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Another Story on the Sad State of our Aging Infrastructure

  • 1 May 2014
  • networx

More than two dozen people are displaced after fire destroyed their apartment house in Schenectady.
Firefighters say a broken hydrant hampered their efforts to fight the flames.
The building is scheduled to be demolished — nothing can be salvaged, according to city officials.
However, it’s not because of the hydrant problem. Fire officials say the building was already too far gone when they got here.
The three story apartment house on Eagle Street in Schenectady went up in flames just before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Firefighters say it all started in the basement — but spread very quickly to the attic.
“These are wood framed, what we call ‘balloon construction,’ so there are no fire stops. The fire starts in the basement, then it travels throughout the building pretty freely,” explained Schenectady Fire Chief Raymond Senecal.
The entire roof and the third floor collapsed and the fire raged out of control.
“It’s a large wood frame building. There’s a lot of fire load,” said Senecal.
Their efforts to fight it was set back just a little bit by a broken fire hydrant.
“It’s a large fire. It requires a lot of water. So when you lose one hydrant, it can hamstring your operation,” Senecal explained.
He says most of the side street hydrants don’t carry enough water pressure for a fire this large. They had to use the hydrant about a block away on State Street — they’re connected to bigger lines and provide a more powerful pressure.
“We’re aware of that and we adjust for that early on in the fire,” said Senecal.
However, that hydrant broke. Fire crews had to hussle to find another hydrant on state street to get their water from — this as the fire continued to burn.
“These lines are a hundred years old. This particular hydrant was probably all of 70 years old and it’s just a mechanical failure,” Senecal explained.
Thankfully, the chief says, everyone got out safely. One firefighter had a minor injury. The crew was able to keep the fire from spreading to the other properties nearby.
The water lines to the hydrants are probably 100 years old. Senecal says the hydrants themselves are about 70 years old. It was simply a mechanical failure.
The 25 people now looking for a new place to stay are being helped temporarily by the Red Cross.