Water flow standards sought for effective fire-fighting

27 December, 1988

Water flow standards sought for effective fire-fighting

By Barbara Preston
Staff Writer

Princeton engineers and fire officials are working together to establish safe fire hydrant water flow standards, in response to a water crisis that plagued Princeton last summer.

The standards would document the minimum water flow needed in each area of Princeton Borough and Township to safely fight a fire, Princeton Fire Chief Richard McKee said.

“There is only one hydrant — in front of the Unitarian Church off Cherry Hill Road — that meets the standards,” the chief said.

“There is still a substantial deficit in the other hydrants,” he added.

Once the safety standards are drafted, they will be incorporated into the zoning map and submitted to the Township Committee, Borough Council and the Princeton Regional Planning Board for approval, Chief McKee said.

“The higher the fire load, such as in a business district, the higher the flow needed,” he said. Princeton Borough downtown area, for example, needs a fire hydrant water flow of 4,000 gallons per minute, according to the flow standards.

Residential-area hydrants must have a water flow of about 1,500 gallons per minute, the chief said. And the Princeton University campus requires a flow of 4,000 gallons per minute.

The figures relate to the density of the area and, if approved, should provide grounds for legal action if the Elizabethtown Water Company fails to provide it, according to Princeton officials.

According to the state Board of Public Utility Standards, the water company is required to provide water in a safe, adequate and proper manner. The new standards will define what is safe and adequate water supply for Princeton.

One hydrant in Princeton, near the Newlin Road-Olden Lane intersection, only has a flow of 350 gallons per minute, Chief McKee said. It should be 3,000 gallons per minute.

This does not, however, create a crisis at this time because the fire department’s trucks carry water, he said.

Elizabethtown has been very responsive to the problem, the chief said. The company is installing new pipes that are expected to alleviate the condition by late spring.

Meanwhile, to compensate for the water shortage, firefighters can use such tactics as hooking up to several hydrants at once, or using the pumper fire engines, Chief McKee said.

“Because we are aware of the problem, we can deal with it,” he said.

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