Terry Arko has more than 40 years’ experience in the swimming pool and spa industry, working in service, repair, retail sales, chemical manufacturing, technical service, commercial sales, and product development. He has written over 100 published articles on water chemistry and has been an instructor of water chemistry courses for over 25 years. Terry is a voting member on the board of the Recreational Water Quality Committee (RWQC) and is a member of the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC). He is also an instructor of the Pool Chemistry Certified Residential course through the Pool Chemistry Training Institute. Terry is currently working as a Product Training Consultant for HASA Pool makers of HASA Sani-Clor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
No words can adequately express the condolences felt for those who have suffered loss during the recent wildfires. In the case of active fires, the upmost concern should be for the immediate safety of persons and property. In addition, it is vital to comply with the emergency management in the area. Avoid areas of heavy smoke where emergency crews are still set up.
During the fire Water pressure and water quality at the source will be affected during and after times of wild fires. All types of debris are possible during times of wildfires as result of possible high winds. Smoke, ash, tree branches, leaves and fire suppressant chemicals will all most likely end up in the pool. Also, there is the possibility that live animals may seek shelter in the pool or pool area. Use extreme caution in and around areas where wildfires are still active. Protective gear such as respiratory mask, goggles and gloves may be required in these situations.
After the fire Clean up after a wildfire can take some time and should be pursued with care. Be aware of live downed power lines. If power has been off at the house, be sure to check the integrity of all wiring leading to equipment. Pools should be treated as follows:
Remove all larger debris as soon as is possible.
Brush all surfaces thoroughly
Skim smaller material with a pool net
Make sure filter is clean and in operational order
Super-hlorinate the pool to 20 ppm or use a quality Chlorine free oxidizer
Follow immediately with a clarifier to help remove small ash material to the filter
Use of an enzyme can help break down some un-filterable non-living organic material
*Test and treat for phosphates once the chlorine levels have come down below 5 ppm
Add a good broad spectrum algaecide
Clean filter as necessary throughout this process
Further cautions The extreme heat from fires can cause the ground to bake leading to a lack of absorption when rains come. Excessive erosion from firefighting efforts could lead to flooding and mud flows during rains. Pool areas need to be protected with sand bags or other diversion methods immediately after fires to prevent an influx of mud and flood water from entering the pool. In some cases where water pressure becomes an issue during the fire, some departments may incorporate pumps in the pool to use the water for protecting homes. Homeowners in wildfire areas can also buy pumps that can be used to soak down their property. These pumps can typically work at a flow of 150 gpm and can disperse the contents of a 20,000-gallon pool within 2 hours. Pool techs should be aware ahead of time of this possibility and should check that hydrostatic relief valves are in place on these pools to prevent the pool vessels from popping out of the ground during these emergency use times. If there is, a high groundwater table or the pool is built over an underground spring this could be a very real possibility. Pools that have been drained will need to be inspected for damage to surfaces and deck areas as well as all equipment connections. In Conclusion:
Use extreme caution in areas where wildfires are active.
Always check ahead of time with emergency management personnel before attempting to enter neighborhoods where fires have been.
Wear smoke protection when necessary (breathing mask and goggles).
Remember that wildfires can move fast and change course in seconds it is best to stay out of the area.
Shock, floc, enzyme, phosphate removal and algae prevention are all good remedial treatments once the fires are gone.
Check and inspect all equipment thoroughly during the clean up process. Filters may need to be backwashed and cleaned frequently during this time.
Ensure that pools equipped with firehose pumps also have hydrostatic relief valves to prevent popping from rapid draining.
*Most firefighting suppressants such as those dropped from the air contain phosphate
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