Firefighters find few rural hydrants at their disposal

  • Sun Mar 28th, 2010 11:42pm
  • News

By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer

If you live in one of the rural parts of Snohomish County, it’s likely there are no fire hydrants by your home.

Fire officials say that adds to the challenge of fighting fires in these areas, but homeowners can do their part to help.

“Without hydrants, it definitely makes it a difficult situation for rural areas, as the population grows,” North County Regional Fire Authority Battalion Chief Christian Davis said.

In June, when a large fire in Stanwood destroyed several barns and caused $2.2 million in damage at a chicken farm, about 15 water tenders were summoned and more than 150,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the blaze because there were no hydrants nearby.

The outcome probably wouldn’t have been much different if there were, Davis said. Flames already had spread to several chicken coops when the first crews arrived.

In other situations, however, a fire hydrant can make a big difference, he said.

Each rig called to bring water to a fire pulls at least one firefighter from being available to answer other calls.

People living in rural areas should do their part to help the fire departments, said Ron Simmons, deputy chief at Snohomish Fire and Rescue. Steps can include making sure fire trucks can access a long, steep driveway and keeping shrubs and combustibles away from the house

Wooden sheds and vegetation next to a home are fire hazards.

“That’s one of the biggest issues in Washington state,” Simmons said.

Homeowners should make sure their correct address is posted by their driveway and clearly visible, so that crews can find the home quickly, Marysville Fire District spokeswoman Kristen Thorstenson said.

“It can add to response times,” she said. “We suggest reflective address signs.”

Fire hydrants are usually owned and maintained by local water districts or water systems. There are dozens of water systems throughout the county.

As the county’s population swelled in recent years and water districts expanded their services, many more fire hydrants have appeared throughout the county, Simmons said. Still, many areas within his district are without fire hydrants, such as Machias, Three Lakes and Lord Hill.

Fire hydrants are scarce around older mobile-home parks, too. That’s because most sprung up long before current water-supply standards went into effect, Simmons said.

In rural-cluster subdivisions with lots larger than 1 acre, fire hydrants aren’t required, said Tom Rowe with Snohomish County Planning and Development Services.

North County Regional Fire Authority covers about 15,000 people living around Freeborn, Warm Beach and Bryant, but more than half the area served by the district doesn’t have hydrants, Davis said.

The district has three tenders. Those are fire trucks with water capacity about 2,800 gallons. In case of a large fire, neighboring departments are dispatched to haul in more water.

“Everybody relies pretty heavily on each other to bring water,” Davis said.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452,