The status of the city's fire hydrants came to the fore after firefighters struggled with nonfunctioning ones at two fires within about a week of each other. A further review found about 55 out of service, less than had been expected based on efforts over the past decade to repair and replace nearly half of the city's 631 fireplugs.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, just hours before the meeting, gave an update on the completed audit of the hydrant system and proposed a borrowing of $300,000 to have the current 55 or so nonfunctioning hydrants replaced.
Mayor Thomas Bernard is asking the City Council to borrow $300,000 to fix the fire hydrant system.
In a press release on Wednesday afternoon, he also provided an update on the emergency survey undertaken after two serious fires highlighted the continuing deficiencies in the city's hydrant system.
City Councilor Jason LaForest had initially submitted the proposal for the creation of a "Fire Hydrant Division" with a request to refer to his Public Safety Committee but on Tuesday night instead asked it be fast-tracked to publication and a second reading.
The rest of the council balked at taking a shortcut in the process, rejecting the motion and voting 8-1 to send the language to the General Government with only LaForest voting no.
The first two trucks on scene shortly before 6 a.m. could not use the hydrant across the street from 47 Veazie and were forced to run hundreds of feet of hose down to River Street and, on the other side, down School Street trying to find working hydrants before they could even attack the blaze.
The problem with a non-working hydrant during a fire on Tyler Street earlier in the year was the result of a "field decision" by the contractor to shut down two hydrants, according to Commission of Public Utilities David Turocy.
In May, a home was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. They quickly ran a hose to a hydrant on Plunkett Street but no water came out. They carried it up to the next, and again no water came out.
Contractors must get written approval from city officials before shutting off the water to a contractor for now on.
In fighting the blaze on Tyler Street on Thursday firefighters were unaware that the contractor hired by the city to upgrade the water line on Plunkett Street had turned off the valve. Firefighters hooked up a hose by no water came out. They, joined by citizens, police officers, and emergency medical technicians, had to run the host 500 feet down Tyler Street to tap into another