By Ken Brown

Thirty-five volunteer members of six fire departments did a tanker water shuttle demonstration for state, county and city officials and the public on Saturday, Sept. 7.

County Judge Roger Hooper and state Rep. Kim Hammer addressed the group. Hammer announced the ability of fire departments to apply for grant money to help with the cost of improving their ISO ratings under the GIF (General Improvement Funds) program.

Choctaw Fire Department was the host for the event, which which was held in the Choctaw Recreational Area of Greers Ferry Lake. This event coincided with the Corps of Engineers Lake clean-up weekend and several youth groups were on hand to see the demonstration and get a close up look at fire equipment.

Choctaw Fire Department set up two engines as they would be set up at a house-fire scene: One near the house fire and the other set up where the driveway of the house would meet the main road. Drop tanks were used near the engines to hold water.

Culpepper and Burnt Ridge fire departments set up their pumper engines at what would be the "water point" scene. This would be a nearby lake or pond. These departments drafted or pumped water out of the lake and filled tanker trucks from Bee Branch, Burnt Ridge, Choctaw, Culpepper and Fairfield Bay. The tanker trucks then moved the water to the drop tanks at Choctaws location.

During this exercise Choctaws two pumper engines at the fire scene delivered approximately 60,000 gallons of water to the "fire scene" in one hour. All of this water was delivered without a single drop being pulled from a fire hydrant. (Water was

pumped from the lake, moved to another location by the tankers, and then returned to the lake.) Fire departments have to start looking to other sources of water than the nearest fire hydrant. Most municipal water systems were designed more than 40 years ago for domestic water use and the infrastructure has not been updated to be able to provide the needed

flows of water to combat a structure fire. Many fire hydrants cannot be used without danger of collapsing the water mains connected to the fire hydrant.

This effort is being made by the Van Buren County fire departments to get ready to have their service areas re-evaluated for ISO ratings. ISO rating is how insurance companies base their rates for homeowner policies, the lower the rate the less the annual premium. The savings to homeowners could be hundreds of dollars.

Alread, Bee Branch, Burnt Ridge, Culpepper, Damascus, Dennard, Fairfield Bay, Highway 110 and Shirley fire departments have signed agreements to provide automatic aid to Choctaw Fire Department. Choctaw has secured written agreements with several landowners to draw water from their ponds or lakes.

The average age of the firefighters participating in Saturday’s event was 52 and the average age of the trucks used was 28.5 years. The most senior firefighter was 72 and the most senior truck was 41 years of age. With volunteer fire departments there is always something to do, so contact your fire chief and find out how you can help.