Petersburg firefighters wrestle with faulty hydrants as house burns

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 18:25:18-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- When Petersburg firefighters arrived to a housefire on Byrne Street, flames were shooting through the roof and out of the windows. They knew water would be crucial to their efforts.

"Fighting fire is all about water supply,” Retired Sgt. Gene Beemer, with The Petersburg Firefighters Union.

A hydrant sat directly across the street from the fiery home.

But, Tuesday morning firefighters had a problem getting the steamer cap off.

"When they attempted to open the hydrant, they had difficulty removing the steamer caps,” said Mark Milazzo, acting fire chief, Petersburg Fire Department.

Firefighters turned instead to a hydrant about 1, 000 feet away, which had issues as well.

Fire on Byrne Street.

Fire on Byrne Street.

On the audio broadcast of the emergency call, firefighters can be heard: “We need a second water supply.  I can't get no pressure on this hydrant."

Residents along Byrne Street expressed concern.

"You should always have the hydrants working, you should always come check and make sure cause you never know when you're going to need it, that's a big safety issue,” said Breeanna Green.

The city said that the fire hydrant maintenance problem was discovered last summer.

Public works and the fire department have worked together to try and check the city's 1,500 hydrants – some which hadn’t been checked in a decade.

"To date, we’re at about 85 percent complete,” said Daniel Harrison, the Interim Director of Public Work.

"It should be a priority immediately, they should be out here today doing it,” Beemer said.

While firefighters are well aware of the low water pressure with fire hydrants in the Byrne Street area, hydrants not working is a big concern.

"During the investigation after the fire, we realized this was one of the hydrants that was part of our testing procedure that had taken part in the latter part of last year and that was one of the hydrants reported to the utilities division for repairs,” said Milazzo.

"The union is very concerned about it, not only for the firefighters safety, but for the citizens,” Beemer said.

It’s important to point out that because of the amount of fire and smoke visible when firefighters first arrived on scene, the hydrant issue is not considered a factor in the death of person inside this house.

But some are concerned if this issue isn't addressed and corrected properly that the next time it may be.

As for that hydrant, it has now been repaired.

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