Firefighters needed so much water that a Minnesota town's people were asked to go without

Firefighters needed so much water to battle a huge grain elevator blaze that they had to ask the whole town to go without — even canceling school to conserve the water supply, officials said.

The cause of the fire isn’t yet known; a fire marshal began an investigation. It took firefighters responding from 17 communities about eight hours to extinguish the blaze in the town of about 2,200 people, which was reported about 11 p.m. Sunday, said Hawley City Administrator Lonnie Neuner. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters even used water from the local golf course because the town’s water tower couldn’t keep up, Neuner said. Their ladder hoses each use about 600 gallons a minute, about as much as Hawley’s system can pump, Neuner said. He expected the city would allow water usage to resume “pretty soon.”

guyrocket,
guyrocket avatar

The question NONE of the school kids asked: How does cancelling school save water?

rifugee,

It’s a rural town, so maybe a lot of the kids live in the country and are on wells instead of the town’s water tower?

guyrocket,
guyrocket avatar

You're probably right.

Cenzorrll,

You don’t want a lot of people on a confined area with no water. I don’t think it’s about saving water as much as making sure there aren’t 100s of kids in a building with no water.

ptz,
@ptz@dubvee.org avatar

Firefighters even used water from the local golf course because the town’s water tower couldn’t keep up

Unless it’s just much harder to utilize, I feel like the golf course should have been tapped first. No one needs golf.

pearsaltchocolatebar,

I feel like a chopper with a bucket attachment would have been better than sending in trucks.

Szymon, (edited )

Letting it burn down would be best, it’s going to be torn down and destroyed anyway if it was that hard to put out.

Edit: not sure I empathize with those downvoting me, I dont see a world where a private business’s asset, which is covered by insurance, is worth the health and safety of an entire community for any length of time.

Sorry Helen, we can’t run your dialasys machine because it would inconvenience Mr. Landowner. Sorry Martha, I know you’ve just been in a lab accident and your skin is melting off, but we need the emergency shower water for Mr. Businessman so that he thinks we’re doing work instead of caring about our community.

pearsaltchocolatebar,

Agreed. Just dig a trench around it instead of making an entire town go without water.

Rivalarrival,

I’m betting that they used water from a pond on the local golf course, which requires trucks and pumps to draw from. Asking residents to stop using water keeps it available at the hydrants, which are considerably easier to access.

ArtieShaw,
ArtieShaw avatar

Good guess. The golf course isn't doing any irrigation in February.

Osa-Eris-Xero512,

That far out, the golf course was probably on an independent grey-water system and not the main grid. Probably had tankers pulling it straight from the wells and driving it to the site of the fire.

newthrowaway20,

Nah. Let the kids go without school first, then the people without showers. Then, if we have to, I guess we could give up golf.

/s if it wasn’t obvious.

HappycamperNZ,

If they were equal access absolutely.

Mains water, however, is accessible everywhere and ready to go while the golf course probably needed pumps placed to extract, or longer travel and downtime.

bluGill,
bluGill avatar

the town had an elevator which implies that they have the ability to go to farms without water (the well for drinking doesn't count for fires). I would expect this to include the ability to pump from the nearest lake to whatever farm they are called to (most of mn is not more than a long walk to a lake - but I don't know where this town is)

this_1_is_mine,

A grain elevator “elevates” grain to the top of the grain silo it has nothing to do with water.

bluGill,
bluGill avatar

The grain comes from farms.

theneverfox,
@theneverfox@pawb.social avatar

What does that mean??

bluGill,
bluGill avatar

Fire departments who serve farms can get water from a lake instead of having to go all the way back to town. If you are in the city they will use fire hydrants but if not they have water trucks that refill at the nearest pond.

the grain elevator implies there are farms around so they would have this equipment.

this_1_is_mine,

Normally farms don’t have large pools of water and may only have enough pumping ability to supply their meager farm needs. They would at that rate be better off putting pumpers near a stream or other natural water source. Farms are rarely capable of supplying the amount of water needed for only 1 truck.

bluGill,
bluGill avatar

This is minnesota where lakes and ponds are everywhere.

The farms get drinking water from a well thet could not supply a fire truck. The ponds are still there and so fire trucks use them.

ColeSloth,

I’m surprised this made some sort of news article about it. It isn’t too horribly uncommon. Had it happen here when a factory caught fire in a small town. We almost sucked two towns dry of water and were spread out to a third city. Took like 12 hours to get out. Just one ladder truck can flow over 1,000 gallons a minute from its ladder tip. Most fire apparatus are built with pumps capable of flowing 1,500 gallons a minute.

You get a town with a 500,000 gallon tower and you have a couple ladders flowing and a couple engines flowing, you can run it out in a couple hours, depending on how fast they can pump water back up into it.

Fondots,

I work in 911 dispatch, something like this hasn’t happened in my county while I’ve been working here, but we do have at least one interesting water situation that I’m aware of

We border a major city, but the far end of our county is fairly rural, I still consider it to be suburban but just barely, go much further and you start hearing banjo music.

The fire departments in the city are of course heavily focused on urban firefighting and rely on hydrants pretty heavily because they’re all over the place.

Once in a while though, they get a big fire in less built-up places where they don’t have adequate hydrants, the one that comes to mind was in a large rail yard towards the outskirts of the city.

So they end up needing to call in for mutual aid from us and other surrounding counties to send in pump trucks and such that can pull from a nearby river or what have you, and our more rural areas do that all the time because we have a ton of rivers and streams that run through our area and hydrants can get a little sparse in areas, so we sometimes end up sending them an hour or so down to the city to help with a fire.

They also have, what a lot of them call artificial ponds, though I suspect they have a more official technical term, which is sort of like a portable swimming pool they’ll sometimes set up at the fire when there’s no other convenient water source. They’ll dump a truck load of water into it then send the truck to go refill wherever they’re able to, often with a few trucks making rounds doing this.

Tangentially related, the town I grew up in once upon a time had a lot of factories and mills. One of the biggest factories had a house just a short ways up the hill from it that had a large swimming pool, I believe the house belonged to the owner’s son in law or something. Apparently that swimming pool was rigged up to work as a backup water supply for the factory’s sprinkle system.

That factory was long closed and converted into offices by the time I was born, and that swimming pool was no more. It’s one of those things that’s only been passed on by word of mouth by people who used to work in that factory like my dad, so it is possibly apocryphal.

ColeSloth,

Yep. City departments don’t know how to draft water. They just use hydrants. The portable ponds are called drop tanks. Typically, one will hold about 3,000 gallons of water.

Snapz,

Were there any golf courses, industrial factories, computer server farms, etc. that were using water at an alarming rate in this area solely to support a small number of people’s individual profit in this town?

robocall,

It would be cool if someone could invent a fire hose that spewed out sand instead of water.

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