Assistant fire chief Monty Armstrong shows the guts of the water purification system built in to seven new fire trucks starting service soon with the Township. (Matthew Claxton/Black Press Media)

VIDEO: Township fire trucks can purify water for disasters

The seven new trucks will be hitting the road soon, and are among the first of their kind.

Langley Township’s fire department has upgraded its fleet with seven new trucks that can not only pump water to fight fires, they can make purified drinking water for emergencies.

The seven new engine-tender trucks will be rolling out in the next few months, replacing 20-year-old vehicles that served in the same role.

But the new trucks have a few upgrades, said assistant Township Fire Chief Monty Armstrong.

On the driver’s side of the vehicle, there’s a typical hookup system for hoses used for firefighting. The trucks can haul more than 1,000 US gallons of water and serve as tenders to bring water to fight fires in rural areas where there are no hydrants, said Armstrong.

On the passenger side, there’s a different panel of gauges and hose hookups. This is where the purified water comes out.

“We can deliver 16 US gallons per minute, 24 hours a day,” said Armstrong.

“Part of our responsibility is emergency planning,” said Township Chief Stephen Gamble.

That means planning for the possibility that a major equipment failure in the local water system, an earthquake, or another disaster disrupts the water supply.

“This was always a major part of what we wanted to do,” Armstrong said of the new truck purchase.

They can provide potable water to any location around Langley. They don’t even need to be able to hook up to a hydrant.

Firefighters can toss a hose into a pond or river. The system uses ozone and ultraviolet light to clean the water. It can’t deal with mud, sewage, or salt water, but it can handle just about anything else.

The system the department is using is a well-tested one, used by militaries and disaster-response groups for years.

“Having it on a fire truck is relatively new,” said Armstrong. “We’re definitely on the leading edge.”

In fact, the system is still so rare on fire trucks that Langley has the lion’s share of them in North America. There are just 14 deployed so far on the continent, Armstrong said.

“Seven of them are here in the Township,” he said, which means one for each firehall.

Another three are with Surrey’s fire department.

The system will also be useful for decontaminating firefighters after they have been in or near a fire site. They can be hosed down with super-ozonated water, to help get ride of the potential cancer-causing chemicals that firefighters can encounter on their job.

Despite the extra water purification ability, the trucks are actually a little cheaper than some similar equivalent model. They cost about US $485,000, compared to US $610,000 for more traditional configurations.

They look quite different from traditional fire trucks, built on six-axle bodies with standard dump truck-style cabs at the front.

That standardization also means cheaper maintenance. Langley Township Operations mechanics are trained on similar trucks for the Township’s fleet.

One reason why the Township is out in front when it comes to this kind of technology is that they don’t need to worry about the size of their fire trucks.

Langley’s main fire halls are all new enough and large enough that they can admit big, dump truck-sized vehicles. Some communities still rely on halls that date back 70 or 80 years, and have to either order custom trucks that can squeeze through the doors, or they have to spend the money to build entirely new firehalls.

Langley Advance

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