Saturday, June 22, 2024

Congresswoman Schrier secures $900,000 for mobile water tanks to bolster wildfire fighting capabilities in Chelan County

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LEAVENWORTH – Congresswoman Kim Schrier secured nearly $900,000 in federal funding to place 12 mobile water tanks across Chelan County in order to bolster firefighting capabilities in rural areas.

The project will install 21,000 gallon water tanks in wildfire-prone locations that are far from existing hydrants, in order to fight fires more efficiently and aggressively. The project has the potential to better protect rural neighborhoods, and may even help secure or even lower home insurance rates.

“It has a really big impact not only on people's physical safety and security, but also on their nest egg, and whether they will be able to fund the rest of their lives,” said Congresswoman Schrier.

Currently, departments use a water tender, or a vehicle designed to carry water, to transport approximately 2,000 gallons of water to a scene. With one tank, a water tender could save nearly ten critical refill trips. When it runs out, a fire along Chumstick Highway could take upwards of 45 minutes for a water tender to drive to the nearest hydrant, refill, and return to the fire. 

“That time is when firefighters can lose fires,” said FD #3 Chief Kelly O’Brien.

At least half of the water tanks will be placed in the Upper Valley, primarily along the Chumstick Corridor. Others will be placed in Manson, Chelan, Entiat, and Malaga.

“I'm really excited because what we’re doing here is going to be able to be replicated, and not just in other places in Washington State. This can be replicated in rural communities across the country,” said Ron Cridlebaugh, Chelan County Economic Services Director.

According to Cridlebaugh, the next steps will be to identify the exact location for the tanks, and undergo environmental and regulatory compliance. The county expects to install its first tank before the 2025 wildfire season, likely along Chumstick Highway.

“As soon as one is done, we'll be working on the next,” said Cridlebaugh.

The water tanks, which look like shipping containers, will have the ability to be installed either above or below ground, and will be insulated on the exterior for a rating to -10 degrees.

Chelan County estimates the cost of the project will be $1.2 million for the initial 12 water tanks, and will add more as additional funding is secured. The project will utilize the $893,250 secured by Congresswoman Schrier, as well as $50,000 Chelan County PUD committed to the project.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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