"Motorized bucket brigade" carries water to blaze
COVENTRY -- The smell of propane filled the air and flames soared over the treetops, but firefighters couldn't douse the blaze yet. First, they needed water.
Yesterday's fire at Suburban Propane in Coventry illustrated the difficulty of fighting fires in rural areas with no water supply -- and the solution.
Firefighters extinguished the fire with water carried from afar, like an old-fashioned bucket brigade with modern technology.
At the scene of yesterday's fire, Russell Lacaillade, the deputy fire chief of Western Coventry, took on the duty of water supply officer. Firefighters simply called him "water boss."
Lacaillade directed a two-pronged plan. A distant fire hydrant fed hoses from the eastern side of the propane depot. A tanker task force delivered water from the western side.
Lacaillade sent the most powerful pumper truck, the "Super Super Pumper" from Coventry's Anthony district, to the fire hydrant. The hydrant is known as Coventry's "last fire hydrant" because it marks the line where the town water supply ends. All the homes and businesses to its west draw water from wells.
The hydrant sat three-quarters of a mile from the fire. Five fire engines were placed at intervals along 4,000 feet of hose to relay the water from the hydrant to Suburban Propane.
They had done this before.
"We practiced this a couple of years back on a Sunday morning," Lacaillade said.
Coventry fire officials crafted a plan for fighting a fire at Suburban Propane more than 20 years ago, he said. As a propane business located in a residential area with no water supply, the facility's exposure was no secret.
On the western side of the fire, 15 tanker trucks from as far away as Jamestown converged at Hall Pond.
Coventry had requested the help of the Central League Tanker Task Force at 10:29, just 10 minutes after the propane explosion. The Task Force is a coalition of tanker trucks from Rhode Island fire departments that can shuttle water to fires.
Scott Barber, the chief of the Richmond-Carolina Fire District, parked his tanker truck next to the pond. The pumper sucked 800 gallons of water a minute out of the pond and pushed it up the hill to "Tankasauraus," the nickname of an engine/tanker from the Lake Mishnock Fire District in West Greenwich.
Tankasauraus transferred water to the waiting tanker trucks. The tankers drove a short distance and dumped their loads into portable pools set up near the fire. The three thigh-high pools held up to 9,000 gallons of water total. Another pumper truck drafted from the pools and sent the water to trucks fighting the fire.
"It takes a little time to get it set up, but once it was ready, we always had water," said Coventry firefighter Steve Woods, who oversaw the tanker brigade.
Each tanker truck filled up at least twice during the fire. The blaze was under control within two hours; no one nwas injured and the damage was limited to the loading dock.
As one firefighter on the water-supply relay said, it's not a sexy job, but a vital one.
Background on the fire: human-error accident repairing a propane tank resulted in a fire that had multiple 100-gallon tanks cooking off, other tanks popping their relief valves and throwing their fuel on the fire, the loading dock catching fire, and dozens of other 100-gallon tanks and a few 10,000 gallon tanks endangered.
From viewing overhead news footage of the fire, this relay/shuttle operation supplied 3 ladder pipes, 2 deck guns, and mutliple 2.5" and 1.75" handlines. Not too shabby for a heavily volunteer area of the state at 11am on a Tuesday!
Re: "Motorized bucket brigade" carries water to blaze
Tankasaurus.... Nice. :D
Originally posted by CollegeBuff
The pumper sucked 800 gallons of water a minute out of the pond and pushed it up the hill to "Tankasauraus," the nickname of an engine/tanker from the Lake Mishnock Fire District in West Greenwich.
"Motorized Bucket Brigade"
Maybe the people of Rhode Island think this is quite the operation because it is different to them, but there is nothing new in the tanker shuttle or pumper relay senarios.
I can't speak for the midwest, where I'm almost sure that if it were not for farm ponds or small lakes, these shuttles would be much more distant that 3/4 mile. I know that in my area, we have sometimes gone 2 or more miles for an adequate water source, and tanker shuttles are the only way to do this.
I think that this article was written by an urban journalist who hasn't traveled much into very rural and/or remote areas of the country.
Re: "Motorized Bucket Brigade"
[QUOTE]Originally posted by AFD368
[B]Maybe the people of Rhode Island think this is quite the operation because it is different to them, but there is nothing new in the tanker shuttle or pumper relay senarios.
I completely agree, nothing new in my area either. But great job. Water relay over really long distances is probably one of the most difficult and as we all know the most important job to do...