As we reported previously, the City Council‘s Public Safety and Education Committee is scheduled to be briefed tomorrow on the big Arbor Heights fire from last August 27th.
(WSB video from 8/27/2011)
House fires don’t usually lead to council briefings, but in this case, multiple fire hydrants near the home were unable to adequately supply firefighters, who as a result could not get a handle on it quickly. Three documents are linked from the City Council agenda tonight, looking ahead to the briefing by Seattle Fire and Public Utilities leaders. While the first two focus on the fire response and what went wrong (as well as what went right), the third lays out a schedule for proposed water-main improvements to be built next year.
The tale of what went wrong at the fire scene is complex, going beyond the water-supply problems, though they are described in detail. The hydrants nearest the home were described as “dead” and “frozen” in the first document: “A sufficient water source had still not been located 12 minutes after the first unit arrived on scene.” And then: “32 minutes into the response, despite efforts to supply them from three different directions, E32 still didn’t have a viable water supply.” It wasn’t just the hydrants – they called for the “hose wagon,” but it turned out to be unavailable; they looked for the “hydrant main map book,” but discovered it was “no longer carried on the Chiefs’ apparatus.” Finally, after laying hose all the way to 35th SW – almost half a mile of hose, says the document – “35 minutes after the first rig arrived on scene, a positive water supply was established.” Ultimately, says the second document, “105 firefighters, officers and medics” were involved in the response.
The third document outlines the water-main-improvement plan; as we have reported in followups since August, in some cases SPU was able to put larger hydrants atop water mains that could provide better pressure with better equipment, but in some cases, the water mains themselves are too small – and have been since before the city annexed the area more than half a century ago. Per the briefing document, the process for the water-main improvements will begin with a community meeting next month. We will find out more when the council committee is briefed toward the end of its 9:30 am meeting tomorrow (if you can’t go, you can watch via the Seattle Channel, cable channel 21 or seattlechannel.org online – we’ll stream it here when this agenda item comes up).