County to purchase ultra-high-pressure fire suppressor, the first in New Mexico

by Debora Nicoll | January 21, 2021
4 min read
A training session conducted in Wisconsin by the suppressor's manufacturer demonstrated how relatively quickly UPH can snuff out a car fire. Smaller water droplets offering greater surface area than the same volume of conventionally delivered water is key to improved steam production, which draws oxygen away from the flames. Source: HMA Fire.

The Sierra County Commission approved the purchase at its Jan. 19 meeting of an ultra-high-pressure fire suppressor and a Ford F-250 pickup truck to transport it.

The county will be the first firefighting entity in the state to acquire this equipment, which will improve response times and early containment of fires while conserving water, said Paul Tooley, the county’s emergency services administrator, in an interview with the Sun.

The suppressor, which is manufactured by HMA Fire, a leading UHP manufacturer based in Fall River, WI, will be obtained at a cost of $42,635 in a sole-source purchase from 411 Equipment in Albuquerque. The pickup will cost a little under $45,000. By comparison, a “brush” truck capable of going off-road costs $200,000; a ladder truck can cost as much as $1 million.

The investment in UHP capability, which will be paid for out of the emergency services department’s annual operating funds, will help county firefighters fulfill their motto to “get the wet stuff on the red stuff” more quickly, Tooley said. The pickup can be more rapidly deployed than a fire engine to the site of a fire, where first responders can set up the suppressor and begin to get the blaze under control without needing to wait until reinforcements arrive. 

The UHP suppressor will also make more efficient use of water. In places like Sierra County, where access to enough water is often an issue for firefighters, this is a big plus.

HMA Fire’s website features videos showing actual use of UHP to snuff out a variety of blazes. It also provides a water-usage comparison between conventional and UHP fire suppression. Fire fighters using conventional fire-fighting equipment (95 gallons/minute at 125 pounds per square inch) were able to extinguish 90 percent of a jet fuel fire in about a minute, using 95 gallons of water. With UHP (20 gpm at 1,450 psi), an equivalent jet fuel fire was extinguished completely in a little over half a minute, using just 13.6 gallons of water.

Here’s why the UHP suppressor uses water so efficiently. Water puts out fires by a combination of cooling and suffocating flames. Water droplets cool by absorbing the heat from the flames. As the droplet takes up heat, the water on the surface evaporates. That evaporated water, or steam, draws oxygen away from the flames, thereby suffocating the fire. According to the HMA Fire website, at ultra-high pressures, water droplets are about 1/64th the size of conventional droplets. This means that, in same volume of water, the smaller droplets will have about 10 times more surface area than a conventional droplet and can absorb much more heat.

Another advantage of UHP is that it causes significantly less water damage to property, Tooley said. With conventional fire suppression, only a fraction of the water used actually puts out the fire. The remainder pools up and causes water damage. With UHP, almost 100 percent of the water absorbs the heat of the fire, according to Tooley. 

Manipulating the UHP suppressor, which utilizes a ¾-inch hydraulic line rather than the approximately two-inch hose employed in conventional fire fighting, will be less physically taxing for firefighters. Although the pressure is higher, the volume of water is much less, so firefighters will not experience as much difficulty holding and directing the hose. Tooley likened the experience of using UHP to “painting the water on to the fire.” Clean up will be easier, too, as the hydraulic line can simply be rolled up into the truck.

The UHP suppressor accommodates the trademarked foam Sierra County emergency services uses to fight almost all fires. This is a non-toxic, biodegradable foam containing microbes that help degrade organic residues remaining after the fire.

The estimated delivery for the UHP suppressor and pickup truck is six to eight weeks. The department’s Ford F-150 will be donated to Las Palomas Volunteer Fire Department, where it will be repurposed for extrication.

As Sierra County will lead the way in employing UHP, Tooley expects emergency services to host a steady stream of visitors from fire departments in the region to see what the new equipment can do and how it performs.  


Debora Nicoll covers the Sierra County Commission for the Sun.

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


Sierra County Regional Dispatch Authority will buy radio tower and radios to “improve range immensely”
by Debora Nicoll | October 23, 2020

SCRDA's current radios and headquarters in the county administration building at 100 N. Date St. are so outdated, the investment is needed, the county manager...

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