Chelan County is looking to place as many as 22 water tanks at locations in the county where there are no fire hydrants in an effort to boost response to wildfires. 

The water tanks would actually be converted shipping containers originally used to store freight on cargo ships. 

Chelan County spokesperson Jill FitzSimons says the project to install the water tanks is the first of its kind and is still in the planning stages. 

"Everybody was pretty excited about the project because it is one of a kind," said FitzSimmons. "Nothing like it has been proposed in the state, and we're hoping that maybe we can serve as a pilot project, and then other folks around the state can then emulate the project." 

A recent tour of some of the proposed water tank sites led by Chelan County Fire Marshall Steve Rinaldi drew widespread support of area fire chiefs. 

The tour also included local legislators, as well as representatives from Chelan PUD, the U.S. Forest Service, the state Department of Natural Resources and Congresswoman Kim Schrier's office. 

The cost of installing the water tanks is roughly $1.2 million.

FitzSimmons says the county is applying for a Forest Service Community Wildfire Defense Grant worth $893,250, which would cover the lion's share of the cost of the project. 

"If that grant came through, it would cover quite a bit of it," said FitzSimmons. "We would be seeking some local dollars to match that funding. But our first step was just to get all of our partners together. So now we can go to them and make these requests and apply for these grant funds through their agencies." 

The county is looking at 12 sites for the storage tanks, including five along the Chumstick Highway, three in the canyons near Cashmere, one in Malaga, one up Cooper Gulch Road in Manson, one on Union Valley Road near Chelan and one on Upper Entiat River Road. 

The tanks proposed by the county hold up to 21,000 gallons of water. The average water tender carries 1,500 to 2,000 gallons and the average fire engine carries 1,000. 

They could be placed above the ground or below, according to FitzSimmons. They could be static or portable. The shipping containers are plumbable. They can be insulated if they're placed above ground. They could be refilled if a well is placed on site, or would be refilled by a fire water truck after the emergency. 

There would up to 22 water tanks on 12 sites with a number of them set up to have two storage tanks on site.  

Chelan county is perhaps the most vulnerable county in the state for wildfire activity. 

A 2018 report from wildfire research firm Pyrologix and the U.S. Forest Service ranked four Chelan County cities among the 10 cities in the state most at risk to wildfire. Leavenworth was actually No. 1 on the list, followed by Wenatchee at No. 5, Chelan No. 6 and Cashmere at No. 9. 

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