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Source: Kokomo Tribune

June 1, 2011

Firefighters train to use ‘drafting’ to draw water

By SCOTT SMITH 
Tribune staff writer

Kokomo — In January, the city of Kokomo will annex around half of the fire territory currently served by the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department, a territory that stretches out to 600 West and south to the Tipton County line.

Most of that territory doesn’t have fire hydrants.

So Wednesday, Kokomo firefighters were working on their drafting skills.

In firefighter terms, drafting means drawing water from a source other than a hydrant. It could be a river, a pond or an expandable drafting brought to a fire scene.

Kokomo Fire Chief Pat O’Neill said firefighters frequently train on drafting — including setting up and priming the main line between the water source and the fire engine.

“We’ve been drafting out of tanks since I’ve been on the fire department,” O’Neill said. “If there’s a fire right now in Orleans Southwest, we’re drafting.”

While the Kokomo firefighters train for drafting, that doesn’t mean they have reason to use drafting in Kokomo and the unincorporated parts of Center Township, where nearly everything (apart from the Orleans Southwest subdivision) is close to a hydrant.

District Chief Kevin Shaffer said he’s never had to use drafting in 22 years on the department.

“There are a couple places up on the north side where it’s too far [from a hydrant] to lay hose, but we just shuttle water rather than draft,” he said.

Also unlike the township volunteer departments, Kokomo doesn’t currently have its own tanker trucks and drafting pools.

For Wednesday’s training, the Howard County Emergency Management Agency brought out a 4,000-gallon tanker truck and a portable drafting pool. The agency has three tankers, each equipped with at least one drafting pool, and agency volunteers routinely run the tankers out to fire scenes in the county.

Now, Kokomo is poised to become one of the departments utilizing the EMA’s tanker services at fire scenes.

Kokomo Fire Inspector Nick Glover said the department will likely purchase some of the equipment the EMA provides, but said plans haven’t been finalized.

“As the deadline comes closer to annexation, we’ll have all of our ducks in a row then,” Glover said.

Kokomo officials are also considering paying for an expansion of fire hydrants in the newly annexed territory.

“Our first goal is to install them where there is water service,” city engineer Carey Stranahan said Wednesday. “We’re working on putting together a request for Indiana-American Water Co. to install hydrants wherever the fire department thinks they’re appropriate.”

City residents living within a certain distance from a fire hydrant pay a surcharge on their water bills to pay for hydrant maintenance. Stranahan said he thinks something similar will be arranged for the annexed areas.

Stranahan said he anticipates having new hydrants installed in portions of the annexed area by next year.

In all, the city will be increasing its territory by almost 40 percent when the annexation takes place. Wednesday, Kokomo firefighters said they want to be prepared, if and when they have to draft water at a fire scene.

“This is something you don’t do a lot of; in 20 years, there’s only been once I’ve drafted on a fire, but that’s why we train,” firefighter Ken Wilson said. “You want to be prepared to protect these people as much as you can.”

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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