Natural Resources Management Educator,
University of Illinois Extension
Safety & Health:
How to Improve Fire Fighting in Rural Areas
A dry hydrant gives your area a fire fighting chance
Growing up on a farm, I remember seeing or hearing about fires in the area. Many times the devastation was made worse from the lack of a nearby water supply. For example, fighting a house or barn fire may require anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 gallons of water for full suppression. This usually means pumper trucks have to make several trips to a hydrant. However, having an accessible source of water in rural areas may be as close as a pond.
A pond can be turned into a water source through the use of a dry hydrant. These systems are non-pressurized pipes that are installed next to a body of water that can supply the water needed for fire suppression. A dry hydrant water source can be a benefit to everyone living in the area, including the potential for lowering insurance premiums.
Before installing a dry hydrant, there are several things to consider. Start by calculating how much water is actually available for pumping. To make this calculation for a pond, determine the surface square footage, and multiply this amount by the average depth. To determine square footage for a rectangular pond, take the length times the width. For circular ponds, multiply 3.14 by the radius. To figure an average depth, it may be necessary to take several depth readings across the pond. When the square footage and average depth are multiplied, this gives you the amount of water in cubic feet. Then, multiply that number by 7.5 to determine the gallons. The amount of water available for pumping will be a little less than this amount since not all of the water can be pumped out. In the winter, ice will decrease the amount of available water as well.
Another consideration is ease of access. The hydrant needs to be well marked and next to an all-weather road, which would allow pumper trucks to hook up to it. The hose connection must be 2 feet above the ground. The intake needs to be 2 feet above the bottom of the pond and 2 feet below the anticipated low water level. There is a limit to the height water can be pumped. The total vertical height of pipe from intake to outlet cannot exceed 18 feet, with shorter heights preferred. Long, horizontal lengths must also be considered. For example, a 500-gallon per minute pump will only be able to lift water 13 feet if the horizontal length of pipe is 200 feet.
Most dry hydrants are made from 6-inch or larger schedule 40 PVC pipe. Additional components include a hose connection compatible with local fire trucks, two 90-degree or 45-degree elbows, and a strainer cap. Costs for installation can vary from about $700 to $1,500, depending on your location and amount of materials needed.
Once installed, dry hydrants must be properly maintained. Make sure brush and trees do not interfere with access. In addition, silt or plants should be kept from clogging the intake screen. Regular inspections and back flushing can be used as a training opportunity for new fire protection personnel.
Visit with your local fire protection district to discuss how a dry hydrant would fit into their tactics. For technical assistance on site suitability, survey, design and installation, contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service or local Soil and Water Conservation District office. Some Resource Conservation and Development offices in Illinois can assist with this as well.
Also, visit with your insurance provider to see if discounts are offered when a dry hydrant is available.
For More Information:
Duane Friend is the Natural Resources Management Educator for the University of Illinois Extension. Phone 217-243-7424.
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