RURAL JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - Local rural firefighters are worried about how they will battle fires with lakes and ponds drying out. The water flowing through a rural fireman's hose can top 750 gallons of water a minute.
That may sound like a lot, but Johnson County Fire District No. 2 Chief Jim Francis said firefighters in urban areas typically have more than a thousand gallons a minute of water flow when battling a house blaze.
In the city, fire hydrants are plentiful. But in rural southern Johnson County, Francis' firefighters could be called upon to put out flames in places where the nearest hydrant is at least two and a half miles away.
The last time that happened was four years ago. A large house was burning, and firefighters from District No. 2 used water from a nearby lake to put it out. Francis said the water flow from the lake supply was about 750 gallons a minute. It was crucial in putting out the house fire.
But now the lake is almost gone -- the drought killed off all but a small section of it. Francis said if a house fire were to break out in the same area today, firefighters would have to rely mostly on water transported to the scene by truck. He estimates they could probably use no more than 300 gallons a minute on it.
It's the difference between being able to attack a fire to put it out right away or going defensive to make sure it doesn't spread.
Francis said the department has better pumps to get water out of the remaining lakes more efficiently compared to four years ago. He also noted he would call in all the tanker trucks and all the mutual aid necessary to put out any fire.
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