Oregon Administrator Ken Filipiak assured council last Monday that the water supply in the city is adequate for the fire department to fight fires.
“I think it’s caused all the jurisdictions in this area to determine whether or not they’re prepared,” Filipiak said of a fire in Toledo a few weeks ago that may have taken Toledo firefighters longer to extinguish due to an older, smaller waterline.
“I’m happy to say we’ve had some discussions since that issue, and we’re very pleased and confident we’re not vulnerable to the same issues that Toledo is confronting,” said Filipiak.
The home burned down June 9 in Toledo’s Westmoreland district, possibly due to inadequate water volume from a hydrant that is connected to an older, four-inch water main used to extinguish the blaze. Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner last week appointed a three-member panel to study the city’s handling of the fire.
“Some of the things they’re dealing with are problems related to an aging system, in particular four-inch lines that are inadequately sized to provide the kind of pressure and flow that’s necessary. But also, they’re pretty old, so they have some system failures that we just do not,” said Filipiak.
“Our smallest water service line here is six inches in size, or larger. In most cases, larger,” he added. “Our replacement program here is such that all lines that are replaced are replaced at least with an eight inch-diameter line or larger.”
A couple of years ago, Oregon conducted a study of its water distribution system and evaluated all areas of the city to determine if there were adequate flow capacity and water pressure,” he said.
“The study indicated we can be satisfied that we have current capacity and pressure to be able to meet our needs. However, because we always strive for improvements, probably the area with the lowest pressure is our southwest quadrant of the city, and our two million gallon overhead tank that is currently under construction in this part of the city will actually improve that pressure system wide. As a part of that, we’re going to constructing a 16 inch water main that will follow the Toledo Edison tower easement and connect up between Seaman and Navarre Avenue, and ultimately continue down to Brown Road, which will greatly affect the pressure in that area. So let me reinforce the point that we’re very comfortable that we have adequate service pressure and flow capacity right now. But that will only enhance that city-wide when those improvements are completed.”
In recent years, the city has upgraded from three to five-inch diameter hose that helps avoid the problems in Toledo, said Filipiak.
“They can be stretched out and serve essentially as temporary water lines if we need to hook into multiple sources as far as a mile away to tap into a line that may have greater pressure to bring it to the site of a fire. Our hydrants are very identifiable. Almost every one is in the right-of-way. A handful is on private property, which are inspected and tested by our fire department every year. About half our fire hydrants are inspected each year. We’ve done a lot to enhance the serviceability to those hydrants by replacing a bunch of them, or raising them up to an appropriate height to give easier access to our firefighters. We’ve replaced over 200 fittings to our existing fire hydrants to help with interagency compatibility when others come into our jurisdiction. So we feel pretty comfortable we’re doing the things necessary to enhance our system and improve it on an ongoing basis.”
Fire Chief Bill Wilkins said all the front line engines carry five inch diameter hose, 1,000 feet on each one. “And our two trucks, sometimes referred to as aerials, also carry 1,000 feet. So we have a total of 8,000 feet of five inch hose on our response vehicles,” said Wilkins. All supply hose is five inches.
Filipiak said the service department in recent years completed an inventory of existing water and sewer lines in Oregon that’s overlaid on the city’s GIS system.
“Eventually, all our existing fire hydrants will be plotted on that GIS mapping as well,” said Filipiak. “But short of that, our departments, especially on the district levels, are very comfortable with their location and their ability to provide the service that we need. Essentially, the bottom line is we’re in very good shape to meet any of the structural fire needs in our community. As we upgrade, that is only going to improve. On balance, we’re in a much better position that the city of Toledo is, or has been, in recent years.”
In Northwood, Mayor Mark Stoner said water lines in the city are larger than three inches.
“The minimum that we have are six and eight inch lines,” said Stoner. “But those just branch off main lines that are 16 and 20 inches. Those can really supply flow. So it’s not a problem.”