ABC11 Investigates

Raleigh works to keep hydrants flowing

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The City of Raleigh is trying to make sure firefighters don't encounter a broken fire hydrant like they did during a fire Tuesday in the 600 block of Quarry Street.

Five people were displaced in the fire. Firefighters arrived within three minutes but their closest hydrant was out of order. It was something they did not know about in advance. It was something the Utilities Department is supposed to pass along but didn't.

"It could have been a disaster that fire yesterday," said concerned resident Maurice Hinton.

People in the neighborhood have their concerns and firefighters are relieved that everyone got out safely.

"We were all fortunate in this case," said Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Barry Spain.

Fire trucks have about 500 gallons of water on board and another truck was called to the scene to hook up additional hoses. Water was also pumped from a hydrant two blocks away.

The ABC11 I-Team asked Assistant Utilities Director Whit Wheeler what went wrong.

"The valve crew did not know they needed to report it to the fire department," said Wheeler. "It was an unfortunate communication issue that we have taken care of. As of last night, all of our valve crews know that they should forward that information."

On Wednesday, a crew replaced the broken hydrant near Quarry Street. The city has three crews doing inspections daily.

"We do a minimum of 25-30," said hydrant inspector Chris Bailey. "If we find problems, maybe less. If we don't, maybe more."

It's a daunting task when you consider there are more than 25,000 hydrants across the city. They are lucky to get to each hydrant once every two years.

Nearly every week, crews come across at least one fire hydrant that needs to be repaired or replaced. Problems range from old and irreplaceable parts to damaged hydrants.

"Cars will hit it and no one reports it to us, so we don't know," said Utilities Supervisor Kenny Horton.

Starting next month, Raleigh firefighters will begin inspecting hydrants in their areas in hopes of getting to each hydrant once a year instead of every two years.

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