A screen in Penticton City Hall’s council chambers highlights how a hydrant system would be installed in the Riddle Road Area. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Shuttling water an alternative to hydrant

Fire Chief Larry Watkinson says accredited water shuttle service is ‘achievable’

Shuttling water to areas that do not have infrastructure for installation of a fire hydrant may be an option to attain semi-protected status with the Penticton Fire Department.

An accredited water shuttling service would be an “achievable” alternative according to Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

The comments came as city council was presented with an initial report from Watkinson and city engineer Ian Chapman on the potential for a hydrant installation along Riddle Road, though Chapman noted Sutherland Road and Spiller Road are also looking at getting semi-protected status.

To build the infrastructure to support a hydrant, Chapman said the city would run an estimated $172,000, though estimations have varied, as it’s still unclear what kind of materials are in the ground where pipes would need to be laid.

Related: Neighbourhood wants a fire hydrant

That brought up the issue of how such a project would be paid for, with hydrant systems typically funded by subdivision developers. But Chapman noted Riddle Road is a low-density rural area, rather than the typical suburban development.

He offered three ways for the hydrant system to be paid for. These options included an upfront payment for residents who would gain service from the system, weighted by property values, an upfront payment from the city, with those who connect to the new pipes expected to pay into it as a “latecomer” agreement or, the third option that the city would pay for the installation.

Chapman urged council to consider the issue more broadly than Riddle Road, with Sutherland and Spiller roads both considering their options, both of which would likely be more expensive than Riddle Road. He suggested an alternative to laying lengthy pipes up to various rural, outlying areas of Penticton, which Watkinson said has been on his mind for some time. A “superior tanker shuttle service” would provide the city with provincial accreditation to provide fire protection by shuttling mass amounts of water to a fire zone by water tenders.

With strict rules on which programs are accredited, the Fire Underwriters Survey said the service is “a recognized equivalency to hydrant protection.”

Among the rules, heavy testing must show that the tankers can transport at least 950 litres per minute within five minutes of arriving on scene for a residential zone.

“It is a very comprehensive test process, but with the City of Penticton, the way that we’re basically condensed, it looks fairly achievable,” Watkinson said. “I’ve done some really rough numbers to see if it’s even something to be considered. Because of the infrastructure we have inside the city’s boundaries, really we don’t have to travel very far to move that water.”

By providing protection for spots like Riddle, Spiller and Sutherland roads by water tender, through the superior tanker shuttle service, the city would require far less infrastructure, but at least one or two more trucks, at about $250,000 apiece.

Watkinson said he would need the city’s blessing to begin running the tests, because he would need to lease some trucks and take up some man hours to run the tests necessary to determine whether running a test for accreditation is even worth the fire department’s time and resources.

“It definitely looks like something we want to be considering if we want to increase the fire suppression and increase those insurance rates for the property owners in those unprotected areas,” Watkinson said, adding that the program would increase the department’s availability to several areas, including Upper Carmi.

“If we meet that fire-flow demand, as evaluated by the Fire Underwriter’s Survey, those residents would see reductions in insurance premiums by upwards of 50 or 60 per cent.”

Watkinson pushed back against the notion of building a reservoir in semi-protected or unprotected areas, noting some underground tanks in the Naramata Bench, which have seen some issues, such as leakage.

“These are very complex systems that take a lot of maintenance, supervision and training on,” he said. “They’re not a good solution; they’re not a long-term solution.”

No decisions were made on the issue, with the item coming up in a committee of the whole, but a report from staff is expected at an unspecified point in the future.



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