Ensuring Fires Can Be Fought

Among the most frustrating surprises firefighters encounter is arriving at the scene of a blaze, hooking a hose to a hydrant and finding no water is flowing. It happens from time to time, often because of malfunctioning or inoperable hydrants.

That was not the problem on July 17, after a home on Dry Ridge Road near Cameron exploded and burned. A fire hydrant within a few feet of the house had been turned off.

Firefighters, especially those serving rural areas, usually have tanker trucks available or on call from other departments, to deal with the need for water when it cannot be obtained from hydrants. But that can delay fighting blazes and, of course, it can be a serious challenge when a tanker runs dry.

As we reported last week, the July 17 situation was investigated. Marshall County Public Service District No. 4 board member Dean Pettit told our reporter that when the hydrant in question was opened, it was found someone had turned it off. The hydrant was in working order.

Pettit speculated the hydrant may have been turned off by “someone who has a grudge … That would be a horrible thing for someone to have to live with …”

It is virtually impossible to prevent such activity, of course. That leaves firefighters only the option of coping with hydrants that have been turned off.

Hooking hoses up to fire hydrants, then starting water flowing, is an integral part of training for both volunteer and paid fire departments. What about dealing with malfunctions or intentional shutoffs?

If that is not part of the training regimen for firefighters, it should be. They should understand how to turn on hydrants that have been shut off, and fire trucks should carry whatever tools are needed for the job. Perhaps local water departments and public service districts could help with both training and tools.

All the expensive fire fighting equipment and training in the world is of no use, after all, unless there is water available to douse a blaze.

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