Water Tenders and Wildland Firefighting
Blue Coyote Wildfire Consulting, formerly known as Blue Coyote Firewater, and now based in Moscow, Idaho, established this website to provide helpful information regarding the use of water tenders and wildland fire suppression in general.
About Water Tenders:
Water tenders (water trucks) provide vital support to wildland fire suppression efforts. They obtain water from lakes, rivers, streams, canals, or fire hydrants and deliver it to where it is needed on the fire. Most water tenders have on-board pumps, either power-take-off or self-powered, that they use to fill their tanks with water. This is called "drafting". Drafting usually takes 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the tank to fill.
Water tenders are "typed" into 3 classes. A type 1 water tender holds 5000 or more gallons. Type 2's carry between 2500 to 5000. Type 3's hold between 1000 and 2500 gallons. Type 2's are the workhorses of fire suppression support and generally the most common. Normally, most type 2 tenders will carry between 3000 to 4000 gallons.
One of the many tasks water tenders can do is tending portable tanks, keeping them filled so the water can then be pumped into a hoselay with a portable pressure pump. Firefighters utilize hoselays to get the cooling and smothering effects of water where it can be best utilized based on the current day's strategy and tactics. Another important job water tenders do is support the engines that are assigned to operational fire duties. All water tenders should have the capability of pumping water either straight into the tanks, or directly through the plumbing system of the various engines that work wildland fires.
Water tenders can also support helicopter bucket operations. Oftentimes, there may not be a water source for helicopters to "dip" out of such as a lake or pond, so portable "dip tanks" can be set up and filled by water tenders. Sometimes, one helicopter can keep 4 or 5 water tenders busy just keeping the tank full.
One other very common task for water tenders is to provide "dust abatement" at helibases, fire camps, and on the dirt and gravel roads used for fire traffic. Watering not only keeps the dust down but also maintains the integrity of the roads.
There are various other duties a water tender could be assigned to. Things such as watering for road grading operations, weed-washing fire vehicles, pre-treating roadside fuels, and refilling stock tanks that were emptied during fire suppression efforts are all tasks that Blue Coyote Firewater has helped with.
About Fire Behavior:
Quite simply, fire behavior is
the manner in which a fire reacts to the variables of fuel, weather,
and topography. The only one of these variables a firefighter can
influence is the fuel. Fuel in the wildlands would be such things as
grass, leaves, pine needles, timber litter, trees, shrubs, etc. Fire is the result of the combination of heat applied to a fuel, and oxygen. The basic principle of fire suppression is to remove one of these three elements in the most effective manner. Water on fire works in two ways; it removes oxygen by smothering the fuel, and it removes heat by cooling the fuel. Water is the firefighter's friend.
For a great site to help you understand more about fire behavior, click on the "http://science.howstuffworks.com" link on the 'More Helpful info' page.
The Blue Coyote ventured into the Wolf Den in early July. A 19,865 acre lightning caused high desert fire south of Vernal, Utah. The fire threatened oil industry and natural gas facilities in the area. Primary fuels were grass, sagebrush, and in the higher country, Mountain Juniper with a Pinyon Pine component. Also threatened were some Gilsonite deposits, with one vein left to burn itself out, hopefully in a year or so. Gilsonite is a unique formation of a natural asphalt. It is found in essentially what could be called a “crack in the earth” maybe 3 feet wide by 500 feet deep extending for up to a mile or so. Only two deposits of this mineral are known to exist, the other one being found somewhere in Spain. There is quite a history in the area of early day mining, and there are plenty of ghost towns and remnants of an old narrow-gauge railroad to confirm human occupancy. Gilsonite is still used today as an ingredient in a multitude of products including perfume, etc.
The sedimentary rock formations and deep canyons of this unique area make for a breathtaking scene.