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News 5 Investigates: Water pressure issues hinder firefighting efforts


HOUSE FLOOR IN THE NEXT 2-WEEKS. A COLORADO SPRINGS HOMEOWNER WATCHED HIS HOUSE BURN DOWN AS FIREFIGHTERS STRUGGLED TO ACCESS WATER. NEWS FIVE INVESTIGATES UNCOVERED PROBLEMS WITH NOT ONE… NOT TWO… BUT THREE NEARBY HYDRANTS. WORSE— CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER ERIC ROSS FOUND THE CITY KNEW ABOUT POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH ONE HYDRANT YEARS PRIOR… ERIC— 4 YEARS AS A MATTER OF FACT AND WE’LL GET TO THAT IN JUST A MOMENT… COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES MAINTAINS MORE THAN 16 THOUSAND HYDRANTS AND WHILE WE HOPE THAT EVERY ONE OF THEM IS WORKING PROPERLY ALL THE TIME—THAT’S NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. THE BIG QUESTION HERE IS: HOW DO THREE HYDRANTS—ALL ON DIFFERENT STREETS BUT WITHIN A HALF MILE RADIUS FROM EACHOTHER–FAIL? CALL TAKER: “COLORADO SPRINGS 9-1-1. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF YOUR EMERGENCY?” HOMEOWNER: “I HAVE A FIRE AT 404 SPRING STREET.” JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT ON A COLD SATURDAY MORNING—-JASEN KINNEY’S HOUSE WENT UP IN FLAMES. JASEN KINNEY: “MY HOUSE IS BURNING DOWN!” CALL TAKER: “I KNOW JASEN, OKAY. THEY ARE GETTING TO YOU AS QUICKLY AS THEY CAN.” FIRE: “WE HAVE A WORKING FIRE. ENGINE 3 WILL INITIATE SPRING COMMAND.” FIVE MINUTES LATER—THE FIRST UNIT ARRIVES ON SCENE. THE STRUGGLE FOR ADEQUATE WATER BEGINS ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. FIRE: “WE ARE GOING TO NEED ANOTHER WATER SUPPLY.” “START ME A SECOND ALARM.” DISPATCH: “COPY. WE ARE GOING TO START A SECOND ALARM.” MORE TIME TICKS BY….AND FIRE CREWS ARE STILL HAVING PROBLEMS. FIRE: “YOU HAVE ENGINE 2 THAT IS WORKING, TRYING TO GET THEIR WAY IN THERE TO HELP OUT WITH THE WATER SUPPLY ISSUES AT THIS TIME.” COMMAND: “COPY. WE ARE WORKING ON THE WATER.” FIRE: “NO WATER YET. NEGATIVE. NO WATER.” I ALMOST GET THE FEELING THAT IF I DIDN’T WASTE MY TIME CALLING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT AND GOT MY GARDEN HOUSE, I WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF.” KINNEY SAYS HE WAITED….AND WAITED….AND WAITED….FOR FIREFIGHTERS TO PUT WATER ON THE FLAMES. “IT WAS AN HOUR AND A HALF AND THEY STILL DIDN’T HAVE ANY HYDRANTS GOING OR WATER SHOOTING OFF.” FIRE: ALMOST NO WATER. BARELY ABLE TO FILL A HOSE. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER WATER SUPPLY. COMMAND: “DO YOU NEED MORE STAFFING BACK THERE?” FIRE: “UH, JUST THE SAME THING EVERYONE ELSE IS CALLING FOR—JUST MORE WATER AND BETTER ACCESS TO GET THE WATER ON IT.” FIREFIGHTERS FIRST ATTEMPTED TO TAP INTO A HYDRANT DIRECTLY ACROSS KINNEY’S HOME…. THEN MOVED OVER TO THIS HYDRANT DOWN SPRING STREET WHERE THEY ENCOUNTERED MORE ISSUES WITH WATER PRESSURE…FORCI NG CREWS TO MOVE ONCE AGAIN—THIS TIME TO THE CORNER OF 15TH AND PLATTE. FIRE: “WE DON’T HAVE ANY WATER FROM THAT HYDRANT SO WOULD THE NEXT PLAN BE PLATTE AND 16TH?” AFTER THREE FAILED ATTEMPTS TO GET A WORKING FIRE HYDRANT WITH ADEQUATE WATER SUPPLY—- FIREFIGHTERS FINALLY FOUND A GOOD HYDRANT…. BUT BY THEN—-THE FIRE HAD ALREADY SPREAD AND WASN’T UNDER CONTROL UNTIL MORE THAN 2 HOURS AFTER THE INITIAL 9-1-1 CALL FOR HELP CAME IN. “I LOST EVERYTHING I HAD. THE HYDRANTS SHOULD BE WORKING. THAT SHOULD BE THE NORM.” WE TAKE PUBLIC SAFETY VERY IMPORTANT. WE KNOW HOW IMPORTANT HYDRANTS ARE. IT IS A HUGE TASK WHEN YOU THINK OF THE FACT THAT WE HAVE 16,000 HYDRANTS IN THE SYSTEM.” STEVE BERRY WITH COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES SAYS THE MAJORITY OF HYDRANTS ARE TESTED EVERY FIVE YEARS. OLDER HYDRANTS PRONE TO BREAKING DOWN ARE INSPECTED YEARLY…. NEWS FIVE INVESTIGATES SIFTED THROUGH PAGES OF INSPECTION DATA AND FOUND THE CITY DID NOT MISS INSPECTIONS FOR ANY OF THE THREE HYDRANTS IN QUESTION….BUT WE DID NOTICE SOMETHING ODD…. IN JUNE 2013—A WORK ORDER WAS PUT IN TO REPLACE THE HYDRANT AT 15TH AND PLATTE BECAUSE OF ITS AGE… THE HYDRANT WAS INSTALLED IN 1911 AND IF ANYTHING WERE TO BREAK—-REPLACEMENT PARTS ARE NOT AVAILABLE. THE FOLLOWING YEAR—-THAT SAME HYDRANT WASN’T DRAINING PROPERLY DURING TESTING. YET—C-S-U DIDN’T INSTALL A NEW HYDRANT AND CLOSE OUT THE WORK ORDER UNTIL OCTOBER 4TH OF THIS YEAR—-9 DAYS AFTER WE STARTED ASKING QUESTIONS…AND FOUR YEARS AFTER THE INITIAL REPLACEMENT ORDER WAS CREATED. ERIC ROSS: IS THAT ACCEPTABLE? ANSWER: EVEN AFTER THAT WORK ORDER, WHILE THERE WAS A LEAK, WE WERE ABLE TO KEEP IT IN OPERATION SO IF WE CAN DO THAT, LIKE THAT NEEDS TO WORK, IT NEEDS TO WORK.”======”WE PAY TAXES TO HAVE A WORKING INFRASTRUCTURE SO WHEN STUFF LIKE THAT NEEDS TO WORK, IT NEEDS TO WORK.”======WE ASKED COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES IF INSPECTING FIRE HYDRANTS MORE FREQUENTLY COULD HAVE PREVENTED AN OUTCOME LIKE THIS….THEY SAID NO…. REASON BEING—WATER PRESSURE LEVELS CAN VARY DAY TO DAY…AND WHEN IT’S COLD OUTSIDE—SOME OF THOSE LINES CAN FREEZE–HINDERING FIREFIGHTING EFFORTS. UTILITIES ALSO SAYS IT CAN’T INSPECT HYDRANTS IN THE WINTER. KINNEY DID FILE A CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION WITH THE CITY—-BUT IT WAS ULTIMATELY DENIED…. WE EXPLAIN WHY ONLINE RIGHT NOW—JUST HEAD TO KOAA DOT COM. BRIE- AFTER THE BREAK…

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