Industrial neighbor offers a gift to Bearpond Volunteer Fire Department

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 06:09 PM

A 33-year friendship between a Henderson industry and its local volunteer fire department includes a new gift for the new year.

Kennametal Inc., on Warehouse Road presented a very welcome piece of compact state-of-the-art hardware to the Bearpond volunteers earlier this week: a blitz-attack nozzle called the Mercury Quick-Attack Monitor.

There are gifts that keep on giving, and the powerful, ground-stabilized valve and nozzle system is just one of those for firefighters. Company specifications indicate the Mercury has up to 500 gallons output, or flow, per minute.

That means it has up to half of the water power of the engine-mounted water cannon, and putting that kind of capacity in mobile hands that can place it more strategically than a large engine can roll is a game changer, say Bearpond department leaders.

To Jeff Turner, the calculation comes down to this: a single close-in water source can be fighting a fire within a minute of a tankers’ arrival, using a pump operator and one additional man to start the fire suppression.

Turner, Bearpond’s fire chief, said it takes two or three men to operate a hand-held hose that has the output of about 150 gallons per minute, and it typically takes five or six minutes from the tanker’s arrival to assemble and deploy seven or eight men manning three hoses.

The blitz-attack nozzle can also be adjusted to a higher angle and left unmanned.

“It frees up manpower,” Turner said, adding their new monitor would be put to immediate use in training for action. He even knows right where it will mount on the department’s primary tanker.

“Maneuverability is a major factor,” Turner said. “The water flow is controlled from the lever. You can shut it off there and move it.”

He also explained a possible application in an industrial fire, utilizing multiple major water sources as the ground-based monitor augments the water cannon’s use.

“This here will provide knock-down ability,” Turner said. “It is going to take some training, and it’s going to take some group effort as far as the strategy of using it.”

Kennametal’s Henderson location leaders Robert McGhee, a senior analyst, and Joe Penkunas, the plant manager, handed over the Mercury Quick-Attack Monitor on Tuesday.

They said that providing the hardware was a return favor for how responsive Bearpond, and other Vance County firefighters too, have been to the plant’s needs for as long as the plant has been there.

“Over the 33 years we have been in operation, Bearpond has been a partner with us,” McGhee said. “It has just been a really good relationship.”

A recent example occurred in October. City water mains failed one day. City water mains failed again, the next day.

That made for a tough time, but Bearpond volunteers and Vance County firefighters stepped up.

Penkunas explained that the lack of water in the plant can translate into danger as the plant uses a lot of water for process cooling and a limited stored supply.

“We have about 1,000 gallons, and it recycles,” Penkunas said. “The heat, though, creates evaporation, and we can use up 1,000 gallons pretty quickly. “

McGhee said the volunteers of Bearpond, and further assistance by Vance County department firefighters, went beyond carrying water for the safety of a process cool-down and stop. They decided that they could bring enough supply to keep the plant operating safely, and actually continue unhindered.

“Bearpond, along with Vance County, delivered thousands of gallons of water to keep the plant in operation,” McGhee said. “I guess you could say that that is service above and beyond the call of duty.”

Jason Edwards, who is Bearpond assistant chief, said he will be tasked with in-service training for use of the new blitz-attack equipment. As a Raleigh firefighter, he has used the Mercury monitor often — Raleigh has had several in use for about a year.

“I know how effective they are because we use them weekly,” Edwards said. “I can promise you, while we always say we hope not, that this will get used. We have a lot of fire incidents in our area.”

Also, Bearpond is the primary department responsible for the industrial park area.

Turner, who works with the Henderson Fire Department, said the city just acquired the same brand blitz-attack monitor for use there, added to the city’s arsenal in time for the new year.

“We put them in service Jan. 1,” Turner said.

Other large nozzles can be deployed to the ground, but not with the speedy roll-out and set-up possible with the more compact size Mercury model. The hope is that the new, more elite hardware will make its way into every department.

Turner and Edwards said neither of them could name another county department that had one yet, though.

“I’m not sure, but I believe Bearpond will be the first of the county departments with this,” Edwards said.

Bearpond Volunteer Fire Department, located at 325 Bearpond Road, has 24 members and 12 part-time members serving the South Henderson and Gillburg areas, and marked its 50th year in 2013.

Kennametal Inc., at 139 Warehouse Road, is a national supplier of tooling and industrial materials and has numerous plants in addition to the Henderson location. Kennametal is headquartered where founded 75 years ago in Latrobe, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.