Frozen hydrants present difficulties for fire crews at two scenes

By Samantha Foster
Topeka Capital Journal – December 23, 2013

Fire crews’ efforts to fight blazes at two separate fires Monday were hampered by below-freezing temperatures and ice left over from the past weekend’s winter storm.

Outside 3021 S.W. Tutbury Town Road, where a garage fire was extinguished about 12:45 p.m., Mission Township Fire Chief Forrest Walter said his fire crew was unable to connect to a frozen hydrant on the street.

Luckily, Walter said, the water his crew’s trucks carried with them was enough.

A neighbor said five people were in the home at the time of the fire.

They are “great people,” she said. “Thank God everyone made it out safe.”

Walter wasn’t immediately able to confirm how many people were in the home when the fire broke out. However, he said, everyone was reported to have evacuated the residence before residents placed a call to 911.

Mission Township crews, assisted by Topeka Fire Station No. 12, were able to extinguish the blaze within about 10 minutes of arriving on scene, Walter said. But smoke, as well as substantial amounts of steam from the water expanding in the cold air, filled the air above the residence for some time afterward.

Walter said the cause wasn’t yet known, and there wasn’t a damage estimate. He said an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was en route.

The home is southeast of the intersection of S.W. 29th and Urish.

It was the second fire Monday in which frozen hydrants presented problems. Topeka Fire Investigator Rusty Vollintine said crews responding to a fire in a detached garage structure in East Topeka also were faced with a hydrant that was frozen over and unable to be used.

At that fire, which was reported about 1:30 a.m. at 1904 S.E. Lott, heavy smoke and flames were visible coming from the garage building. As they investigated further, firefighters saw the structure’s roof beginning to collapse.

“Initial attempts to obtain a water supply were unsuccessful due to the hydrant being frozen,” Vollintine said in a news release.

Fire crews were able bring the fire under control with the water carried on their vehicles before they were able to hook up their hoses to another hydrant.

Vollintine said that fire’s cause remained undetermined, but foul play wasn’t suspected. He said it likely began in the garage’s overhead attic spaces.

He estimated its damage at $7,500 to the structure and $2,500 in content loss.

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