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‘The correct volume of water’

Brattleboro Fire Department installs eighth fire pond

BRATTLEBORO—It’s a simple equation that water douses fire.

For the Brattleboro Fire Department, fighting fires beyond the municipal water system adds delay and logistical complications to a process where time is always of the essence.

In early November, the fire department cooperated with local property owners to install a fire pond and dry hydrant on Ames Hill Road, providing easy access to a sufficient volume of water for fire safety.

Unlike a fire hydrant hooked up to a municipal water system, a dry hydrant is non-pressurized and installed near existing water sources such as lakes, ponds and streams.

The new hydrant will serve as a reliable water source for buildings in the Ames Hill and Abbot Road area, said Assistant Fire Chief Peter Lynch.

A natural spring feeds the fire pond, which engineers had created by digging out a swath of perpetually wet land. Adding a fire hydrant allows the department to draw water from the pond to a waiting truck, and from there direct it to the bases of destructive and deadly flames.

The pond sits at the intersection of Ames Hill Road and Abbott Road, said Lynch. This location allows the department to send trucks “either way” with water.

“[The pond has] plenty of water for us in the event of an emergency,” said Lynch.

Lt. Marty Rancourt and Firefighter Tom Barrows demonstrated attaching hoses to the new hydrant which drew water from the pond and into a waiting fire engine.

Rancourt and Lynch estimated firefighters could hook up to the hydrant and have water to a nearby fire within five minutes.

“There’s nothing worse in a burning building fire than to have the fire almost knocked down and then [to] run out of water,” said Lynch.

Without the hydrant, said Lynch, the department would have to spend time finding a more distant water source, and shuttle it to the burning structure.

In the winter, finding water often means cutting through ice and adding to the department’s response time.

Time plays a part in mitigating fire’s damage, said Lynch.

“Initially, it would slow us down,” he said.

The department’s new fire engine, Engine 4, assigned to the West Brattleboro Station, carries 1,000 gallons of water.

“We always hope with our first 1,000 gallons to knock down the fire,” Lynch said.

A Special Cases grant, awarded in September, funded the $19,600 fire pond and hydrant project.

The grant requires a 50 percent match. Property owners Brian and Jill Tyler paid the $9,800 match.

The project cost the town nothing, said Lynch.

“The Brattleboro Fire Department was awarded a Special Cases Grant from the Vermont Rural Fire Protection Task force,” said Troy Dare, engineering technician who manages the dry hydrant grant program.

The task force is a steering committee within the Northern Vermont Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D).

According to Dare, the conservation and development council occasionally receives funding from the U.S. Forest Service “to help fund more expensive rural water supply projects.”

Installation of rural fire hydrants comes from either state or federal pots of money, said Dare.

According to Dare, the Legislature had set aside money since 1998 for small fire mitigation projects of $1,000 to $2,500.

Projects with heftier bottom lines are funded by the U.S. Forest Service through the Vermont Department of Forests and Parks, he said.

Normally the RC&D awards $100,000 in grants, said Dare. This year, due to extra funds to help repair damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the council awarded $270,000 in grants.

According to Lynch, the town will maintain the hydrant. The pond, however, remains the Tylers’, who can use the pond as they wish.

Jill Tyler said her family, which includes three children and two dogs, liked the idea of having a pond for activities such as swimming.

“It seemed like a good fit both ways,” she said of the project.

The department has seven similar dry hydrants in areas outside the municipal water system, such as off Guilford Road and on Black Mountain Road.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #181 (Wednesday, December 5, 2012).

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