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Kantishna needs a Fire Station

Have you ever heard of...

Have you ever heard of Denali National Park? It's that park in the middle of Alaska that is the home to Denali, the highest peak in North America at 20,310 feet high. The mountain was formerly known as Mt. McKinley.

In my opinion, it is the most beautiful place I have ever been to. Technically it doesn't have a zoo because it doesn't need one. You are just one exhibit in 7,400 square miles.

Animal life abounds, the creatures are fabulous and the vistas are beyond fabulous.

The beauty of Denali National Park

The beauty of Denali National Park

So how do you visit the park?

If you want to see the park, you visit the park via the Park Road. The road is 92 wow miles of gravel that gives you access to Mother Nature in its rawest form. The road is framed by spectacular vistas, enclosing myriads of animals in view of the road. The trick is to spot them. With access limited by Park Service buses, all the passengers have their heads on a swivel and little fauna escapes the visitors on the road. What you miss, another bus has stopped to view. It is a real team effort.

Once you could take the bus to the Eielson Visitor Center at mile marker 66 but no more. Now the bus turns around at mile marker 43, just before a section of the road up Polychrome Mountain. This limitation is due to an act of nature.

The Pretty Rocks Landslide

The Pretty Rocks Landslide is a geological event. By that, I mean it occurs at a very slow pace. The park service has been filling in the road as it sinks away. They have been staying ahead of the process but now have elected to take more drastic action. This means the road will be closed. Because the construction season in Denali National Park is abbreviated, the process will take years.


The Pretty Rocks Slide

The Pretty Rocks Slide

Understanding the "landslide".

What about the campgrounds, resorts and cabins beyond the landslide?

The Park Road is the sole means of getting to Wonder Lake and mile marker 92. Resorts down that way rely on the road and no longer have access. Private homeowners who rely on the road no longer have access. This means no fuel gets in, no propane, no groceries, and no garbage gets removed. Essentially, there are only limited means to stay beyond mile marker 43.

There is however an airstrip at mile marker 90. On the aviation charts, it is labeled as (Hazardous). I have flown into it and I would only categorize it as short and for experienced pilots. This provides a limited means for small aircraft to enter and exit. Unfortunately, it is inadequate to haul the needed amounts of food, diesel, and propane in and garbage out. A Cessna 206 which is providing air service can haul humans and limited supplies back and forth.

What else did Katishna and the folks at the end of the road lose? The answer is: fire suppression coming down Park Road.

Katishna Airport (yellow) and Denali (blue)

Katishna Airport (yellow) and Denali (blue)

The Call

"Say Doc, I have a project that I need your help on. At the cabin in Katishna, I am having problems with making sure we can fight fires. We have lost some of our fire service since the avalanche, so I want to create my own system for fighting fires. It has to be simple and it has to be ready to go with the minimum of effort to get water on the fire. I have a pump on site that we can tow down to the river and draw water from the river. I also have a pedestal in the yard to store everything on. Fortunately, I have a fire hose on a reel at the pedestal to fight the fire but unfortunately, I need a reel to hold the hose to run to the pump at the river. The trick to this setup is that this all has to be in place and ready to go. By the time it is put into service, minutes matter. Here is a photo of the pedestal where I would like to locate everything."


The Pedestal

The Pedestal

"The pump is set up with a siphon hose attached and that is ready to be tossed in the river. What I need is a reel that will hold 100 ft of hose that can sit by the pedestal and can be rolled to the river. So the steps have to be as simple as possible.

1. Attach fire hose to the pedestal.

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2. Attach 100ft hose to pedestal

3. Roll 100ft hose to the river

4. Roll pump to the river

5. Put siphon in the river and attach the 100ft hose

6. Prime and start the pump and commence fighting the fire.

But here is the catch: anything we bring has to fit neatly into a Cessna 206 with 3 guys and all their supplies for a week."

So I ask Mike what our budget is. The answer is "Nothing." So this is a charity case. So be it.

"Hey Mike, when do you need this stuff?", I ask.

Mike responds, "I'm leaving in a few days."

Mike knows I can be like a pigeon on a crouton, that is, single-minded until the job is done.



The pump.

The pump.

Let me sleep on it.

I respond, "Let me sleep on it."

In 2015 I constructed a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome. When it is disassembled, it is nothing. When it is completed, it is rather substantial. These techniques will solve my problem.

The Geodesic Dome

The Geodesic Dome

Where we are heading.

Where we are heading.

Designing the Reel

I think I can do it in the same manner with the same materials. I really do mean the same materials. This will be made from the leftovers from the dome project, and I mean the leftovers. I have 40 remnants from the dome that are 14-16" in length. I need 40 so I can't botch any of the cuts (wishful thinking in retrospect).

If I design a hub and make the wheel 39 inches in diameter. The outer segments come to 14 inches exactly and the arms come to 16 inches exactly. As it was meant to be! How fitting! How elegant! Thank the Maker!

I tell Mike of our good fortune and his response is, "Make it 36" in diameter".

Oh well.


The design on Fusion 360.

The design on Fusion 360.

The Build.

Now I need 20 sticks at 11" and 20 sticks at 14.373". So much for simple measurements.

I start to cut up my stock. I start by cutting the 11" pieces out of the 14" stock. (Mistake!) As I build up my pile I think, "I had better stop before I hit 20 pieces." I stop and count. I have 21 pieces at 11" long and only 19 pieces of stock left. (Unsavory language ensued.)

Had I just started with the long stock and cut the 14.373" pieces first I could have recovered by cutting a few inches off one of the cut pieces but nooooooo! That's the "NO" that goes up an octave in the middle.

I cut the next 19 pieces and get off to the home store to get another 10ft stick of conduit to make ONE 14.373" segment. That is done. Now for the hub.

Design of the hub

Design of the hub

The Hub

I head off to my guys that sell their services with a water jet. I ask them if they want to donate to the cause by giving me some waste circles they have cut and discarded. Nope, I have to buy their waste for $4.00 so no need to give them a shout-out here. With new pieces in hand, I design the bolt hole pattern and cut it out of wood. It fits perfectly on the hub.

I clamp it in place and cut out the holes. Spot on!

The template for the bolt holes.

The template for the bolt holes.

Assembly

I ask Mike to come and help assemble the reel. We start by flattening all the ends of the tubes. Note to self: all ends need to be flattened in the same plane so we need to pay attention to how we flatten both ends. Eighty ends later with about 500 strokes of the hydraulic ram we are done. Next we will need to drill holes in the conduit precisely to dimension. I make some jigs for this. There is no room for error. 80 holes later we are done. Now its time to put it together. When assembling anything by Buckminster Fuller, it can be quite floppy until that last bolt is placed. Such was the case here. But it worked. Ridgid as heck.

Ta-DA!

Ta-DA!

The Pedestal

"Mike, Pick up a piece of 2" threaded pipe that is 6 or 8 inches long. We can weld that to another pipe at a 90-degree angle and slip it into the pedestal. The pedestal has bolts to lock it in place. " we both agreed that a valve would be on one side with two quick connect 2" hose connectors on each side.

Mike picks up the pipe. We decide it is too long so he finds a shorter piece. I weld that to the shaft so it forms a "T". Mike paints it up and places the hardware. It looks good.

The Pedestal

The Pedestal

The Package

With the concept proven, we pack it up in a box. Man! there is nothing to it. This will pack well on the small plane and we are done in time.

The Package

The Package

Shipping

Before I know it Mike is in Anchorage. The airlines let him carry on his box of parts. A couple of days later he is just outside the park, boarding a Cessna 206 with his treasures. Off to the cabin they go without event.

Upon arrival, they attach the pedestal and it looks great.

The pedestal is complete

The pedestal is complete

Assemble the reel

The next day the reel gets assembled and things are looking good. Everything goes as planned. At this point, we really don't know if the hose will fit on the reel but we are pretty confident it will. It would be a shame if it needed to be 39" in diameter.

Out work from the lower 48

Out work from the lower 48

The test run.

Now it was time to test everything out. The hose was run to the river and the pump was placed with the suction hose in the river. All hoses were connected and the pump was primed. Get ready. It is time for surprises.

The run to the river

The run to the river

The test is a success!

The test is a success. Everything works as desired. Now it is time for the last horrah, does the hose fit on the reel? Yes!

It fits!

It fits!

The Kantishna Fire Department

With the hose on the reel, everything was placed on the concrete slab. A photo was taken before being covered in a custom tarp that was made to protect the pieces that make up this department. It is time we put this baby to bed.

The Katishna Fire Department

The Katishna Fire Department

The Cabin - Worth Saving!

This gem in the bush is worth protecting!

This gem in the bush is worth protecting!

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