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Jefferson Co. officials seek land for dry hydrants

July 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - When local firefighters respond to a blaze, sometimes there are more challenges than just the fire.

Keeping enough water flowing to the fire can also tax firefighters.

For instance, fires in the Rippon, W.Va., area of Jefferson County often force firefighters to bring their water tanker trucks to a fire hydrant in the Huntfield development to be refilled, said Ed Smith, chief of the Independent Fire Co.

Limited amounts of water in rural areas can make firefighting tricky, and local firefighters are working to expand an alternative water supply system for fires.

The approach is referred to as "dry hydrants," in which firefighters can tap into water resources such as a stream or a pond, according to Lt. Tyree Kable of the Independent Fire Co.

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Dry hydrants involve installing an 8-inch water line into the ground which runs to the water source, Smith said.

That allows firefighters to pull up to the hydrants and draw water from them, Smith said.

Some dry hydrants exist in Jefferson County in areas along Old Cave Road, Roper North Fork Road, Lloyds Road and Van Clevesville Road, and the ideal situation would be to have dry hydrants within each three-square-mile area, Kable and Smith said.

Fire departments in the county have the opportunity to receive grant funding to install dry hydrants, Kable said.

Fire departments can receive up to $1,000 to install each dry hydrant if they can find property owners willing to have the hydrants on their property, Smith said.

Fire officials are looking for property owners or homeowner associations which have ponds, streams or other water sources which could be used for dry hydrants, Kable said. Property owners who would be interested in having dry hydrants on their land may contact Kable at tyreekable@citlink.net or by calling 304-261-0868.

Besides the obvious advantage of making firefighting easier and safer, dry hydrants can also mean money savings for property owners, Kable said.

One of the biggest factors affecting fire insurance is the ability of fire departments to offer a continuous supply of water for fires, Kable said.

Insurance rates are based on a rate schedule set up by the Insurance Service Organization and the higher the number rating, the higher the insurance rate, Smith said. Rural areas are often ranked nine or 10, but dry hydrants can reduce the number to seven, resulting in substantial savings in insurance premiums, Kable said.

Towns in the county are well served with pressurized fire hydrants. The Charles Town water system, which also serves the neighboring city of Ranson, W.Va., has about 200 hydrants, Smith said.

Fire officials would particularly like to have more dry hydrants in the Summit Point, W.Va., area, although the need extends elsewhere, Smith said.

"Any of the rural areas outside of the city limits, in general, need them," Smith said.

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