Visalia Fire Department is a big fan of Cal Water grant

Water utility company helps Visalia Fire Department purchase industrial-sized fan to help clear smoke and chemicals out of structure fires

VISALIA — The Visalia Fire Department is a big fan of the city’s water service provider, not just because of the water flowing out of Visalia hydrants but also because of the grant to buy them an industrial-sized fan.

On Sept. 17, California Water Service (Cal Water), which owns and operates Visalia’s municipal water supply, announced it was granting the city money to purchase a long-running, battery-powered Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) fan and an extra battery for the Visalia Fire Department. With fan blades more than seven feet long, the PPV forces smoke and chemicals out of structures to allow firefighters to enter a less hostile and higher visibility environment to begin their life and property saving mission.

Chief Dan Griswold says funding for the unit came from California Water Service, which provides water service to Visalia.Photo courtesy of Tammie Myers, California Water Service

According to the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), PPV fans are effective at making the environment inside a structure fire more “suitable for fire suppression” and, more importantly, more “survivable.” The basic science behind the large fans is that they force a lot of air into a structure and increase the air pressure to force ventilation of smoke and hazardous chemicals through an open window, a hole in the roof or a vent made by firefighters. NIST testing showed the fan was most effective in large, single story buildings, something Visalia has a lot of, to not only force ventilation, but to create positive pressure without ventilation to contain the fire in areas where it started and prevent it from spreading to unaffected areas.

VFD was one of six recipients of Cal Water’s second annual Firefighter Grant Program, which supports the needs of fire departments in the utility’s service areas, to receive a portion of $148,500. Far more than the $60,000 it was originally estimating to provide. Nearby fire departments in Bakersfield and Selma also received money to purchase a utility terrain vehicle and new fire turnouts, the heat and flame-resistant clothing worn by firefighters.

Cal Water will host dedication ceremonies with the winning fire departments after the equipment has been purchased.

“Part of our focus day in and day out is to ensure we have a safe and reliable water supply for firefighters to protect our communities in an emergency, and by supporting those who risk their own lives to protect ours through this grant program, we can further live our purpose to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve,” Cal Water President and CEO Martin A. Kropelnicki said. “We are pleased that so many fire departments in our service areas participated in our Firefighter Grant Program and look forward to expanding the program in the coming years.”

The water utility company helped Visalia Fire Department purchase an industrial-sized fan to help clear smoke and chemicals out of structure fires. Photo courtesy of Tammie Myers, California Water Service.

VFD was also a grant recipient in the program’s inaugural year, which automatically qualified the department for this year’s grant. Just a week before the announcement, VFD demonstrated the equipment it purchased with last year’s grant. On Sept. 8, firefighters showed off their new Direct Recirculating Apparatus Firefighting Training and Sustainability (D.R.A.F.T.S.) Unit at Visalia Fire Station 55 and Fire Training Center at the corner of Shirk Road and Ferguson Avenue. The “pump pod” is a self-contained unit that recirculates water used during firefighter training and pump testing. They enable fire departments to train with full-flow water. The unit allows 1,850 gallons of water to be pumped continually. VFD estimates the pump pod will save an estimated 4.3 million gallons of water during its trainings each year thanks to a new piece of equipment that didn’t cost them a dime.

The pump pod is valued at $101,122 but was granted to the department by Cal Water as part of its customized conservation incentive and rebate program. California Water Service Company Customized Incentive Program offers grants for projects with verifiable savings identified as a savings opportunity in Cal Water’s Commercial Water-Use Efficiency Evaluation Report. Projects must have an estimated savings of a minimum of 100Ccf (74,800 gallons) over the lifetime of the project (a minimum of 5 years). The total incentive amount is limited to a maximum of 50% of the project cost up to $25,000 in a calendar year. Cal Water reserves the right to waive these requirements on a case-by-case basis depending on available funding and other factors.

Visalia and L.A. County were the only fire departments statewide to receive the pump pods.

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