Thursday, September 11, 2008

Burning Down The House

Are the fire hydrants in your neighborhood turned on?
By CHRIS HAWES / WFAA-TV

ROCKWALL COUNTY - A North Texas homeowner wants you to learn from his family's tragedy.

The fire hydrants in his neighborhood are turned off.

But he didn't know that until June 24th, the night his house caught fire.

"My grandfather died last year. My wife's grandfather died last year. All our pictures were the biggest thing that we lost," said Eric Aderholt.

It didn't have to happen. When the fire began, firefighters from around Rockwall County responded quickly.

But when they went to hook hose to hydrant, there was no water.

"No one ever told us that they were turned off," said Aderholt.

Clay Hodges is the general manager of Cash Special Utility District.

He explains all the district's hydrants, including those in Alexander Ranch, have had their water turned off since just after 9/11 - something a trade association spokesman tells us is common practice for rural systems.

"These hydrants need to be cut off in a way to prevent vandalism or any kind of terrorist activity, including something in the water lines," Hodges said.

But Hodges says fire departments know, or should have known, the water valves can be turned back on with a tool.

"All our fire departments, at least the local ones, I know were notified of that."

But, when firefighters came to the Aderholt's home, no one had that tool.

By the time someone brought it, it was too late.

The neighborhood association's now working to get the tools in the hands of homeowners, as an extra precaution.

Cash Water's also sent out a letter letting fire departments know they're welcome to use the hydrants, if there's enough water pressure but reminding them they'll have to turn on the water first.

"It was a tragic situation we don't like to see that happen to anybody, especially one of our water customers," said a company representative.

You may have noticed the fire hydrants along Aderholt's street are black, not red.

In Texas, that legally warns firefighters they may not function - private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.

They maintain the hydrants are technically only there to help flush out and clean their systems.
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