UP THE CREEK
October 1, 2002
Having endured the most dangerous fire season in memory (okay, we are still enduring it, but recent rains have made it seem better), this might be a good time to review a few FAQs -Frequently Asked Questions. These are FWFAQs - Fire Water FAQs.
Q: Are we talking about the fire water sold in 4/5 gallon units?
A: No, the other kind, generally measured in 1000 gallon units.
Q: I’m subdividing. Why is the water company forcing me to buy and install a fire hydrant?
A: The “water company,” at least USCDWUA, does not care whether you install a fire hydrant or not. Hydrants are often required by Delta County when land is subdivided. County planners ask local fire districts for recommendations, and will generally follow them. USCDWUA will provide and install a fire hydrant if the location is practical. At your cost.
Q: So how much does a fire hydrant cost?
A: A fire hydrant, by itself, costs $800. The trouble is, you can’t put one in by itself. By the time you add a valve, fittings, labor, and excavation, the cost usually exceeds $1700. And not getting cheaper.
Q: Do I have to be doing a subdivision to have a fire hydrant?
A: Nope. Sometimes a neighborhood will get together and raise the money for a hydrant. Sometimes an individual (rich) will go it alone.
Q: Will the fire hydrant meet existing standards for fire protection?
A: Probably not. It depends on whom you ask, and what standard. Municipal-grade fire protection is not a part of the Association’s mission (yet).
Q: When will the Association be able to provide municipal-grade fire protection?
A: That will be when the members vote to enlarge the 90-plus miles of pipeline in the system to provide the flow expected of a typical city fire hydrant.
Q: Is there a problem with that?
A: There may be a couple of problems. (1) Cost: Ninety miles of big new pipe would be $9 million. That’s $12 thousand per Association member. (2) Water quality: The water at my house on Redlands Mesa, for example, has been in the pipeline system about 90 hours. If the pipelines were enlarged to meet fire flow specs, the age would be about 360 hours, or 15 days. It might be past its prime.
Q: So a fire hydrant anywhere on the USCDWUA system is useless?
A: Generally, the feeling among people of practical minds is that when fighting a fire, any water at all is preferable to none. There are certainly times and locations where the only available water is from a fire hydrant on our system. It might not meet code, but it might just put the fire out.
Q: Do fire hydrants enhance the operation of the water system?
A: They make handy places to flush pipelines. On the other hand, they represent a maintenance liability. There are nearly 50 on the system now, and each one must be exercised, checked, and occasionally repaired. The cost of supplying domestic water inevitably goes up just a little bit every time a new hydrant is installed. But I think most would agree that it’s a worthy trade-off.