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  • Fire Departments & Rising Energy Costs

    The other night, a couple members of our department were kicking around the can, talking about the future of the fire service. One of the topics that came up was the direction that the fire service will need to take when “peak oil” hits.

    Ignoring the political debate of peak oil, the hype or underhype of the “end of oil” era, or the global warming debate, one has to admit that there is a finite about of oil on the plant. Be it enough to sustain the world for another one, ten, or one-hundred years, it will eventually run out. It is a finite resource. (Even solar is a finite resource, if you consider that one day the sun will burn out. )

    What changes do you see your fire service implementing in the future to meet the rising costs of energy? Are you aware of any manufacturers who are eyeing “green” firefighting?

    I personally believe this will be a challenge for the service someday in the future. When you consider the amount of energy it takes to run our apparatus, moving thousands of gallons of water during suppression efforts, it’s obvious that replacing our trucks with Honda Priuses isn’t going to work…

    Again, the purpose of this thread is not to debate peak oil or any of the other global warming trends, merely to discuss the fire service’s response to any kind of “energy crunch” in the future.

  • #2
    Solar/battery electric power will never be able to provide the power we need. There only reasonable alternative out there is hydrogen. It's clean and runs off water. I suppose we could go to small PWR's under the hood but imaging the having to deal with the NFPA and the NRC.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Here is a solution, battery powered trucks to drive to the scene, then electrical outlets at every hydrant to power the pumps on scene. You could even make the outlet proprietary, so the average citizen can't use them.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'll let my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren worry about that one.

        I imagine a Jetson world that runs on Cold Fusion or Cold Hydrogen or warm vegetable oil.
        Last edited by ChiefKN; 09-12-2010, 10:55 AM. Reason: Removed a few generations.. i'm a pessimist.
        I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

        "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

        "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by mcwops View Post
          Here is a solution, battery powered trucks to drive to the scene, then electrical outlets at every hydrant to power the pumps on scene. You could even make the outlet proprietary, so the average citizen can't use them.
          Have you ever even been to a fire? That won't work.
          Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by nmfire View Post
            There only reasonable alternative out there is hydrogen. It's clean and runs off water.
            Water and electricity. No matter how hard you try, you can't get something for nothing. Hydrogen is a great pure fuel but it takes a lot of energy to make and more still to make useful. If we're going to look at fuel cells for energy, fermentation gases are probably ultimately more energy efficient and they still lack the usable energy per mass of longer chain hydrocarbon fuels.

            Personally, I think green biodiesel has more of a future in high demand mobile applications such as ours.
            Last edited by DeputyMarshal; 09-12-2010, 01:15 PM. Reason: typo
            "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
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            The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mcwops View Post
              Here is a solution, battery powered trucks to drive to the scene, then electrical outlets at every hydrant to power the pumps on scene. You could even make the outlet proprietary, so the average citizen can't use them.
              An interesting solution, though for much of us who don't have those fancy things called hydrants in most of our districts, it might poise a problem.

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              • #8
                Fuel prices

                With the expense of fuel (and the declining revenue from property taxes), I foresee the use of user fees to provide fire protection services.

                Fuel is a large expense, since fire apparatus and/or EMS vehicles are used for emergency incidents for long periods of time. We need large and powerful motors to run large pumps, so I do not foresee smaller motors being installed in fire apparatus. When fire apparatus and EMS vehicles are on the scene of an emergency, they are not shut off, but idled.

                Other than cutting back on training (a no, no!) and keeping apapratus out of parades, the fuel expense is still going to be there for FD.

                I know in the mid-1970's, as a result of the OPEC oil crisis which resulted in higher fuel prices, there was a trend in the US to run mini-pumpers to calls, instead of the larger fire apparatus.

                While mini-pumpers have a place, I know they were disasterious as they resulted in responding to structure fires with inadequate fire equipment. Here are two examples:

                1. A car dealership had a fire. The (then) full-time assistant chief responded with a mini-
                pumper and when he got to the scene, he realized he needed a larger pumper and
                attempted to to go back to the fire station to get a larger pumper.

                2. A hardware store had a fire. The (then) full-time fire chief responded with that mini-
                pumper and when he got to the scene, tried to extinguish that fire with a 250 gallon
                water tank. The hardware store burned. If he had responded with one of the larger 1250
                GPM pumpers with a 750 gallon water tank and the adequate hose to connect to a
                hydrant, the results could have been different?

                While mini-pumpers have a place (grass fires, etc.), I hope they are not used to save on fuel. If there is a structure fire, a REAL pumper is needed to respond.

                As far as user fees to help pay for fuel costs, responses to frequent automatic alarms should be looked at, especially if the building owner will not correct the causes of the malfunctioning (dirty detectors, etc.) alarm system. If a FD has to respond over three times in a month, then the building owner should pay a user fee. This will entice the building owner to fix the problem.

                We are going to have the fuel expense to provide our services, so we need to manage how our apapratus and vehicles are used.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by nmfire View Post
                  Have you ever even been to a fire? That won't work.
                  and your reasons would be...

                  obviously the major problem is just the fact that any disruption to the power supply would put a stop to the firefighting effort. But the power distribution system is already there, we would just need a way for the fire service to tap into it.

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                  • #10
                    And..........

                    I'm with Ken....... My (and His) Great-Great-Great-Grandchildren can work on that....... My Concern in 2010 and the next few Years ahead is what Energy Prices are doing to poor people, and what, in turn, the effect of these folks trying to survive will have on us. I'm seeing Fires Caused by improper use of Improvised Heating and Lighting Equipment NOW. The number of Fires involving Candles is up, and some of the experiences we've had with "Stoves" is unreal.......... Case in Point: A few years ago, a VFD near me had a call for an Apartment Bldg. on Fire. First in unit advises "Light Smoke from the Kitchen Window". They find that the Smoke is from the Kitchen Stove. They manage to dig up a few facts about how the stiuation happened....... A group of people from another Country arrived in the U.S. and Family and Friends were able to arrange the Apartment for them. They knew nothing of American utility Companies or how they operated, so instead of calling the Gas Company and getting the Gas turned On, They gutted the Kitchen Stove and Built a Fire in it using broken Pallets and Scrap Lumber from the Neighborhood........... We have Job Security and plenty of Problems to solve without getting involved with the "Greenies"...... I am not an Environut and have no interest in the Green Movement...... Color me Brown, I guess.....
                    Last edited by hwoods; 09-13-2010, 09:29 AM.
                    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
                    In memory of
                    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
                    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

                    IACOJ Budget Analyst

                    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

                    www.gdvfd18.com

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                    • #11
                      Right now most of the waste management firms are converting their trash trucks to natural gas. I see that as a possibility down the immediate road.

                      The long haul is different. I don't believe the world will ever be free from fossil fuels. That doesn't mean other energy sources will be available to power non-mechanical items. Allowing fossil fuels to be used for a specific purposes.
                      They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

                      I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by nmfire View Post
                        Have you ever even been to a fire? That won't work.
                        Originally posted by nameless View Post
                        and your reasons would be...

                        obviously the major problem is just the fact that any disruption to the power supply would put a stop to the firefighting effort. But the power distribution system is already there, we would just need a way for the fire service to tap into it.
                        Where to start. Forget power failures. We'd never even get that far. The entire concept will not work from the getgo.

                        1) What happens to the other 90% of America with no hydrants and city water?

                        2) When was the last time you saw all the fire trucks at a scene huddled around a hydrant?

                        3) One hydrant. 10 apparatus. Math fail.

                        4) You can't just run this stuff off of a 240v outlet. You're talking about hundreds of amps and maybe even three phase service to power all that.

                        5) How much do you think a 480 volt GFCI rated for a few hundred amps costs, after all we're working in puddles of water spraying all over the place.

                        6) Who pays to install the transformers and circuits to all the fire hydrants? Who pays the usage bill?

                        7) I suppose brush fires and areas without electrical service are SOL?

                        I could go on with plenty more reasons why it won't work but I think I've made my point. In short, it is totally impractical.
                        Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by nmfire View Post
                          Where to start. Forget power failures. We'd never even get that far. The entire concept will not work from the getgo.
                          Actually, I think it was done in the early, experimental days of motorized fire apparatus. IIRC, power came from the trolley lines overhead, a common enough facility in many places at the time.

                          That said, we have three dry hydrants in our district - no pressurized hydrants at all. We only use them occasionally, and generally to fill tankers. Going with an electric pump would not be out of the question there, but the ROI is going to be pretty low.
                          Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                          Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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                          • #14
                            I'm going to have to echo tree68, that in the past and in the present electric utilities in urban areas have supported trolleys. So I think in 2010 and beyond we can figure it out and get power distribution to the suburbs and maybe even rural areas.


                            as for your 3rd point that was just idiotic, many pieces especially in the low staffed paid and volunteer departments serve as taxis. How many are actually pumping or using their aerial? It doesn't necessarily have to be the hydrant, but there could be some sort of "power hydrant" spaced along the streets and just like we magically do with the water system you hit multiple hydrants for multiple apparatus.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by hwoods View Post
                              I'm with Ken....... My (and His) Great-Great-Great-Grandchildren can work on that....... My Concern in 2010 and the next few Years ahead is what Energy Prices are doing to poor people, and what, in turn, the effect of these folks trying to survive will have on us. I'm seeing Fires Caused by improper use of Improvised Heating and Lighting Equipment NOW. The number of Fires involving Candles is up, and some of the experiences we've had with "Stoves" is unreal.......... Case in Point: A few years ago, a VFD near me had a call for an Apartment Bldg. on Fire. First in unit advises "Light Smoke from the Kitchen Window". They find that the Smoke is from the Kitchen Stove. They manage to dig up a few facts about how the stiuation happened....... A group of people from another Country arrived in the U.S. and Family and Friends were able to arrange the Apartment for them. They knew nothing of American utility Companies or how they operated, so instead of calling the Gas Company and getting the Gas turned On, They gutted the Kitchen Stove and Built a Fire in it using broken Pallets and Scrap Lumber from the Neighborhood........... We have Job Security and plenty of Problems to solve without getting involved with the "Greenies"...... I am not an Environut and have no interest in the Green Movement...... Color me Brown, I guess.....
                              I agree with Ken and Harve here.

                              We are seeing an increase in calls from "creative" ways of saving energy. People are so worried about spending money to fill their fuel oil tanks in the winter that running the electric oven with the door open to heat the house is cheaper. However the oven was meant to bake things, not heat a room, therefore it starts the kitchen on fire.

                              I think bio diesel has a future if they can perfect it. The real focus should be hydrogen. This will be "limitless" and there is no harmful effects or waste. If big oil companies really gave a crap, they would perfect this technology and would do it in short order. They are just milking the system to get every dollar they can and their campaign of chicken little running around saying the oil is drying up is complete BS!!!
                              Jason Knecht
                              Firefighter/EMT
                              Township Fire Dept., Inc.
                              Eau Claire, WI

                              IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
                              http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
                              EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

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