aspen Cove," said County Commissioner Mike Milovich. "But the problem is even though they may be full time they are not always there, either gone on vacation or away from the area."

Another area the planning commission noted should be changed is the distance between fire hydrants. In the past the county requirements stated that hydrants should be not more than 1000 feet apart. The commission said they wanted the staff to build into the code that they should be placed every 500 feet.

The planning commission agreed that there were still a lot of problems to solve with fire related situations, many of which will take hard work and a lot more discussion.

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