By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Imagine what it would mean to have the capability of putting out, say, a car fire in 15 seconds using eight gallons of water.
The technology is called “ultra high pressure,” and Colfax Fire Chief Don Logslett aims to get a Hydrus Droplet system for the Colfax Community Fire Department.
“It’s a new and upcoming tool,” Logslett told the Colfax fire board at the April 12 meeting.
Describing it as a “glorified pressure washer,” Logslett explained the ultra high pressure system condenses a stream of water to the size of a BB that works to cool a fire fast using very little water.
The Hydrus Droplet system is available through HMA Fire LLC out of Fall River.
The Colfax fire department, along with fire departments from surrounding communities, gathered at Tom Prince Memorial Park in Colfax the evening of March 21 for a demonstration of the Hydrus Droplet system.
Three cars were set on fire at the ball park, and the ultra high pressure system put out the fires in about 15 seconds using only eight gallons of water, Logslett said.
The ultra high pressure stream has a reach of about 35 feet, he said.
The implications for a rural fire department are huge, Logslett said.
The ultra high pressure system easily fits in the back of a pickup truck, and because of the capability to knock down a fire fast, firefighters could use the Hydrus Droplet as a “first responder” defense to fight fires.
Firefighters could head to the fire with the ultra high pressure system while other firefighters bring the fire engine and additional apparatus, Logslett said.
If the ultra high pressure system could get a 10-minute jump on the fire engine at fighting a fire, that could mean the difference between saving the structure — and potentially saving lives — and arriving with the fire engine to a fully-engulfed structure fire, Logslett said.
“The main goal is to get someone to a fire quick and knock it down before the big engine gets there,” he said.
Studies have shown, because of the increased use of petroleum products in furniture and building materials, a fire can double in size every minute, Logslett said.
If firefighters arrive with the ultra high pressure system and there is fire showing in one window of a house, the firefighters can start fighting the fire immediately. If the only firefighting capability is the fire engine that takes eight to 10 minutes longer to get there, what potentially had been fire showing in one window could, 10 minutes later, involve the total loss of the whole structure, he said.
Even though the Hydrus Droplet is a high pressure system, “you can hang onto the hose with one hand” … and “you can put your hand in front of it, and it doesn’t hurt your hand,” Logslett said.
In addition to the demonstration at Tom Prince Memorial Park, Logslett noted he also had an opportunity to see the system at work in Middleton.
Middleton firefighters had told about an incident with a tractor fire in a farm field. When firefighters arrived with a pickup truck and the ultra high pressure system, the farmer was upset and angry because the firefighters appeared ill-prepared to save his piece of equipment, Logslett said.
After the tractor fire was put out in a matter of seconds, then the farmer wondered, “What have you got in that water?” he said.
Turtle Lake and Cumberland both have ultra high pressure systems, Logslett said.
Since the ultra high pressure systems can fight a fire fast using very little water, they also are particularly useful for rural fire departments where it could be miles to a water source to fill the tenders (tanker trucks), he said.
The cost of an ultra high pressure Hydrus Droplet unit is $20,000, Logslett said.
“I am writing a grant (application) for a unit and a truck … I really feel strongly about this,” he said.
The grant application is to the Otto Bremer Foundation, and Logslett said he is asking for $45,000.
Gary Bjork, the Colfax Town Board’s representative on the fire board, said he supposed if the Colfax fire department were turned down for the grant, Logslett would be coming back to the fire board.
“I’m totally impressed. I’m totally sold — 90 percent of fighting a fire is getting there faster,” Logslett replied.
The ultra high pressure system also would work “excellent” for fighting brush fires, he said.
If the Colfax fire department is not awarded a grant, the department could always convert one of the existing brush trucks to carry the ultra high pressure system, Logslett said.
The brush truck would need a topper, however, to protect the system. The unit cannot freeze in the winter, and fire departments that have them often put a small heater in the back of the truck to keep the system from freezing, he said.
The Bremer grant application is due at the end of May, and Logslett said he would hope to hear sometime during the summer whether Colfax had received the grant.
“Bremer’s been awfully good to us in the past,” he said.
The Colfax Community Fire Department received a $40,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for purchasing turnout gear and an airbag rescue system in 2016.
The Colfax fire department also received a $49,400 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation in 2012 for the new fire station for furnishings and new turn-out gear for the firefighters.
Although the Colfax fire board authorized Logslett to begin searching for another tender for the fire department to replace Tender 9 last August, “we can’t find much,” Logslett said.
Fire department members have been searching for a rebuilt truck with a new tank, but so far, “by the time we find it, it’s already been sold,” said Gary Hill, a member of the truck committee.
Hill said it has happened to him a number of times that he finds a listing for a tender, but when he calls about it, the tender was sold yesterday, or the day before, or last week.
Tender 9 is the second tender up for replacement.
The fire board approved at a June of 2015 meeting the purchase of a 2005 International truck chassis and also approved moving the tank from the 1978 tanker truck to the International chassis at a total cost not to exceed $75,000.
The existing tender has a fiberglass tank, and Logslett said because of the age of the tank, he is hesitant to transfer it to a different truck.
When fiberglass reaches a certain age, it can crack, Logslett said.
What is most readily available is a brand new tender, at a cost of about $240,000, or an old tender like the one currently in service for about $30,000, Hill said.
Logslett and Hill said they would hope to sell the existing tender for $8,000 to $10,000.
Hill said he had found a company in Canada specializing in refurbishing chassis and outfitting them with tanks.
Since the company in Canada is a 13-hour drive away, Logslett said several members of the fire department would plan to fly there if it were determined a suitable truck was available.
The Colfax fire department’s equipment fund has $208,000, and if $90,000 were spent on replacing Tender 9, the equipment fund would have $118,000 remaining, Logslett said.
The budget for the Colfax fire department allocates $20,000 every year for the equipment fund.
In 2017, the fire department had a $14,000 budget surplus, so the additional $14,000 was added to the equipment fund, Logslett said.
Within the next several years, the Colfax fire department will need to replace the fire engine, too, he noted.
A new fire engine will cost between $300,000 and $500,000, Logslett said.
The fire department purchased the existing fire engine in January of 1993 at a cost of $140,000.
The engine was, for all intents and purposes, a new truck in 1993 but it was a demonstration model, Logslett noted.
Hill estimated the existing fire engine could be sold for perhaps $50,000.
Mark Warner, chair of the Town of Otter Creek and the township’s representative on the fire board, wondered what other equipment the fire department would need to replace in the next few years.
The pickup trucks are in good shape. When Tender 9 is replaced, the tenders will be in good shape. The department may have to replace the river pump truck, Logslett said, noting after the fire engine has been replaced, he is not anticipating a need to replace any other equipment for at least a few years.
Logslett estimated replacing Tender 9 would cost between $65,000 and $90,000.
The Colfax Community Fire Department Board unanimously approved a motion to authorize spending up to $90,000 for the Tender 9 replacement.
The Colfax fire department tax levy has remained the same — $94,700 per year — during all of the years Logslett has served as fire chief.
Members of the Colfax Community Fire Department include the Village of Colfax and the Towns of Colfax, Grant and Otter Creek.