The Chetco Bar Fire has highlighted to Brookings officials equipment and infrastructure needs that should be addressed before another fire emergency strikes— and it won’t be cheap.
City Manager Gary Milliman outlined a $2.71 million list of fire, communications and water infrastructure the department and city needs to be better prepared for a large-scale fire.
“The Chetco Bar Fire demonstrated our need for additional apparatus,” he said during a council meeting Monday. “Many of these needs are related to the city being the primary agency providing service to adjacent fire districts and providing logistical support for a large-scale event.”
Unbeknownst to many citizens, Milliman said, the city isn’t responsible for just the 4 square miles of incorporated city, but 53 additional square miles in areas surrounding it.
The city has contracts with two local rural fire departments to provide protection outside town, and those areas often feature thick brush and timber, and long, narrow and steep roads that increase the danger of firefighting. The city’s volunteer department also provides mutual-aid assistance for three other fire agencies in the Harbor, Carpenterville and Cape Ferrelo areas.
Approximately 8,000 people live in the district.
While the Chetco Bar Fire didn’t directly threaten property in the city boundaries, firefighters knew they were going to have to protect structures in outlying areas — and learned it would be with equipment more suited for structural firefighting.
Structural firefighting uses equipment such as ladders and heavy hoses, but wildland firefighting requires smaller hand tools such as pulaskis, rakes, backpack water pumps and shovels. Firefighting apparel is completely different.
Brookings has two fire engines designed for structural protection, one 1984 engine that was retired from city service and is now at the Upper Chetco fire station, and one quick-response vehicle.
The wish list includes an engine with a 500-gallon tank, 1,000 gallons per minute (gpm) pump and a compressed air foam system. Often called a brush truck, each costs $350,000.
A quick-response vehicle, at $90,000, is also needed. It would possess a 290-gallon tank with a 350 gpm pump and a 10-gallon foam tank.
A towable pump to capable of drafting water from rivers and ponds is estimated to cost $35,000, and new-generation fire shelters, wildland jackets and respirator masks would cost $30,000.
Brookings had to convert city hall into a communications call center manned by city employees.
“Numerous fire, police and other support agencies arrived to assist with fire operations, logistical support and evacuations,” Milliman said. “Additional portable radios are needed with programming ability to allow local and visiting agencies to communicate more effectively.”
That is estimated to cost about $30,000.
The Emergency Operating Center (EOC) got its first test as a communications base, and could also use a few items, Milliman noted.
That $10,000 tab would include a higher-quality printer, better conference phones, an independent computer network and satellite phone and data capabilities.
The most expensive element listed is water storage and equipment to protect existing pump stations along the Chetco River.
“Fortunately, the fire didn’t encroach into the city limits or any areas served by the water system,” Milliman said. “But several city facilities were in evacuation areas and were threatened. They could also be impacted by an area-wide power outage.”
The Public Works Department listed seven items to improve the capacity of the system to meet large-scale emergency demand, including $1 million to connect the Airport and Tidewater reservoirs, replacing the 20,000-gallon Tidewater Reservoir with a 250,000-gallon steel reservoir, estimated to cost $500,000, and fire flow booster pumps at the water treatment plant, estimated to cost $300,000.
Other items included two portable specialized generators at $160,000; 10 generator ports at pump and lift stations, costing $260,000; installation of a bypass line at the water treatment plant and five smaller generators and trailers, each estimated to cost $50,000.
“A longer-term, area-wide improvement project would be the reactivation of the Tide Rock intake, replacing or expanding the Ferry Creek Reservoir and an intertie with the Harbor water system,” Milliman said.
The city estimated the cost of that at almost $10 million in 2015. Engineers are currently evaluating options the city might take regarding the reservoir and an updated cost is likely to be higher.
Milliman said federal and state grants, a property tax on city and fire district properties or foundation or individual charitable contributions could help pay for the improvements.