Archive for October, 2014October 10, 2014
As National Fire Prevention Week concludes, we look at Des Moines Water Works’ role in assisting fire crews with fire protection of the community, as seen during a major fire earlier this year in downtown Des Moines.
It was shortly after 1:00 a.m. on March 29, when Des Moines Water Works received a call from Polk County Emergency Management. They alerted Water Works that fire crews would be using multiple hydrants and a large amount of water to fight a structure fire in downtown Des Moines.
It was the 115-year-old downtown Des Moines building that housed an iconic Younkers department store and the popular Younkers Tea Room for decades. The building, which was undergoing a $37 million rental and retail renovation that was to be a cornerstone for redevelopment along Walnut Street, was equipped with a construction standpipe, but the fire alarm and sprinkler system installations were not yet complete.
The rare, three-alarm fire required massive amounts of water to fight the fire and control damages.
At the height of the fire, Des Moines Fire Department was coordinating a total of 18 trucks on the scene, with several trucks each pumping 1,500 gallons of water per minute, for close to five hours.
An estimated total of eight million gallons of water was used from the beginning of the firefighting, around 1:00 a.m. Saturday, well into Sunday. That is equivalent to the amount of water demanded by an entire community (similarly sized to the city of Ankeny) in one day at the peak of irrigation season in the summer.
To accommodate the hike in demand, Des Moines Water Works had to draw water from the Raccoon River, process, and then pump the water at a higher rate than a typical early morning in March. The increase in demand caused no system failures.
Des Moines Water Works facilities within the city of Des Moines are designed and constructed with extra capacity specifically intended to provide fire protection. In fact, fire protection demand is often what determines the size and location of the facilities that will be installed.
The minimum pipe diameter used for water mains in the City of Des Moines is 8-inch. This is more than large enough to provide domestic service, but the larger size is necessary to provide fire protection. The same is true for storage facilities and pumping stations around town. All are sized and located specifically to ensure adequate fire protection.
While many of us drive or walk past fire hydrants without much thought, Des Moines Water Works takes great pride in the installation and maintenance of the 9,600 fire hydrants in Des Moines and surrounding communities, which provide an essential function in adequate fire protection for the community.
Insurance Service Office, Inc. (ISO) regularly conducts evaluations which they refer to as Public Protection Classification surveys. The survey is a measure of a community’s capabilities related to fire protection. In 2010, a survey was conducted in Des Moines. The water supply received a score of 37.19 out of 40 and a Class 1 rating, or the highest possible rating. This shows that the water system in Des Moines is well positioned to provide adequate fire protection to its customers.
The Younkers fire was an extraordinary event that unfolded in real-time via social media. No persons were injured and the efforts by firefighters to control the damages caused by the fire have allowed the remaining portions of the building to continue to be redeveloped, including the beloved Tea Room.
Photos by Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register.
One in three Americans gets their drinking water from rivers and streams that are vulnerable or impaired, including the 500,000 central Iowans who depend on the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as the source of their drinking water.
Iowans must speak out and demand clean water in our rivers that is essential for drinking, swimming, and fishing. Clean water is critical to viable communities and economic growth. Sixty percent of streams and millions of acres of wetlands across the country are not clearly protected from pollution and destruction.
Over 40 years ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act. The focus was to, through regulatory means, remove raw sewage and industrial pollution from rivers and lakes. Thanks to cleanup efforts spurred by the Clean Water Act, the pollution from these sources has decreased immensely or been eliminated. Unfortunately, agriculture was exempt from most provisions of the Clean Water Act, and today, is the largest contributor to water pollution in Iowa’s rivers and the country. It is time to expand the Clean Water Act regulations to include all sources of pollution – including agriculture.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed stronger protections for the clean water vital to all Americans, but agriculture continues to be exempted. The proposal is the Clean Water Act-Waters of the United States rule. Agriculture exemptions have degraded Iowa’s rivers and lakes and should no longer be allowed. Iowans must engage in protecting water resources by demanding the support of Iowa’s congressional delegates and state legislators to expand regulations in the Clean Water Act to include sources of agricultural pollution.
The current EPA-Corp of Engineers proposed rule is open for public comment until October 20, 2014. Do your part to support the current proposal, but also ask for expansion of the Clean Water Act to include agricultural sources of pollution. Your drinking water, your health, the ability to fish and swim in Iowa rivers and lakes, and the economic viability of our communities is dependent on your actions today. Future generations are depending on you. Submit your comments at: www.epa.gov/uswaters.
For additional information:
- Watch a video on the importance of clean water
- Read EPA Administrator McCarthy’s op-ed in the Huffington Post on how clean water drives economic growth