Unique storage tank increases fire protection for Wareham (Mass.)

Published:  31 August, 2010

Having s storage tank that can provide reliable water at high pressure can be the difference between a manageable incident and a costly inferno. Chief Robert McDuffy and Timothy M. Stinson (PE) outline the successful implementation of a new storage tank that is minimizing the vulnerability of the Wareham (Massachusetts) Fire District.

The Wareham (Mass.) Fire District (WFD) has come a long way since its founding in 1907, when large fires were commonplace (on account of the prevalence of timber structures) and bucket brigades were often the weapon of choice in effectively fighting them.

 Today, such devastating fires are less frequent. Of course, the threat of fire is no less real and it’s why communities such as Wareham are constantly striving to enhance their fire protection tools. The WFD recently did such enhancing when it installed a 209,000-gallon, composite elevated storage tank adjacent to an existing fire station. Besides supplying the town’s White Island Shores district with drinking water, the 104-foot above-grade storage tank took storage tank will provide water for firefighting operations.

 The storage tank’s unique design helps increase fire protection by featuring increased water volume (120,000 gallons more), as well as improving the hydraulic gradeline, which will provide better fire flow to the area.

 Fire flow tests

 The storage tank’s overflow elevation matches the overflow elevations of tanks in the nearby sections of Bourne Hill and West Wareham. This elevation was determined to provide a minimum working static pressure of 35 pounds per square inch to the highest elevation in the White Island Shores area. By matching these three storage tank overflow elevations, an increase in static pressure was not expected.

 In order to determine the impact of the storage tank on fire protection, as well as how capably it would reduce pressure fluctuations in the White Island Shores area, fire flow tests were conducted. Two sites were selected for the tests: one represented a location near the storage tank; the other was at the extreme end of the White Island Shores distribution system. The tests were conducted in a two-step fashion. The first tests were performed with the new storage tank off-line, and water supplied solely by the existing Bourne Hill and West Wareham storage tanks. After those tests were completed, the valves at the new tank site were re-opened and the area was supplied by only the new storage tank. The 16-inch valve in Glen Charlie Road was closed to eliminate flow into White Island Shores from the Bourne Hill and West Wareham tanks.

 The tests showed an increase in fire flow protection ranging from 23 to 41 percent in the White Island Shores area. The storage tank levels were approximately 14-feet below maximum at the time of the tests. If the storage tank water level was closer to overflow, pressures (both static and residual) would have increased by approximately six pounds per square inch, resulting in available fire flow increasing by 250 to 300 gallons per minute.

 The storage tank also provides hydraulic redundancy, which further enhances its fire protection capabilities. The hydraulic redundancy prevents a disrupted water flow in the instance of a main break or if one of the WFD’s other two tanks needs to be taken offline for maintenance. Another interesting design component is the tank’s altitude valve, which prevents overflowing by monitoring the height of the water inside the tank and closing it when it is full. The altitude valve remains closed until the water level falls to a pre-set elevation and the filling process starts over.

 Attractive to other communities

 Several design elements makes this type of storage tank attractive to other communities looking to improve fire protection. The storage tank’s glass-fused-to-steel design allows owners to forego painting, a costly enterprise that is typically done every 10 to 15 years. Because the steel plate panels are prefabricated and shipped directly to the site where they were hoisted into place and bolted together, the structure and supporting concrete pedestal required only five months to construct at a cost of $1.4 million.

The storage tank is constructed of steel and carries water through a 12-inch inlet-outlet pipe and sits on a 24-foot diameter concrete pedestal. The interior of the concrete supporting column is hollow and can be used for storage, parking, or can be built out for an office area.

 Better prepared

 Without a doubt, the new storage tank helps minimize the vulnerability of the Wareham Fire District system, as well as help fire personnel be better prepared for emergencies. Having a storage tank that can help provide reliable water at a high pressure and volume can be the difference between a manageable fire and a deadly, costly inferno.


Timothy M. Stinson, P.E., is a principal engineer with Kleinfelder/S E A. He has more than 30 years of experience with water resource projects, including design layout, specification preparation, project engineering, and project management for water mains, pumping stations, treatment facilities, storage tanks, and chemical treatment projects located in various communities throughout New England. Stinson is an Air Force Vietnam War veteran. He can be reached at tim.stinson@seacon.com.

Chief Robert M. McDuffy, who holds a degree in fire science, is the fire chief representing the Wareham Fire District in Wareham, Mass. Chief McDuffy has been a member of the Wareham Fire Department since 1981. Starting on the call force, he was promoted to a lieutenant assigned to fire prevention/fire alarm/fire investigation, and continued to rise up the ranks. He has now served as fire chief for more than a decade. Chief McDuffy resides in Wareham with his wife and four children.

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