At the Millburn Fire Dept. open house, a five-foot-wide map of Millburn attracted some attention.
(As ever, conversations are paraphrased from memory as faithfully as possible, but they are not actual quotes.)
“Oh that’s interesting,” said one mom. “What do all the colored dots mean?”
“Well,” answered one of the captains, “each dot represents a fire hydrant; they’re mostly on street intersections. The different colors tell us how many GPM, or Gallons Per Minute, the hydrant can produce.”
“So what if one hydrant runs out of water?” asked the woman, skillfully corralling her rowdy son while maintaining eye contact with the fire captain. “Could you tap into another hydrant?”
“That… yes, we could,” said the captain, “but the problem is more about running out of water pressure, not running out of water. And because of these things up here,” he gestured to two large reservoirs just north of Millburn on the map, “we don’t have to worry about running out of pressure here!”
“But what if you’re in an area with crummy hydrants?” I piped in, and waved my hand over a group of streets dotted with orange. “Do you need to tap into other hydrants when there’s a fire over there?”
“Well. Even the weak ones— 500 gallons per minute isn’t bad,” the captain corrected me. “but yes, if there was a really big fire, we’d probably need to connect to a stronger hydrant.”
“How do you do that?”
The captain guided me to a nearby firetruck. “See this hose? It’s 1000 meters long.”
“A full kilometer!” I marveled.
“And when it’s full of water, it gets to about 5 inches in diameter.” He indicated a softball-sized circle with his hands. “That’s practically another water main for us to use. And if it’s a really big fire, we’d be calling in trucks from other towns anyway. They call us, we call them.”
I nodded knowledgeably. I’d seen that happen with the big Westfield fire back in January.
“Thank you. This has been informative,” I said.
“Yeah, sure, that’s why we do this open house thing,” he smiled.