Firefighters from across the Midwest, Virginia and Tennessee, as well as Tri-County area firefighters from Maxwell, Polk City, Huxley, Collins and Elkhart, met at Gatherings in Nevada on Nov. 17 for the Iowa Ultra High Pressure (UHP) fire training summit. The summit focused on a new fire suppression system.
The event was hosted by the Middleton, Wis., Fire Department, along with the Colo and Nevada fire departments. The Middleton Fire Department is the largest volunteer fire department in Wisconsin with 120 personnel and was one of the first to utilize the UHP system.
The new technology has an ultra high-pressure hose, allowing for smaller water droplets, which creates more surface area. Since the only part of a water drop absorbing heat is the outer shell, this allows for about a fifth of the water to be used with a UHP system.
“There are a lot of misconceptions out there that [UHP] is similar to European fire attacks because they use high pressure, which is about half the pressure we use,” Middleton Fire Department battalion chief, Jessie Schlulter, said.
The department started using this technology with their quick attack vehicles 10 years ago, after their fire chief, Aaron Harris, heard about the technology from a friend, who happened to be a rocket scientist.
Since then the department has partnered with HMA fire, the industry leader in creating ultra high pressure systems, and the ATF. With these partnerships, the department has been able to conduct research on the efficiency of the system, as well as put on summits such as the one held in Nevada.
“As a fire chief, the worst feeling in the world is standing in the front yard while the fire is growing, glass is breaking and you hear the siren, knowing that an engine is coming,” Nevada fire chief, Ray Reynolds said.
Schlulter said with the quick attack units this doesn’t happen. The units are smaller and faster than the typical fire engine and are also equipped with the UHP system. This allows for a fire team to start fire suppression while they wait for the other trucks to arrive.
“It doesn’t replace fire engines — it’s another tool in the toolbox,” Schlulter said.
Schlulter said the new technology is often met with skepticism, but if given the chance, it doesn’t take long for fire service members to come around.
“I think it’s something people have to see and feel and experience,” Schlulter said.
In addition to using less water and being more efficient, Nevada City Administrator Matt Mardesen sees the financial benefits. One new fire engine is about half a million dollars, whereas two fully outfitted quick attack units are less than $200,000.
“This is a complete game changer,” Mardesen said. “Whether you’re a small town of 500 people or you’re a population of 25,000, this changes everything financially.”
Mardesen encouraged attendees of the summit to go talk to their mayors and city administrators about the new technology.
“If you have questions from your City Council, mayor, city administrator, please have them contact me,” Mardesen said.
President of HMA Fire, Bob Robbins, said he sees the summits as an educational opportunity for firefighters, as well as an opportunity for them to ask questions.
“Change is hard. Especially in the fire service. So what these summits do is get the word out,” Robbins said.
Middleton Fire Chief Aaron Harris led a presentation at the first night of the summit, discussing everything from the scientific viewpoint, as well as showing videos of the UHP system in action. The following day, summit attendees were able to have hands-on training and participate in live fire and research burn scenarios.