Chena-Goldstream Fire & Rescue: Fighting fires when water is scarce

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Water is integral in fighting fires. Unfortunately, for many stations around Fairbanks, there isn’t water readily available when they take on a blaze away from the core Fairbanks area.

Pump houses, like this one, provide water for firefighters from old railroad tankers buried underground and filled with water. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

While much of the city of Fairbanks and surrounding area has water and fire hydrants, departments like Chena-Goldstream Fire and Rescue have a system in place to help ensure they have water to fight fires.

“When we are fighting fire, we have to bring all our water with us to the fire, and when we use the water that’s up in a truck… we can empty our trucks relatively quick. So we have to send those trucks someplace to fill,” said Chena-Goldstream Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief, Keith Berrian.

Berrian said they used to send the trucks all the way back to town to fill up, which tied up resources and made it harder to actually put out fires.

To combat this, fire departments around the borough have come up with new ways of delivering water to a fire. Chena-Goldstream has four stations in their large service area. Only their main station on Chena Ridge is staffed full time, but they have water and fire trucks at a station near Rosie creek, off of Murphy Dome and on Goldstream Road.

Besides the extra stations, the fire department has also built pump stations throughout their service area. While some of the pump houses have wells, others are just old train cars that have been buried in the ground and hold between 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of water.

Berrian said often times they will have one engine fighting the fire and between three and five fire tenders shuttling water to the site. After a fire, they have to refill all of the tanks.

Berrian also said that having a large group of volunteer firefighters helps ensure they are able to provide service to their fire areas.

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