Bondurant Ultra High-Pressure Program
Marketa George Oliver, City Administrator
Aaron Kreuder, Fire Chief
Bondurant, the fastest-growing city in Iowa, has a mix of paid-per-call (PPC) and full-time fire fighters. Because the city had difficulty recruiting PPC firefighters for daytime service, response time to daytime incidents suffered, with a negative effect on ISO ratings.
Seeking to reduce fire response times, four members of Bondurant Emergency Services attended a summit in 2017 to learn about ultra high pressure (UHP) technology, defined as pump pressures above 1,100 psi. When water is flowed at these pressures, 10 times the surface area is created by breaking down conventional water droplets into 64 smaller droplets, decreasing the water used to approximately a fifth of what conventional firefighting would use. Greater surface area means more contact with the fire and more efficient heat absorption. When the water droplet absorbs heat, it converts to steam, displacing oxygen, removing heat from the superheated environment, and extinguishing the fire.
Bondurant Emergency Services leadership was persuaded that UHP could help reduce response times, leading the city decided to retrofit two existing vehicles at an initial cost of less than $55,000.
One was a 2006 brush truck, retrofitted with 200 gallons of water and a standard UHP system that supplies 20 gallons a minute through a three-quarter-inch hydraulic steel braided hose that is much easier to control and manipulate than the traditional hand line. It delivers a pressure of 1,400 psi.
The second unit is a 100-gallon system designed for the command truck, with a topper and heater for cold weather (the first in the nation). It is a take-home vehicle so that one person can respond directly to the scene, expediting a fire attack while the larger apparatus and personnel respond from the station, thus cutting time to get water on the fire.
In addition to reducing response time, the UHP system uses water more efficiently, decreasing residual water, thereby causing less damage and restoring occupancy more quickly. It has improved response to brush and vehicle fires, which are of concern to Bondurant because of its proximity to agricultural land and to two intersections of I-80. Vehicle fires can be extinguished by just one person. Decreased water use means less runoff and environmental contamination.
UHP technology does not replace pumpers or engines, but employing UHP technology enables the city to extend their life by utilizing smaller vehicles for the initial attack, resulting in less deterioration of the larger units. In Bondurant, adopting UHP added five years to the replacement cycle for two of its frontline pumper tankers.
Bondurant staff has been so impressed by the UHP systems that they developed a training team that travels the state. (They do not charge, and the training is not affiliated with any manufacturer.) The city also shared its experience by presenting a well-attended UHP educational summit featuring nationally known fire service leaders.
This was all done with a goal of advancing firefighting capabilities, reducing response times, and decreasing long-term fire operation costs, not only in Bondurant but also in Iowa and even nationally.