IaCMA Newsletter

Iowa City / County Management Association

IaCMA Newsletter – July 2019

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City of Bondurant and City Administrator Marketa Oliver Recognized for
IaCMA’s Program of the Year Award.

Excerpted from award nomination

Bondurant Ultra High-Pressure Program

Marketa Oliver, City Administrator
Aaron Kreuder, Fire Chief

Problem Assessment:

Bondurant is the fastest growing city in Iowa and located in the greater Des Moines metropolitan area. The City is at a size where it is transitioning from a paid-per-call (PPC) fire department to a full-time fire department. It becomes more and more difficult to recruit paid-per-call fire fighters during the day. If an incident occurs during the day, response time is longer due to less availability of PPC fire fighters. In turn, longer response times leads to less impressive ISO ratings, which could have made Bondurant less attractive to a homebuyer. Additionally, because Bondurant is growing quickly, it has abundant infrastructure needs, yet a tax base that is slow to catch up with the needs.

In an effort to reduce response times, four members of Bondurant Emergency Services
attended a Summit in November 2017 (the first held in Iowa), to learn about ultra-high-pressure technology. Staff attended a four-hour classroom presentation on the science behind the technology and then live burn scenarios. Chief Aaron Harris of Middleton Wisconsin Fire Department and his crew lead the Summit and shared their experiences with UHP systems Middleton has in place.

Ultra-high pressure is defined by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) as pump pressures above 1100 psi. By flowing water at these pressures, 10 times the surface area is created by breaking down conventional water droplets into 64 smaller droplets, decreasing the amount of water used to approximately a fifth of what conventional firefighting would use. Greater surface area means more contact with the fire and more efficient heat absorption. When the water droplet absorbs heat, it converts to steam, displacing oxygen, removing heat from the superheated environment and extinguishing the fire. This technology was originally developed for NASA as a propulsion system that blasted spacecraft beyond the stratosphere and formulated propellants to fuel them. Throughout that process, the inventors developed an understanding of high-pressure fluid flows through nozzles dealing with extremely high temperatures and rapid cooling. At the technology developed further for the space industry, it became clear that it had applications for firefighting.

Program Implementation and Costs:

Bondurant Emergency Services leadership was so impressed by the performance of the systems that the City determined it would be beneficial to the department and was a good solution to reduce response times. The City developed plans to put two systems in place. Because the two systems would be retrofitted to current vehicles, the cost for both systems would be less than $55,000. By December 1st, the City Administrator developed funding methodologies to purchase the system and the UHP program was officially greenlit. Fire Department staff also solicited and secured a $15,000 grant from Prairie Meadows. The first unit was placed in service April 2018. The second unit took a little more time because it had to be custom made for the cold weather modifications. The second unit went in service September 2018.

Bondurant Emergency Services now has two similar, yet also different, systems in place. The City retro fitted the 2006 brush truck with a standard UHP system. It has 200 gallons of water and a UHP system. The system supplies 20 gallons a minute of water through a ¾” hydraulic steel braided hose that is much easier to control and manipulate compared to the traditional 1 ¾” hand line.  It is controlled through a combination nozzle that was specially designed for the system to deliver 1400 PSI at the nozzle. Bondurant also has a 100-gallon system that was designed for our command truck. It has a topper and heater for cold weather and is a take home vehicle, meaning it responds directly to the scene to allow for an initial transitional fire attack from the outside of the structure while the larger apparatus and second UHP system is responding from the station, thus cutting down the time to get water on the fire. This is the first cold-weather UHP system in the nation. This system operates the same way as the other system, but provides 1250 psi, in an effort to limit the water usage a little further to gain more attack time and compensate for the smaller water tank in a lighter duty vehicle. Both systems can be dialed back by simply turning a valve to 10 gallons a minute for water conservation on grass and field fires. Both systems also have foam capabilities. To date, both systems have been used on multiple fires successfully. City staff has been so impressed by the systems, they developed a training team that travels the state to demonstrate how Ultra High Pressure works and the benefits it has to the fire service. (They do not charge for the training and the training is not affiliated with any manufacturer.) Bondurant believes in the science and technology and feels a responsibility to educate others on the benefit.

Tangible results:

It should be noted that this technology is a great augmentation to current equipment. It has never been the intention nor were the City’s systems ever designed to replace pumpers or engines. These units are still very much a necessity, however since pumper/engines cost anywhere from $450,000.00 to $1.5 million dollars each, employing the UHP technology enables the City to extend the life of the costlier vehicles by utilizing smaller more efficient pickup trucks for the initial attack. This will result in less wear and tear on the larger units and reduce the need for them to respond emergent to most fires. The cost of a new pickup truck and UHP skid unit vary by manufacturer and design specification. That said, even a very well-equipped unit such as the City’s command truck would cost less than $175,000 new. Many departments already have a brush truck and/or a pickup, as was the case in Bondurant. The overall expense for Bondurant was significantly reduced by retro fitting vehicles the City already owned.  Bondurant spent less than $55,000 putting two units in service and added an additional 5 years on two of our frontline pumper tankers replacement cycle. Since the actual replacement schedule for most frontline engines and pumpers is 20 years and the cost of the truck is on average $550,000 (and rising each year), we are able to continually keep equipment longer and stretch out the replacement schedule.  City staff is currently evaluating the need to replace one of the current pumper tenders entirely by simply incorporating an additional UHP response unit into our fleet. This means not only saving money on the front end with less expensive vehicles but also with cost savings in the ability to remount the skid units in new chassis, it is potential to achieve a cost savings of over $400,000 within the next 15 years, after the expense of the additional truck and UHP system.  To clarify, UHP is not intended to eliminate the need for full size engines and pumpers, but it does have the capability to substantially reduce the number of full-size pumpers and engines needing replaced every 20 years.

Because of the efficient use of water, a UHP system is well-suited to fit on smaller, more agile vehicles, Bondurant is able to respond with a smaller crew, leading to quicker departure and response time. Instead of a fire fighter needing to respond to the station, wait for other staff to arrive to have the appropriate number to staff a pumper or rescue truck, then leave the station for the address where help is needed, with the UHP system, one person can respond to the scene, directly from home and start the attack on the fire. This saves valuable time. Additionally, once on scene, the UHP system has been tested and shown to be operational within 15 seconds of arriving. Studies have demonstrated that fire can double in size every 30-60 seconds.

The quicker attacking UHP system can prevent the spread of a fire and keep a single room fire from consuming an entire structure. Because the water is used more efficiently, the residual water left behind is minimal as compared to a low-pressure system, causing less water damage and helping the victims of the water to resume occupancy of the structure quicker. Vehicle fires are of concern to Bondurant, as the City is located off of two intersections of I-80. With the UHP system, vehicle fires can be put with just one-person.

Paying it forward:

City staff is currently involved in planning for an educational summit in Bondurant, scheduled for May 31st – June 2nd. Staff is working with our local school district to use the high school auditorium and classrooms for educational, keynote, and breakout sessions. The Fire Chief has lined up several vehicles and a house to burn to demonstrate not only the value of the UHP system, but also to offer training on it. This is shaping up to be a large summit, with 300 participants from around the country, focused on UHP technology, but also including other topics. The Fire Chief has secured approximately 20 vehicles and one house to burn, to show the abilities of the technology. There is the possibility of having a nationally recognized “legend” in the fire service to deliver the keynote presentation. Staff is also currently working through the appropriate channels to offer CEH’s for ongoing training. This is the largest UHP summit ever! Representatives from Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) will be involved as well. Finally, another goal of the summit is to involve key decision makers form the National Fire Protection Association to look at rule making for this technology, to make the technology more available and safer in its implementation.

This is all done in goal of advancing firefighting capabilities, reducing response times, and decreasing long- term fire operation costs, not only in our own community, but in our state and even nationally.

Following are pictures showing a single firefighter attacking a vehicle fire. The fire was under control within 30 seconds and fully extinguished in under one minute.

Congratulations City of Bondurant for an outstanding new program!

To be considered for the Program of the Year Award, the local government’s chief administrator must be a full (voting) IaCMA member.  Each program nomination must be independent and cannot be a component of another program.  Eligible programs must be:
    • Administered under the authority of one or more governmental entities, with only limited outside assistance from experts/consultants
    • Currently be in operation and have been fully implemented within the last 3 years.
    • Must demonstrate tangible results

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