Firefighters Demonstrate High-Volume Pump System

Photo: The Hytrans Fire System was demonstrated at the Berkeley Marina on Thursday. The system can deliver 6,000 gallons of water per minute over a hose six miles in length.
Summer Dunsmore/Photo
The Hytrans Fire System was demonstrated at the Berkeley Marina on Thursday. The system can deliver 6,000 gallons of water per minute over a hose six miles in length.

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The Berkeley Fire Department unveiled its new above-ground water supply system at the Berkeley Marina Oct. 21 and gave a live demonstration of the pump, which can deliver up to 6,000 gallons of water per minute from the San Francisco Bay to the Berkeley Hills.

The Hytrans Fire System will make it easier for firefighters to transport water across great distances to remote locations in the event that a disaster - such as an earthquake - compromises the city's primary water source, its fire hydrant system, department and city officials said at the demonstration.

"It's an ideal technology for the topography of Berkeley," Fire Chief Debra Pryor said. "If catastrophic damage occurs, we have a backup water supply, an alternative means of suppressing fires."

According to Johan Kramer, sales manager for Hytrans Systems, the system is more efficient than conventional methods of pumping water because it does not rely on "drafting," a process of sucking water out of a source that wastes up to 70 percent of a pump's capacity. The Hytrans system - which can be used to remove water during flood emergencies as well as pump water to extinguish fires - is capable of pushing out 200 pounds of water per square inch.

Because the system is mobile and can deploy six miles of hose, firefighters can protect residences as far away from the San Francisco Bay as the Berkeley Hills. If an emergency occurs, the system can be operational in approximately 30 minutes, Kramer said.

Deputy Fire Chief Gilbert Dong said that past Bay Area earthquakes, such as the one in San Francisco in 1989, have demonstrated that water supply losses - which the new technology guards against - can be very destructive.

"This is what we need to ensure our safety," he said.

The Hytrans system was paid for by bond money from Measure Q, which Berkeley voters approved in 2000, allotting $9.6 million toward increasing the city's disaster-preparedness.

According to David Orth, former deputy fire chief and the department's current special projects manager, the motivation to improve the city's water supply system arose in the early 1990s, but current technologies at the time were too expensive to pursue within the city's budget.

"At the time we started, this technology didn't exist," he said. "There are a lot of different ways to improve water supply systems, but this system was the most economical and met all of our needs."

Although New York City uses several Hytrans pumps, Berkeley is the first city in the United States to purchase a Hytrans system that is capable of protecting all of its occupants. The Dutch technology is also used throughout the Netherlands.

At this time, it is unclear if and how the Hytrans system will be deployed to assist other cities and counties in emergency situations.


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