There are a lot of simple steps communities can take to make sure that water supplies are easily accessible to fire departments in the event of a wildfire. Communities and fire departments can act to work together to improve the availability of water in the event of a wildfire.
An important step is to insure the proper maintenance of the hydrants located within the community. This includes the testing of the pressure available at the hydrants and maintenance around the hydrants. The hydrants should be tested with a meter for the water pressure either by the water or fire district professionals to determine the pressure available. Maintaining an adequate area around the hydrant itself can be accomplished by the homeowner easily. It is important that fire departments can find the hydrants easily so cutting weeds around hydrants, and making sure that dirt and debris is cleared away from the hydrant at least 3 feet away will insure easy access. I visited one community Lake Alminor Country Club in California that built a cinder block “fence” behind and alongside hydrants located on a steep hill to prevent, dirt, mud and rock from accumulating around hydrants.
Another way to insure that fire departments can easily find a hydrant is by placing a blue reflective dot in the center of the road. This makes it easy for fire departments to find hydrants when it is dark or very smoky in the event of a wildfire.
Small water departments should also investigate having an alternate power supply in case of a power outage. Some water districts have professionally installed backup generators in case the power goes out during a wildfire or other disaster. When researching generators that are the best fit for your needs, explore propane generators, they can operate for longer periods without refueling. Sometimes gasoline is not available when there is no power as gas pumps require power to operate.
The NFPA also has developed standard 1142: Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting, which identifies minimum standards to assist rural and suburban fire departments in developing sufficient water supplies where no in-ground hydrant system (or an inadequate one) exists. It provides methods for determining water supply requirements based on occupancy and construction classifications. This Standard also provides information regarding apparatus construction for water tankers.
For more helpful information about improving access for fire departments to water and into the community itself, a good resource is the Firewise Virtual workshop, “Improving Access for Wildland Firefighters”
We can take many simple steps now as we act to have a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire.