VIDEO: Can you fight fires while saving water? LBFD system reclaims millions of gallons per year

Until recently, any time Long Beach firefighters practiced using their high-powered hoses, the water they sprayed ended up in the drain.

In any given year, that added up to millions of gallons that washed away during training exercises.

“The old way of doing training was either doing it dry or, if you really wanted to do training while flowing water, that water went directly into the gutter and was completely wasted,” Long Beach Fire Engineer Mike Shrout said.

That changed in March 2019 when the Long Beach Fire Department started using something called a Direct Recycling Apparatus Firefighter Training & Sustainability Unit, or DRAFTS Unit, for short.

Simply put, the unit, made by Pump Pod USA, gives firefighters something to aim at and save water in the process. The DRAFTS Unit collects the water and recirculates it back into the hose line.

LBFD specifically outfitted its unit to simulate a variety of situations crews might encounter in the field.

“We custom designed the pump-in station as you find on a high-rise building or large apartment building.” Shrout said.

The unit also features a section on the roof allowing firefighters to train by spraying water in from above.

The purchase of the system was made possible by a water savings incentive program offered by the Metropolitan Water District and the Long Beach Water Department making the cost for the LBFD “next to nothing,” Shrout said.

The incentive program contributed approximately $91,000 to the purchase based on the approximated 8 million gallons of water a year the unit is expected to save. So far it’s exceeded that goal, according to the LBFD.

By providing incentive programs, the Water Department and Water District save money in the long run by avoiding costly infrastructure costs required to accommodate increasing water demands according to Gary Tilkian from the Metropolitan Water District.

“Every gallon of water saved is one less gallon that we have to import,” said Dean Wang, manager of water resources at the Long Beach Water Department.

Long Beach is one of the first fire departments regionally to implement this technology, with similar units already in operation in Ventura County, the Sacramento area and Glendale.

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