Lack of hydrants hurts St. Tammany firefighting efforts

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 9 at 6:42 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

MANDEVILLE, La. - Firefighters in St. Tammany Parish say there are not enough hydrants for them to do the best job possible when putting out fires.

The issue, that fire districts have been dealing with for years, was highlighted again last week when fire destroyed a home in Mandeville. It's the same problem that popped up when The Pointe Restaurant in Mandeville went up in flames three months ago, and when a business caught fire a few weeks ago in Covington. In all three cases, extra hoses and fire trucks had to be brought in just to get water to the fire.

"When we respond to a fire, the amount of water we can get or the closeness of the hydrant to where the fire is located, it makes a tremendous difference in the efficiency in which we attack the fire," St. Tammany Parish Fire Protection District #1 Chief Larry Hess said.

Aside from the issue of firefighters having to roll yards of hose down residential roads, and that hose blocking residents from getting home, if you live in an area where a fire hydrant is too far, you're probably also paying $800 more a year in insurance.

The parish says it's a problem that's not an easy one to fix.

"On water systems, you have to have at least a six-inch water line to have a hydrant connected to it. A lot of investor-owned utilities, many public utilities, constructed water lines that only have two-inch lines," St. Tammany Parish Director of Environmental Services, Greg Gordon, said,

So while fire departments buy more equipment than necessary to work around the issue, the parish looks for money to expand its water lines, but it can't make private water systems do the same. Firefighters are hopeful their jobs will get easier, one day.

The parish says it will continue searching for grants to improve its water systems and putting pressure on private systems to follow suit.

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