Monday, August 24, 2015

Fire, Water, Earth: Coming full circle with water conservation in fire training

In experiencing some warmer temperatures of late, it serves as a good reminder of our access to fresh, clean water and the importance it plays in our everyday lives. In helping to preserve this precious resource, The City of Calgary looks for opportunities to implement water conservation practices throughout its operations and facilities. The Calgary Fire Department (CFD) is ensuring this, and other environmental considerations are at the forefront of its training efforts.

Recognizing an opportunity to reduce its environmental footprint and to participate in The City’s 30-in-30 Water Efficiency Plan (to reduce Calgary’s per capita water consumption by 30 per cent from 2003 volumes by the year 2033), the Calgary Fire Department developed a system to capture and reuse the 150 million litres of water used during every year in training.

In essence, the Training Academy has ceased consumption and waste of potable water for its training. This first-of-its-kind system utilizes water from a man-made wetland and pond filtration system. Instead of spraying potable water all over the

facility’s grounds and watching it ice up, run down drains, or evaporate, contaminated fire run-off is retreated and reused.

The innovative nature of this project has even won a national environmental award in 2010 and was nominated for several other awards, including the Globe Awards for Excellence in Urban Sustainability and the Emerald Awards. Other organizations, like the Edmonton Fire Department, have also requested information about this system to see if they may be able to do something similar.

Improving overall environmental performance is rewarding, but an added benefit is when services to the citizens of Calgary are improved as a result.

“In addition to the Training Facility, we expanded our pump training program for crews by allowing them to train in selected remote locations,” said Patrick Choukalos, Calgary Fire Department environmental consultant. Pump training ensures that firefighters to learn how to control the amount of water that enters the fire hose from the hydrant to enable the them to put the fire out in the most effective and efficient way.

Last year, the CFD and the City of Calgary Parks worked on a cooperative effort that now sees firefighters pump water onto certain areas within specific City parks – essentially watering the trees, plants and grass as a by product of hydrant testing and running response drills.

Battalion Chief John Cherweniuk - a 29 year member of the Calgary Fire Department, championed the idea. “I knew this type of partnership could benefit our crews by allowing them to conduct their pump training in a more realistic setting, and in areas conveniently located in their response district,” said Chief Cherweniuk.

During hot, dry summer weather, some of the training practices like the one mentioned, allows water on areas that doesn't usually receive it and helps to reduce the risk of grass or bush fire.

“This training is good for parks and saves time, gas and emissions by letting crews stay closer to their stations to train. It also lessens our environmental footprint," adds Choukalos.

“This training is good for parks, and lessens our environmental footprint while allowing us to contribute directly to the communities we serve,” said Choukalos.

Related Calgary City News Blog posts:
Fire Department's Water Re-use Project wins national environmental award
Calgary Fire Department boasts new training facility, water reclamation project

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