In the wake of yesterday’s structure fire on Tyler Street, an incident which generated concerns about city hydrants and water availability, Mayor Linda Tyer convened an emergency meeting with city officials to address the matter and strengthen existing protocols pertaining to hydrants – creating a new standard for contractors who are hired to expand the city’s fire suppression system.
“First and foremost, I want to thank all of the emergency responders, as well as members of the community who came together yesterday and jumped right in to help manage a rapidly unfolding situation. It is a powerful testament to our community spirit,” said Mayor Tyer. “We also know that this was a serious incident that raised tremendous concern around hydrants. It’s vital that the community is aware of the immediate steps that we’re implementing and the comprehensive efforts in place around current hydrant maintenance throughout the city.”
The Department of Public Services and Utilities, of which the Water Department resides, will revamp the standard protocol in its bid documentation to now include written and detailed specifications for any construction work on hydrants that may lead to water shut-offs. Any future shut-offs must have prior written approval from city officials.
During yesterday’s incident on Tyler Street, a hydrant that was under construction was shut off unbeknownst to city officials.
For the last four weeks, starting April 22 and ending May 17, the city’s annual hydrant flushing was in effect throughout all sections of the city. City-owned hydrants, which are painted yellow, are flushed as part of this process. This does not include privately-owned hydrants in developments, which are painted red, and are privately managed and maintained. For example, this includes the fire hydrants at Lake Onota Village, which experienced a fire earlier this year.
Flushing also allows the city to know which of the city hydrants may not be working to full capacity.
“We record any problems that are identified and the water department will begin a process to work on those hydrants. Also, we have a multi-phase, multi-year plan in place to manage the replacement of older hydrants,” said Commissioner David Turocy.
Commissioner Turocy also notes that older hydrants don’t mean they are out of service. “What this means is that they are of an older style. They may be leaking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work,” he said.
Anytime a hydrant has been flagged for an issue, that information is shared with several parties, including the fire department, to ensure public safety. Water Department officials first notify the fire dispatch facility in the communication center at the police department. This information is added to a daily list and shared with all fire stations. Hydrants will stay on this list until they have been repaired or replaced.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski says his team relies on this report. “Every morning, we get a printout of information, which includes hydrants that are flagged. This allows our guys to make plans for alternate water supply.”
Chief Czerwinski also notes that it is important to know that a hydrant included on this list doesn’t mean it’s non-functioning. “What it means is that it’s not working to our capacity. If a hydrant is completely out of service, then it will be bagged or tagged. It’s important for the community to know the process has been working.”
Residents who experience water issues or have concerns about nearby hydrants, should immediately call the Water Department at 413-499-9339.
Also, residents are encouraged to sign up for the city’s CodeRED notification system which sends alerts in the event of water shut-offs and other timely matters. Please visit the city’s website, www.cityofpittsfield.org for more information.