Water is everybody’s business

Andrew Pollock, Constantia

What will happen to our fire hydrant capabilities when we get to Day Zero – no water in our pipes?

As a concerned resident living in the Constantia Valley, this troubled me sufficiently to pay a visit to the fire station in Constantia Main Road, near Constantia Village.

This issue was also of concern to residents of a retirement village nearby – they were contemplating their own fire hydrant reticulation system installed into their complex in the event of a fire.

A most informed and evidently planned system was relayed to me by this service manager. Quentin Barbier, explained that the water crisis was no reason for concern for homeowners as the fire vehicles travel with grey water and also have more grey water back – up.

They source this grey water from many places. There are also portable water pumps and submersible pumps that spray water instead of shooting it and that better deals with open flames.

A fire engine in drought is fully contained. Additional sources of water like swimming pools and borehole water tanks assist the fire teams, should they so need.

My mind was put
to rest. In the fire season, we seem in good hands, with lots of planning and well trained thinkers and doers.

Mountain fires are a very different kettle of fish – aliens are highly explosive and there are lots on the fringe of Constantia. They are flammable and water thirsty, interfering with the Table Mountain Aquifer.

Nkandla with its fire pool suggests that swimming pools represent great water storage in times of drought. If swimming pool water pH is brought up to around 8, it is good to go into the house pipes and geysers. To achieve this increase in pH is simple and inexpensive and should become public knowledge in due course.

Water is everybody’s affair and private working with public entities creates a win-win.

Executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, responds:

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service has started setting up Jojo tanks at fire stations to harvest rain water that can be used to help fill motor pumps after returning from an incident. This is a work in progress and given that the rainy season is all but over, it is unlikely that this system will yield great returns in the immediate future.

It is correct that private swimming pools and other water bodies are potential sources of water in the event of fire, provided that they are close enough (and contain enough water) to use without comprising the safety of anyone. Currently, a study is under way to determine whether treated effluent could potentially be used to fight fires.

The Fire and Rescue Service also has five Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) vehicles that use a foam/water concentrate mix. These vehicles are being dispatched first where possible to contain fires and limit the use of potable water.

We are looking to retrofit some of our other vehicles to perform in a similar manner in the months ahead, although this is budget dependent.

For vegetation fires, the helicopters contracted for the summer season will use seawater to fight flames in areas that are inaccessible to firefighters.

On the ground, greater emphasis will be placed on perimeter firefighting and monitoring, as well as the use of sand to suppress flames.

In addition, the Fire and Rescue Service is ramping up its education and awareness campaigns around fire safety in the home but also in public and the maintenance of fire breaks.

The summer season, coupled with the water shortage, requires that the public seriously consider their actions around the use of fire during this period. They are requested to be cautious and vigilant and to report fires as soon as they are witnessed in order that the emergency firefighting services can reach them as quickly as possible.

We also want to assure the public that the Fire and Rescue Service will do all in its power to combat fires if and when they occur, using the most convenient alternate water sources available.