For a fire that is not within reach of a fire hydrant, water comes from portable swimming pools, known as dump tanks. Tankers fill up where they can, perhaps from a lake, perhaps at hydrant too far to reach with hoses. The tankers drive over, dump water in the swimming pools, then return for more. This is known as shuttling water. Engines then pump the water out of the dump tanks and feed it to the engine that is actually fighting the fire. Think of it as a really intense bucket brigade.
Last weekend, my department spent two days at a multi-department water supply seminar, run by Got Big Water, sponsored by the Alabama Fire College. After instructions and practicals, the class was able to move enough water so that the attack engine could maintain a water stream of 1000 gallons per minute. Story and photos here.
You may now be impressed.
What was my role? Despite many years as a firefighter, I remain too ignorant to be useful in a forward position. Someone will yell for a 2 1/2″ gated wye from 263. Instead of leaping into activity, I stand with a dumb look on my face thinking: What is a gated wye? Where do we keep it? Which vehicle is 263? I’ve come to terms with this. Some things I am good at, some things not. Mechanical aptitude is a Not. The information just won’t stay in my head.
Instead, I used our service truck to run a mini-water shuttle. I drove from staging site to dump site to fill site handing out water and Gatorade. Not glamorous, but given an Alabama summer, not without merit.
Yes, my one random snapshot of the dump tanks captured three of the women in the class. Out of approximately 50 participants over 10% were women, most right in the thick of the action. Slowly we make progress.