ATLAS TWP. — When Steve Bullen took over as Atlas Township fire chief two years ago, he set out a plan to improve safety and enhance firefighting capabilities.
Monday, Oct. 19, Bullen was pleasantly surprised when the township Board of Trustees took a giant step toward furthering Bullen’s goal, voting unanimously to install six electric wells at strategic locations over the next six years.
The first well will go in at the township hall. Bullen said he’d like the second one to go near the corner of M-15 and Kemp Road.
“This is something (Assistant Chief) Ed (Klimek) and I talked about from the get-go,” Bullen said. “I’m definitely happy. I was hoping for one, and we got them all. It will not only help us, but it will help surrounding areas, too. Most of the places don’t have hydrants.
Davison, Hadley and out toward Lapeer County will benefit because they can use them, too.”
Each well is expected to cost about $30,000, with funds to come from the general fund.
“It’s incumbent on us to make sure they have everything they need to fight fires,” said township Supervisor Tere Onica. “We had agreed to put one (well) at the township hall, so we owe them a well and we budgeted for it.”
Bullen said electric wells cost about as much as dry hydrants, but have far greater value in terms of efficiency.
Using a dry hydrant requires two personnel and a truck equipped with the proper suctioning equipment, whereas with a well, “it’s like a hydrant, you turn on a switch and fill a (tanker) truck,” the chief said.
If a fire occurs within 1,000 feet of a well, crews can battle the blaze directly from the well without having to haul water, he said.
Well access could lower the township’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, which could translate to lower insurance rates for residents. Bullen said he and Klimek are working on additional measures to lower the ISO rating, including more training options and equipment.
In addition to the six wells the township will provide, R. L. Slade Custom Homes developers have agreed to install a well in the Lakeshore Drive area.
Township Trustee Pat Major, who also serves on the Planning Commission, said he will ask his fellow commissioners to explore options for an ordinance that would require developers to install wells for the fire department in new housing projects.
“It’s something to look into,” Major said.
Onica noted that the wells will help prevent a disaster like the 2017 fire on Dar Lane, which consumed one home in minutes and damaged adjacent dwellings, just feet from Lake Shinanguag.
There was a dry well nearby, but gawkers inadvertently blocked firefighters from accessing it.
Bullen said the township is divided into zones, and he hopes to acquire the necessary easements from property owners in order to install a well in each zone.
“It’s a whole process,” he said.