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Got water? South Coast firefighters develop system to save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water

Ventura County firefighters using their pump pod system for training. Instead of shooting water into the air for the purpose of training engineers on the use of pumper trucks, the system allows for water to be shot into a special trailer, where it is recycled.

Ventura County Fire Department's pump pod system now being adopted by other agencies for huge water savings during training.

We’re at Camarillo Airport, and at first glance, it looks like the scene of a fire. There are four Ventura County Fire trucks, hoses everywhere, and some firefighters pumping water.

But, it's actually a training mission for some future fire department engineers, who drive and operate fire trucks. In the past, leaning how to operate trucks meant actually hooking up hoses to hydrants, and shooting out tens of thousands of gallons of water onto the ground. That’s not practical during a drought.

Ryan Burkett is an engineer with the Ventura County Fire Department, who is overseeing today’s training project. He says the department came up with an idea. What they developed is a recirculating system, which allows engineers to practice pumping water, but instead of shooting it out a hose to nowhere, it can be reclaimed.

"Each candidate on each one of those engines is doing a thousand gallons of water a minute," said Burkett. "And we're going to be out here all day, for eight hours, and this is small scale compared to what we do in the engineers academy."

The key to it is a specially designed trailer called a pump pod. Instead of the water being shot onto the ground, the water flows through hoses directed into a specially equipped trailer. There are six hoses feeding into the trailer, with a screen diffusing the force of the water. It goes into a giant, 2000 gallon tank, where it can be recirculated back into the system.

Andy VanSciver is a Public Information Officer with the Ventura County Fire Department.

"The original design was nothing this sophisticated... it literally was a dumpster we painted yellow, and welded some pipes onto so we could try to recirculate some water," said VanSciver.

Not only does the pump pod system save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water needed for training, it allows for better training.

There’s an art to it, because water pressure from hydrants can vary widely, creating challenges for the engineers operating the pumps which feed fire hoses.

The pump pod system shoots water from fire hoses into a special trailer, where it's reclaimed.

Ventura County Fire Department Captain Brian McGrath says in the past, training was often rushed to try to limit the use of water.

"Using the pods allows us to create trained and prepared engineers who will be able to take in any kind of water source they're getting." said McGrath.

The pump pod concept the Ventura County Fire Department helped to pioneer is now being used by a number of agencies, resulting in huge water savings during the drought we’re facing.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.