8News Investigates: Fire hydrants outside Petersburg house fire fails to supply water

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — An 8News investigation uncovered some fire hydrants in Petersburg did not supply water needed to fight a house fire. The fire union there is demanding the city take action.

Firefighters responded to a house fire Tuesday morning off of Byrne Street where they found one man dead inside.

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When crews arrived on the scene, they spotted a fire hydrant directly located across the street.

Firefighters believed they had plenty of water to fight the fire. However, they came to find out the fire hydrant did not even work.

“It was no good what so ever,” said Gene Beemer with the Petersburg Professional Firefighter Association. “You might as well of had a truck parked right there. You couldn’t get any water out of it — it was useless.”

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Beemer says precious moments were wasted when firefighters first tried to start attacking the fire Tuesday morning.

“I would say anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes at least,” Beemer said.

Beemer says the firefighters used what little amount of water that could be carried on a fire truck, but that quickly ran out.

According to the Division Chief, the next hydrant they tried was one about a hundred yards away. That hydrant also had problems.

“When that hydrant was opened, it was discovered that there was low pressure on that particular hydrant,” said Mark Milazzo, with the Petersburg Fire Department. “That’s not uncommon for that area. There are hydrants throughout the city that do have low pressure and that’s for various reasons.”

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The hydrant would not supply enough water to fight the flames.

Firefighters then attempted a third hydrant that was located 300 yards away on the other side of the burning house. That hydrant did work.

Beemer is now worried that three hydrants had to be used to find one that would work properly.

“That’s a serious safety problem, not only from the firefighter’s standpoint but for the citizens,” Beemer said. “Time is everything in the fire service.”

Firefighters were unable to remove the cap from the hydrant right across the street — a problem that had been identified already with that specific unit months ago.

“I feel that that unit was identified and it was on a list,” Milazzo said.

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The chief says that list, which included roughly 30 other faulty fire hydrants, was sent to the water department to fix back in late summer or fall of 2016. The hydrant was never fixed.

8News reached out to the Director of Public Works and Utilities for comment but have not heard back.

The fire union wants to make clear that had the first two hydrants been working properly, it would have still been too late to save the man’s life inside the house.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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