You probably think that this article is going to address the importance of clearing brush around your property, being careful with your barbecue and fires in fire prone areas and ensuring you have a plan in place in the event of a fire. Those are all important, but are dealt with elsewhere in great depth. In this article, we are going to address the many rural homes in Napa County that provide their own storage tanks and fire hydrants for use in the event of a fire in proximity to these homes.
In Napa County many rural homes that rely on wells because they don’t have access to city water supplies also don’t have access to fire hydrants. Many of these properties rely on water storage tanks and hydrants that provide water in the event of that the fire department needs to use them. In fact, to get a permit for new construction or a remodel in Napa County requires that these properties have or install a minimum of 2500 gallons of dedicated water storage along with a 4” hydrant in order to get the building permits approved.
These systems are often very simple in nature and are composed of a storage tank or pool, fire hydrant, a system to automatically fill the storage tank, and the marking/labeling to help the fire department locate these emergency water sources in the event of an emergency.
If you own a rural home with its own fire protection system, the question is, “Is it ready for fire season?”
Here are a few simple checks you can do.
1) Make sure the storage tank is full of water! If it has a sight gauge that tells you if it is full or empty, great, trust the gauge, but get a ladder and verify it is full! Your tank may be empty and the level gauge is stuck and indicating full.
2) While you are checking the water level in the fire water tank, look around with a flashlight. These tanks often sit for years and the water can become stagnant or desperate squirrels or other rodents will crawl inside and die. Is the water dirty? Does the mechanism that automatically fill the tank work? Does anything look broken? Does the tank lid fit properly? Is the air vent plugged or will it allow air to freely flow into the tank when the tank is emptied? Is there a thick layer of sludge on the bottom of the tank?
These are important questions to answer. If you have an empty tank it isn’t going to do the fire department or you any good. If you have a tank full of water, dead squirrels and mud; these contaminates could easily plug up or damage the pumping apparatus that firefighters are using to fight fires.
3) Ensure the fire storage tank and hydrant have the brush, dead leaves, branches or other obstacles cleared away from around and above them. In recent fires, many of the fire storage systems were damaged or couldn’t be accessed and couldn’t perform their intended duties because they had dead branches all over them and leaf litter which allowed the fire to burn or damage them. In some cases junk was in the way or blocked access to the hydrant.
4) Open the hydrant valve all the way and make sure water comes out. If it looks dirty, let it flush until the water cleans up then close it. After you have flushed, make sure that the tank refills automatically. This process, in addition to flushing, will also make sure that your hydrant valve gets some exercise and doesn’t freeze in place from years of inactivity!
5) Make sure that the hydrant is clearly marked with the appropriate markings. The most common systems that simply have a tank and hydrant should have the hydrant painted red with 1” white lettering that read “WET DRAFT” All hydrants should have a blue dot reflector adjacent to the hydrant. This blue reflector helps emergency responders locate the hydrant quickly at night.
6) Communicate with your local fire department/volunteer fire department. Make sure that they know you have a water storage tank and fire hydrant and invite them to stop by and check it out and make any recommendations that will help you both prepare for fire season. Perhaps you could invite them to do a drill at your place and get them some yummy snacks, they burn a lot of calories hauling and setting up equipment! When they know you and your property, the location(s) of your hydrants and that they all work properly, you are ready.
If you have any additional questions on the requirements for fire protection water systems in Napa County, please check out this link to Napa County’s Website. If you’d like one of our professionals to come give your fire protection system a check, give Oakville Pump Service a call at (707)944-2471.