I am lucky/unlucky to live on the the shore of Lake Michigan, where we have nearly unlimited water. But it might as well be the Sahara. None of it can be used to fight fires.
We are surrounded by thick pine forests. Pine, spruce and cedar forests, even when drenched with rain, are tinderboxes. Trees catch fire and burn in seconds. Not minutes, seconds. Even sparse, wet beach grass spreads fire like it was gasoline; I kid you not.
Recently, we have had some idiots who, armed with a spritzer of a garden hose or less, decide to burn some excess scrap wood on the beach. The beach, a few feet from their house. Poof! Everything within 3 feet, then 6 feet, then 90 feet, catches on fire. The volunteer fire department is called. They get here as fast as they can, which is 15 minutes, dump their load of water in 90 seconds, then run back to town to get more. That’s 30 minutes roundtrip. When they return, they find their hoses are 100 feet long and the fire is 200 feet away. So they load a few gallons of water in a backpack and trudge thru the woods to squirt a few drops on whatever they can. Plus some rakes and brooms. You can imagine how effective this is.
So far, of the fire calls of the last 20 years, about 80% have resulted in total losses of at least one house. Each time, the firemen shake their heads and say “You were lucky that’s all that burned.”
But Lake Michigan is staring us in the face. Googols of gallons of water. Enough to fight any number of fires simultaneously. But the fire trucks cannot pump more than 8 feet vertically and 200 feet horizontally, as they were designed for city hydrants. Hydrants we ain’t got, just gobs of water. Oodles and oodles of the wet stuff. Enough to drown in. But the trucks can’t get close enough to it; houses are in the way.
My fear is not groundless. In 1871, not far from here, a “tornado of fire” swept thru a nearby community on a freakish and windy night, and killed everything in its path – 800 people and many farm animals. The only people that survived were ones that jumped down a well. Since 1871, the only thing that has changed is there are now more people, more houses and not much less forest. It could happen again. If the power goes off, even garden hoses (connected to household wells & pumps) will be useless.
Yet there’s the lake. Fresh, clean, 100 feet away at best, 800 feet at most. Lots of H, lots of O. In just the right proportions of 2:1. Ideal.
So what can we do? Are there any devices the fire dept can get that can help us out? We found a $2700 booster pump that can be dropped in the water and boosts the pressure, but this requires 400’ of hose minimum (200’ X 2 directions) and doesn’t work well in sandy bottoms. Fire trucks can’t carry 400’ of hose, and we have a LOT of sandy bottoms. And the fire dept hasn’t deployed this device once in the 3 years since they bought it (dunno why).
Meanwhile, my fire insurance is paid up and my backpack is full of water. But I am open to ideas. Got any?