Crews responding to Thursday's fire at a large commercial building in Mount Airy took several hours to battle the flames. And with a big fire comes the need for a lot of water, said Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch.
At one point, crews called over the radio that there was a concern about the amount of water in the town's water tower.
But in Carroll County, water may not be readily available when needed to put out a fire. Take the Pleasant Valley volunteer fire company's coverage area. Spokesman Mark Gabriele said there are only four hydrants in the area of the county considered Pleasant Valley.
So instead, the company turns to other places to get water, including ponds, streams and even pools, Gabriele said.
"So anytime we leave our fire station, we have to take our water with us," he said.
From the moment the incident commander gets to the scene of the fire, he or she is worried about the amount of water. There's a baseline to help determine how much water is moved per minute, so the incident commander appoints a water supply officer to be in control of how much water is needed, Gabriele said.
The water supply officer can determine if a tanker task force is needed for a fire, and usually the incident commander will call for one if he or she sees a working fire when they get on scene. Companies call for help from the four closest fire companies with tankers to help with the task force, he said.
With the tanker task force, a portable water supply is set up. The tankers bring water, dump it into a portable tank and then get more, Bouch said.
"So it's a nice, constant supply we've been practicing for a while," Bouch said.
Pleasant Valley isn't the only area of the county with limited access to fire hydrants. In the Lineboro coverage area, there are no standard hydrants. There are only dry hydrants, Lineboro volunteer fire company spokesman Don Fair said.
A dry hydrant is connected to a body of water, either underground or an above-ground body of water. Fire companies use a source pumper or brush truck to take water, using the dry hydrant, Fair said.
Water sources are mapped out, and every fire company knows where they can go to get water, Fair said.
Multiple fire companies responded to a two-alarm blaze at a commercial building on Main Street in Mount Airy on Thursday June 15, 2017. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)
Lineboro has a 3,000-gallon tanker, a 1,000-gallon engine and another engine that hold 1,500 gallons of water, Fair said.
As a rule, they try to not deplete the water supply, but on rare occasions, he said, a fire company can run out of water.
"I'm not going to say it never happens, but it doesn't happen frequently," Fair said.
But running out of water is something fire companies work hard to avoid, Gabriele said.
"The worst thing for you is to be in a working fire and run out of water," he said.
And with Carroll being a rural county, it might mean going a distance to get to a mapped water source. Gabriele said some of his colleagues have had to go up to 5 miles between a water source and the fire.
"It's why you drop your water [in the portable tank] and go because you just never know how far you'll have to go," he said.
There are two things Carroll County residents can do to help fire companies with water, Gabriele said. Those who are constructing a new house should opt for fire sprinklers because the sprinklers are attached to water firefighters can use for the tanker system. And those who have bodies of water on their property, like pools or ponds, should contact their local fire company, if they are willing, to let them know they can pull water from their property, he said.