The importance of readily accessible fire hydrants was made evident during the Fassio Egg Farms fire on Sept. 5. Without fire hydrants nearby to provide a steady flow of water, fire crews had to wait for fire tenders to haul water to the site. The reported loss of a generator, destroyed by the fire and which would have provided access to two large water storage tanks at Fassio, made the need for water tenders even more critical.
Understandably, without fire hydrants nearby and needing water trucked in, fire fighters’ efforts were hampered. Until the next round of water tenders would arrive, fire fighters had to temporarily suspend their work. Two massive coops were destroyed and an estimated 300,000 egg-laying hens died, despite the use of ladder trucks from Tooele City and Grantsville City fire departments, a helicopter with a water bucket, and fire suppression foam from Salt Lake International Airport.
There’s much to learn from the Fassio fire. One vital lesson is as Tooele Valley continues to grow in terms of commercial and residential expansion, specifically in unincorporated areas that don’t have a public water delivery system with fire hydrants, planning and elected officials should further stress the need for fire suppression development — despite developers who may try to convince them otherwise.
The importance of this need was reported in last Thursday’s edition with the front-page story headlined, “On site access to water a concern for area fire crews.” As it turns out, west Erda Way in Erda, where Fassio Egg Farms is located, is only one low-populated area in the valley without a public water delivery system and fire hydrants.
According to Ryan Willden, North Tooele Fire District public information officer, while most heavily populated areas of unincorporated Tooele County do have fire hydrants, like Stansbury Park, there are numerous older residential and commercial developments that do not. However, NTFD has made fire hydrants a priority as the county has continued to develop, he said.
Fortunately, that priority has not run entirely into a sustained firewall. Willden said NTFD has experienced pushback in the past from developers about adding fire suppression to projects, which is expensive and only used in case of emergencies. However, over the past five to 10 years, NTFD has experienced more willingness by developers to include it in design phases for projects.
All of which is good news to reduce such areas’ vulnerability to big structure fires. Furthermore, Bucky Whitehouse, Tooele County Emergency Management director and Tooele City fire chief, said fire departments are trying to identify all potential water sources and apply them to the county dispatch’s mapping system. This would empower dispatchers to help identify available ponds, hydrants and wells that fire crews can tap into for fighting fires.
There may come a day where the majority of residentially and commercially developed unincorporated areas of Tooele Valley and Tooele County have public water distribution systems and fire hydrants. Until then, NTFD and the county are encouraged to press forward with fire suppression strategies that can make a difference today.