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Tue, March 19

Tanks for the memories (of last summer's fire)
Project brings peace of mind to Pinion Pine

Firefighter Mike Schmidt attaches the hose to water tank #3 Friday in the community of Pinion Pine.

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<BR> Firefighter Mike Schmidt attaches the hose to water tank #3 Friday in the community of Pinion Pine.

KINGMAN - Fighting fire with fire might be a popular cliché, but fighting fire with water is almost always a better plan.

For residents of Pinion Pine, nothing motivates one to increase their odds in a wildfire quite like a raging inferno.

Nearly a year after the Dean Peak Fire came dangerously close to homes in the Hualapai Mountain community, prompting wholesale evacuations and ultimately burning more than 5,400 acres, the Pinion Pine Fire Department has placed 27 2,825-gallon water tanks around the community of about 60 homes.

For longtime Pinion Pine Fire Chief Joe Jackson, the tanks are part of a protection plan five years in the making.

Twenty-five of the forest green tanks have been set up since April. The first two were installed during the Dean Peak Fire that lightning started June 29 last year and burned for more than a week.

Tilting the odds

The tanks have been strategically placed around the community, creating a network that gives firefighters a much better chance to save lives and property.

The tanks are plumbed for fire apparatus and there are portable pumps that can be used for fire hoses if a brush engine isn't available.

The costs of the tanks and their installation has been shared by Mohave County, the Pinion Pine Fire Department and homeowners, many of whom have paid directly to have a tank placed on their property or have donated money or have split the cost with one or more neighbors.

At least one more tank will be installed before the fiscal year ends June 30, said Jackson, and he'd be tickled if more residents joined in.

"I wouldn't mind seeing one on every parcel with a home," he said. "These are designed to support each other."

In other words, the tanks might sit on private property, but the fire department maintains and inspects the tanks and will use them for training.

"For this year, we've hit a wall with funding," said Jackson.

Why it matters

Last year, the Pinion Pine Fire Department had two 5,000-gallon water tenders to cover a huge district that stretches nearly all the way to the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park.

With the tanks they have, those 10,000 gallons grew to 75,000 gallons of water.

The benefit is not only in water storage either. Normally, a brush engine holds 300 to 500 gallons of water, hardly enough to beat back an intense conflagration.

In order to have more water, engines must hook into tenders, which have to stay in place until they need to refill.

Now firefighters can hook into a tank and free up tenders, which can be used to keep the tanks full.

Put another way, the 27 tanks now in operation are the equivalent of 13-and-a-half 5,000-gallon water tenders.

Jackson said A-1 Wells deserves credit for selling the tanks at its cost and donating three of the 27.

Mohave County provided $5,000 toward the project after pledging to beef up fire protection on the mountain following the Dean Peak Fire. The department and residents contributed the remainder.

On average, the tanks cost about $1,000 and the cost to install them sets back the fire department an additional $1,400 to $1,500, said Jackson.

Proactive approach

"After the Dean Peak Fire, the question we heard from homeowners was, 'How can we get water closer to our property sooner,'" said Jackson. "This has been a very popular program because most of them saw the Dean Peak Fire and for a firefighter, there's no such thing as too much water."

Jackson said residents have also taken steps to reduce fuels on their properties. They can bring their brush to the department's Station 52 near Interstate 40, where firefighters will help unload and dispose of the debris.

"We've had that program for years," said Jackson. "That actually picked up quite a bit after the Dean Peak Fire. Not a day goes by that I don't see a trailer dumping brush."

A local perspective

Steve Bauman and his wife Miles Bauman evacuated their home off of DW Ranch Road at midnight on July 3. They were uncertain if they would have a home to come back to, given the proximity of the fire about a half-mile from their residence at the time, with winds pushing it closer by the minute and nothing but thick, dry vegetation in between.

"We were very worried," said Steve Bauman. With a tank strategically placed between the Bauman's home and his neighbor and a second tank not far away, the Bauman's say they now have something they wasn't there during previous fire seasons - peace of mind.

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