Durango (Colo.) Builds Innovative WOW Operations

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to set up a water-supply drill involving a number of departments, I’m sure you understand how important the little things are–having tools and adapters where they’re needed, connecting everything that can be connected prior to use, etc.

This past June, I had the opportunity to work for 3 days with the career and volunteer members of the Durango Fire and Rescue Authority (DFRA), which is a consolidation of three fire districts headquartered in Durango, Colo.

The DFRA was formed in 2002 when the City of Durango Fire Department, Animas Fire Protection District and Hermosa Cliffs Fire Protection District merged. The DFRA protects 385 square miles of rural, suburban and urban area, comprising 16 stations, three of which are constantly staffed. Like other departments with similar demographics, most fires must be fought with water brought to the scene on wheels.

How It’s Done

In looking at the DFRA’s equipment, it’s apparent someone took time to make sure all of the little details were attended to. In addition to the wildland, medic and specialized units they use, the department’s primary apparatus consist of:

  • 1,500-gpm/1,000-gallon pumper/tankers;
  • 3,000-gallon/1,250-gpm tanker/pumpers; and
  • 1,500-gallon/500-gpm tanker/pumpers.

Since each of these apparatus carry at least 1,000 gallons of water and a fire pump, each can be used in:

  • Fire-attack mode–all units carry 1 3?4″ and 2 1?2″ preconnected attack lines;
  • Pumping-nurse mode when low flows are required;
  • Dump-and-run mode when high flows are required; or
  • Establishing a drafting site–all apparatus carry suction hose.

Pumper/tankers carry beds of 5″ Storz-coupled hose, while large and small tanker/pumpers carry 4″ Storz-coupled hose for tanker-filling operations.

Pumper/Tanker Setup

Although the DFRA pumper/tankers vary somewhat depending on the manufacturer and layout, they’re all set up in the same fashion. Each pumper/tanker carries:

  • 5″ hose;
  • 20 feet of 6″ Storz-coupled suction hose;
  • A 10′ length of 6″ suction with a low-level strainer/jet siphon attached for use in porta-tank operations;
  • A 6″ gear-operated butterfly valve with a 6″ Storz connection on the driver-side pump intake for use when a drafting operation is required; and
  • An intake equipped with a 6″ piston intake valve with a 5″ Storz connection on the officer-side pump for use when 5″ supply line is required.

As can be seen from Figures 2—5, equipment was selected and placed by the DFRA to simplify operations and reduce the work required to set up an operation involving a pumper/tanker.

Small Tanker/Pumper Setup

The majority of the tanker/pumpers operated by DFRA are the “small” tanker/pumpers (Figures 6—8). Each is equipped with:

  • A 1,500-gallon tank;
  • A 500-gpm pump;
  • 10″ remote-controlled square dumps on each side and the rear;
  • A 2,100-gallon porta-tank; and
  • A 10′ length of 6″ suction and a low-level strainer/jet siphon.

Large Tanker/Pumper Setup

DFRA also operates three large tanker/pumpers (Figures 9 and 10). Each is equipped with:

  • A 3,000-gallon tank;
  • A 1,250-gpm pump;
  • A 12″ rear-dump valve and 10″ side-dump valves remotely controlled from the cab;
  • A 3,000-gallon porta-tank;
  • Two 10-foot-long, 6″ suction hoses with a low-level strainer/jet siphon; and
  • A large-diameter direct tank fill equipped with a 1/4-turn butterfly valve with a 4″ Storz connection.

To help reduce the turning radius, these tanker/pumpers are equipped with a tag axle that steers when the apparatus is traveling at less than 20 mph.

The Payoff

Figure 12 shows how all of the little things DFRA employs to simplify water operations come together to set up a dumpsite. What you can’t really appreciate from the photos is how easy it is for an instructor to simply call for another porta-tank or a jet siphon line and see it appear like magic.

Call it standardization or simplification, but it works. Granted, not all rural fire departments are as large as the DFRA, but nonetheless, departments usually belong to local/county associations that can work together to accomplish what the DFRA has done.

’Til next time, stay safe.

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