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Cincinnati Will Test All Fire Hydrants After Low Flow Hindered Firefighter Efforts

fire hydrant

Cincinnati is developing a plan to test the water flow of more than 14,000 fire hydrants in the city. It comes after a house fire on Rose Hill Avenue in North Avondale in November where firefighting efforts were hampered by low flow from hydrants on the street.

Fire and water works officials say a six-inch water main on the street was not able to provide the water pressure needed to fight the fire.  Crews eventually were able to get more water pressure from a larger main on Paddock Road.

There are similar six-inch water mains located throughout the city that could cause similar problems.

City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee heard testimony about the issue Monday.

Assistant Fire Chief Anson Turley says the flow tests from hydrants will help with the department's response.

"We want to mark the areas of the city and the hydrants that don't provide that ideal flow," Turley said. "Once we have that information, we can partner with CAGIS - our geographic information system - we can put that information in a database, we can make that not only available to the firefighter in the firehouse, but we're going to work with dispatch to make that information available to the firefighters as they respond to the runs."

The fire department would like to have the average flow from a hydrant to be about 1,000 gallons per minute. But that's not possible in all locations, and if the department knows that in advance, they can have a backup plan.

"When we have that information beforehand, we can pre-plan those areas in the city and know beforehand as we arrive that we're going to have to alter our tactics to deal with the fact that we may have not enough water in these areas," Turley said.
The fire department's union, Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, said the issue has been known about for some time. Union President Matt Alter said it was included in a safety report in 2012 for a similar fire in Over-the-Rhine.

Alter is also concerned about who will pay for conducting the flow tests.

"What I don't want to have this happen is this become a cost-shifting issue of, 'Well here's what it's going to take Fire Department; you're going to have to absorb this from your budget,' " Alter said. "There's no money in the Cincinnati Fire Department budget to absorb this."

Meanwhile, council is expected to approve a motion Wednesday asking water works to replace the six-inch water main on Rose Hill Avenue.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.