Water tank placement project in Chumstick drainage will aid remote firefighting

A water holding tank is delivered up the Chumstick Drainage as part of a water resource placement project used for firefighting and other resources.

LEAVENWORTH — Remote firefighting up the Chumstick is getting a shot in the arm by the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition. The coalition is working with Chelan County Fire District 3 on several water tank placements on private property in areas of the Chumstick where water is inaccessible, saving precious resources for fire engine turnaround time.

With tanks in place, fire trucks can refill their tanks quickly and closely to the fire, rather than making the trip to Lake Wenatchee or a local river. Remote locations such as Eagle Creek, Merry Canyon and the Little Chumstick are locations currently being reviewed for water tank placement on private property to further this effort.

The coalition and its partners — Chelan County Fire District 3, the state Department of Natural Resources, Cascadia Conservation District and the U.S. Forest Service — have been working consistently for many years to educate homeowners and conduct fuel reduction projects throughout the Chumstick drainage. However, one major problem has stayed at the forefront — water supply for fire-protection purposes.

The Chumstick drainage has more than 600 homes and is considered one of the most fire-threatened wildland valleys in the state. It has not seen significant fire activity for more than 100 years and fuel loads are considered heavy and contiguous the entire length of the drainage.

“Water for firefighting purposes is of the utmost importance in the Chumstick drainage” says Kelly O’Brien, chief for fire district 3. “This is the largest area of the fire district that doesn’t have a water source for fire protection. A water source can mean the difference between saving homes or not and it could mean the difference in how aggressive firefighters will be while fighting the fire. Water for firefighting purposes shortens turnaround times for the fire district water tenders, allowing firefighters to be more aggressive, and potentially lowering insurance rates for many in the community.”

John Callahan, chairman of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, says getting water available to CCFD 3 in the remote locations is critical to saving homes and assisting the fire district in its firefighting efforts.

“We need to act now to plan and implement placement of these containers in strategic locations,” he said.

With the placement of tanks, fires will be put out and managed quicker with larger quantities of water available closer to the fire with less smoke, creating quicker fire suppression, decreasing fire-loss potential during wildland and structure fire operations, and providing increased community safety and protection. Each tank can cost up to $35,000 so the coalition is looking for ways to offset those costs.

This project will benefit the community with increased firefighting efforts in the Chumstick. No matter where we live in the Upper Valley or in Chelan County, the health of the Chumstick drainage is of vital importance to us all.

To learn about this project, volunteer, donate or join the project, please call (509) 860-0252 for more information.

Barbara Carrillo is director of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition.

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