Lack of pressure in hydrant hindered fire control

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SHERIDAN — In the early morning hours of Sunday Hanna Cain stood outside the place she’s called home for the past eight years and watched it burn to the ground.

Now Cain and her three young children are focusing on starting over.

The four were at a friend’s house when they got a call that their apartment at the Lawrence Commons in Sheridan was on fire.

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When she got there, what she saw still sears her memory.

“My apartment was in flames. The fire department was standing there. No water hit it until 20 minutes after I got there,” Cain said.

It is Cain’s understanding that the fire started in her back bedroom.

“If the fire hydrants in front of my apartment had worked, they could have save my apartment and the other two,” she said.

South Point Fire Chief Richard Stevens said when his volunteer department arrived they could not get water from the hydrants in front of the complex.

“The only thing I can tell you is that when we arrived we pulled the fire hydrant and there was no water,” Stevens said. “It was not our area. That is the Hecla water system. We didn’t have anything to do with the water part of it.”

Tim Dalton, an engineer with the Hecla Water Association, said the hydrants in that area are not meant to be used to fight a fire, but can be used to fill up fire department pumper trucks.

“There is not enough pressure or flow,” Dalton said. “They can be used to fill up trucks. The lines aren’t big enough.”

Stevens said his unit brought a pumper with a 1,000- gallon supply until the tanker task force arrived.

The call went out 3:30 a.m. Sunday to the Lawrence Commons at 223 Township Road 1186.

Perry Township Assistant Fire Chief Larry Anderson said one apartment was a loss and a second sustained heavy fire and water damage. There were four apartments in that building. Anderson said both units were occupied.

Perry Township received mutual aid from South Point, Fayette Township, Burlington-Fayette, Coal Grove and Upper Township fire departments. Anderson said the amount of mutual aid needed was because of a lack of water at the site.

Now Cain, who works in the billing department at Continuumcare Pharmacy in Barboursville, is out looking for a new place for her family, who can stay for five days at the Grandview Inn under the auspices of the Red Cross.

“Community Action said I make too much money. They can’t help us,” she said.

If she can find a place in the next seven to 14 days, Red Cross can help with the first month’s rent and damage deposit, she said.

“It is awful, but we have a really good community. They’ve all pitched in and brought clothes and everything we may need,” Cain said. “Standing there watching it burn, everyone around me was telling me, it was going to be okay and they were going to help us and they meant it.”