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New County Construction Project to Benefit Area Firefighters

by on June 09, 2015 2:30 PM

Pretty soon, life is going to get quite a bit easier for Centre County’s dedicated firefighters.

At their Tuesday morning meeting, the Centre County Commissioners took a major step forward on a long-awaited project to give area fire companies a new resource to test their equipment and train their staffs.

The commissioners accepted a bid to build something called a drafting pit at the Centre County Emergency Services Training Facility. Essentially, the drafting pit will be a massive underground water reservoir with 30,000 gallons of storage capacity.

“Fire companies have to test their pumps each year by federal law, and this will allow them to do this locally instead of sometimes going all the way to Pittsburgh just to test their pumps,” Bob Hoffman of Hoffman Leakey Architects explained at the commissioners meeting. “This will be a very nice improvement to our facility, not just for our local fire companies, but for all the regional companies because of how close it is.”

A bid from the Pittsburgh-based Caliber Contracting Services won the support of the commissioners. Their bid estimates the cost of the project between $158,000 and $173,000. Commissioner Steve Dershem said that Caliber Contracting Services has completed other county projects, giving the commissioners “a good familiarity” with the quality of their work.

Hoffman said he’d “like to see us move pretty quickly on this,” but also admitted that the timeline recently got pushed back a little bit. The project is now expected to be completed by the end of September, he said.

“This is something that we should’ve had a long time ago,” says Boalsburg Fire Company Chief Van Winter. “It’s great that the commissioners have stepped up to the table to make this happen.”

Winter says its very important to regularly check to make sure every company’s fire trucks can pump enough water to effectively fight fires – but it’s been getting harder and harder to run the necessary tests.

Area fire companies used to go to down the road to Colyer Lake to test their pumpers, but Winter says that’s no longer an option. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission began draining the lake back in 2013 to repair a leaking dam, forcing fire companies to find alternate water sources.

But over the past two years, Winter says new regulations have made it increasingly difficult for fire companies to use lakes and streams to test their pumpers’ flow capacity.

Winter says these regulations are meant to prevent the spread of bacteria between bodies of water, which he understands. But it also gives the fire companies extra legal hoops to jump through to run the water though their pumpers.

By building a drafting pit in Centre County, Winter says area fire companies will be able to run tests and pumper trainings without the need to set up elaborate plans with state water-monitoring agencies. He also points out that any water used from the drafting pit will be recycled back into the pit, so they won’t need to waste any more water from other sources.

“It’s going to be a lot easier now that we’ll have a central location and a consistent draft,” Winter says.


Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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