West Knox and Lily firefighters called to battle a house fire on Lark Ave. Saturday morning were faced with a broken fire hydrant.
West Knox Fire Chief Darryl Baker said firefighters hooked up the hydrant in the subdivision off of Oak Ridge Church Road about 2 a.m., but when they opened the valve to release the water, nothing happened.
“It doesn’t happen very much,” Baker said of a broken hydrant noting he has seen it five or six times in his 30 years as a firefighter.
Baker said firefighters received help from neighbors to pull the hose approximately 400 feet down the street to another hydrant.
“They all grabbed hold and starting pulling it,” Baker said of the neighbors noting that the length of hose weighs 300 to 400 pounds.
Firefighters were able to use water stored on the trucks to work on extinguishing the blaze while the hose was moved.
Baker said West Knox arrives on the scene of a structure fire with 4,000 to 4,200 gallons of water already on the trucks, depending on which station they are coming from.
“We have a pumper, pumper tanker and a tanker,” Baker said. “When we run, we run with the same things whether there are going to be hydrants or not.”
West Knox and Lily fire departments have an automatic mutual aid agreement, meaning when one department is paged to a structure fire the other is automatically paged.
“Lily brings another 3,000 gallons,” Baker said. “On most structure fires we won’t use 7,000 gallons.
Baker said in the rare circumstance when more than that amount of water is required, firefighters have about 15 minutes before the trucks run dry.
“We came extremely close, but we never ran out of water,” Baker said of Saturday’s fire.
Baker said he has not spoken with officials with the Laurel County Water District, but emphasized that he is not blaming them for the malfunction.
“It is just one of those things that happens,” Baker said. “Every now and then, something is going to tear up.”
“This is not Laurel Water’s fault.”
Water district officials told WKYT they were not aware that the hydrant was broken.
Baker said while residents in many communities are used to seeing firefighters flushing, checking and maintaining hydrants, the responsibility actually lies with the water company.
“The reason we (volunteer firefighters) don’t do it, is that they (water company) want it to be done between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and most of us work,” Baker said adding the water companies will supply the departments and residents with hydrant pressures, flows and a map of hydrants upon request.
“We are used to using tankers to supply water,” Baker said of his firefighters. “If the hydrants are there, we use them. If not, then we use the tankers.”