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Concerns About Alameda’s Emergency Water Supply

Dear Editor,

I really have to chime in on concerns about Alameda’s emergency water supply. The Alameda Fire Department (AFD) is correct in stating that a Berkeley type solution would require too much manpower to utilize.

But also remember that to operate Alameda’s fireboat, it requires that one of five engine companies must be put out of service to operate the boat, then figure in the two drivers for the mobile tank operations and half of another engine company is out of service. That effectively leaves the Captain and pump operator to fight the fire. Since the pump operator is required to ‘make’ water for the Captain.

And, because of the “two in, two out” rule, the officer can only stand outside and utilize a 1 ½” hose, not much of a dent could be made in a burning Victorian. And 40% of the AFD on-duty manpower wold be consumed supplying an inch and one half hose. Yes, we have two aerial ladder trucks, but I’m sure they would be busy.

So what would happen? AFD would call Oakland for help as happens often. During an earthquake would Oakland have the resources to send over here? Would AFD firefighters return to help us out, wouldn’t they be concerned with their homes and families?

What I am getting at is combining Alameda and Oakland prior to the big one. Oakland has another fire boat that pumps three times the capacity of Alameda’s. The combined department would have automatic responses in place for disasters and time would be saved in responding. Oakland has several trucks each with 6000’ of 5” hose that could have saltwater pumped directly to the center of the island.

It is correct that Alameda’s current fire boat is ineffective in shallow water. So write off operating from the High Street bridge to Ballena Bay.

Lest we forget, earthquakes usually generate a number of building fires due to broken gas lines. Once a fireboat is operating, it must remain in one place, maybe the ‘two tank truck idea’ would solve that problem, but cut the available supply in half.

Joining Alameda County Fire Dept. or Oakland is really the forward way to think of mitigating a disaster by supplying many more resources and manpower.

–Mike Kelley
Mike Kelly served as the Captain on the City of Oakland Fireboat for about 10 years and also served as the Alameda County North Zone Mutual Aid Coordinator.

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