Marked Hydrants Help in Response to Tire Shop Fire

Posted January 22, 2008 at 4:41pm

A D.C. fire department official said Tuesday that the department was able to mount a successful response to Monday’s three-alarm fire at a Northeast tire shop, suggesting that improvements have been made to the city’s firefighting system since the department’s poor performance in two disastrous fires last year.

Monday’s fire destroyed Jimmy’s Tire Shop, located at 1215 K St. NE, in a blaze that took about four hours to contain. Employees in the building escaped, but one firefighter was treated at a hospital and released.

According to fire department spokesman Alan Etter, firefighters encountered none of the problems that plagued them in in the responses to an April fire at the Georgetown library and an October fire at a condominium building in Adams Morgan.

Broken hydrants slowed the Georgetown response. At the Adams Morgan blaze, hydrants were not marked to show their water capacity and powerful hydrants went unused.

The hydrants used to combat Monday’s fire were working and properly marked, Etter said.

“The responding units knew that they had smaller water mains … so we were able to station water supply companies and extra engines around the area” to effectively fight the fire, he said.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) passed a bill after the Adams Morgan fire directing the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which oversees the water supply, to color code each hydrant according to its capacity.

“I was very glad that Chief [Dennis] Rubin reported our firefighters were able to tap into the right hydrants and get all the water pressure they needed to fight this 3 alarm blaze,” Wells said in a statement.

According to Etter, the fire department has tested each of the city’s more than 10,000 hydrants since April, and WASA is in the process of marking them.

“I think the Georgetown fire on April 30 began to illustrate the importance of knowing what hydrants work and what their capacity is,” he said.