Dry hydrants considered

Series could provide roadside connections with water sources

If a house catches fire in the city, Altoona firefighters locate the nearest hydrant, hook up their hoses and tap into what is essentially an unlimited supply of pressurized water provided by the Altoona Water Authority.

If a house catches fire in the country, it’s a different story: Volunteer firefighters must identify a usable source like a river, stream, pond or pool, find a spot nearby for an engine to extend a hose or pipe into the water at a spot deep enough and free of clogging material, then pump the water into a tanker — which takes it to the fire scene and discharges it into a portable tank for the pumpers there to fight the blaze.

The Blair County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee is hoping to alleviate the most problematic portion of that protocol — finding a spot to draw the water — with a proposal for a series of dry hydrants.

A dry hydrant provides a roadside pumper connection with a permanent water source.

The target areas would be along rivers in places not served by community water systems — and thus without pressurized hydrants, said Dave McFarland, county planning director and chairman of the committee, which hopes to have a five-year update of the county hazard mitigation plan ready to submit in April.

Such places include Reese, Ganister and Thomastown, according to McFarland.

Others include Puzzletown, Jugtown, Sproul, Arch Spring and Henrietta, others said.

The committee should reach out to township governments and local fire companies, which will know the likeliest places, McFarland said.

Those would need to have room enough for fire vehicles to park — presumably for a pumper to draw the water and a succession of tankers to carry the water to the fire scene.

They would also need to be where the drop to the water source is not excessive — preferably no more than 15 feet, as a greater vertical distance compromises pumping ability, according to the fire engineering website.

And they would need to be where the inlet of the pipe that connects to the hydrant is in water that is present and clear of clogging materials for 2 feet in all directions year-round — including in dry weather, according to the website.

There would be easement issues to deal with, McFarland said.

Many of those issues might be with PennDOT, said a committee member.

The committee would try to get a grant to fund the project, McFarland said.

Dry hydrants can be exceedingly helpful, said Blair County Emergency Management Director Mark Taylor.

If they happen to be close to a fire scene, firefighters can run hoses from them directly to the fire scene, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.