Hydrant Comes Up Dry

Payson Fire douses flames, Hellsgate finds ‘decorative’ hydrant a problem



Photos by Pete Aleshire/Roundup

A non-functioning fire hydrant fooled Hellsgate firefighters.


Pete Aleshire/Roundup

A non-functioning fire hydrant fooled Hellsgate firefighters who were 300 feet of hose short of reaching the real hydrant down the street.

Hellsgate firefighters rushed to the scene of a trailer fire in Payson and got a surprise Monday afternoon when they tried to hook up to a “decorative” fire hydrant.

Luckily, Payson firefighters were already on scene and had doused the blaze in a matter of minutes with water stocked in the fire truck, before it could spread to the rest of the home.

However, even if crews had found the working hydrant, their hoses were not long enough to reach the home without an extension from another engine because the hydrant is located well outside of code, which states a hydrant should be placed every 500 feet in town.

Firefighters said around 1:40 p.m., a concerned citizen called to report smoke coming out of a singlewide trailer on East Phoenix Street.

Payson Fire Captain Toby Waugh was at Payson Regional Medical Center with his engine on a medical call when the fire call came over the radio.

Waugh and his crew responded to the home in a matter of minutes and quickly located the fire in the bathroom near the vent.

Firefighters sprayed the area with foam and had the blaze under control within 10 minutes, he said. The fire was officially out 10 minutes later.

“The foam does an awesome job and we don’t have to use large quantities of water,” he said.

Waugh estimated they only used 75 gallons of water to stop the fire from spreading from a small bedroom and bathroom.

“We were able to stop the fire right away in the void space,” Waugh said. “We saved a large portion, but there was smoke damage. We saved as many pictures as we could.”

While Waugh’s crew was inside, two units from Hellsgate Fire responded in accordance with the mutual aid agreement between the departments.

A crew immediately hooked up to the nearest fire hydrant, which turned out to be a decorative one no longer in service.

“The decorative hydrant has been there since I started in 1988, it was left from back in the day,” Waugh said.

“When Diamond Star (Hellsgate) came in and saw the red one they thought it was the one, when it was actually 300 feet down the road. Those guys are not from our district so they did not know that it is not even connected to the water line.”

Crews eventually hooked up to the hydrant 300 feet down the road, but had to wait wait for another engine to arrive and supply an extra 300 feet of hose to reach the home.

Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch said his crew laid out 1,000 feet of hose, but it was not enough to reach the hydrant located some 1,380 feet away from the property.

Fire code states hydrants should be spaced every 500 feet.

“There should be a hydrant in between there, but there are several places in Payson, especially in the old part of town, that were done back before it was adopted,” Hatch said.

A hydrant located across the Beeline Highway was closer, but police would have had to close down the highway to reach it.

“I made the recommendation to Payson Fire yesterday that that area should become a water tender area,” Hatch said.

“When it is almost 1,380 feet to the hydrant, the hoses just don’t get there.”

Firefighters save pet

The owner was not home at the time, but her cat, Baby, was briefly trapped inside.

“We saved the cat,” Waugh said. “It was hiding under the bed.”

Kassie Hesson said her mother, Dee, was not home because she was staying at hospice. Dee had lived on the property for at least 20 years, Hesson estimated. She was supposed to return home Monday.

Waugh said the trailer was a total loss.

“With the age of the model, it will be a loss,” he said.

“The reason is because it was not made to withstand a fire.

The cause of the fire was a ceiling vent in the bathroom that Waugh assumed was left on or overheated.

Waugh said the decorative hydrant should be moved away from the street to prevent another mix up.

“The hydrant should not be that close to the street,” he said. “I am hoping they find a way to have the person move it next to their home.”

Jim McIntyre, who was in the area at the time of the fire and did not know the hydrant was decorative, speculated the hydrant was not working because it was broken or not properly back flushed.

“They got to flush them and fix them every year,” he said.

“The poor fireman get to a fire and there is no water, what are they supposed to do, blow on it?”

Waugh said PFD maintains the hydrants throughout town regularly by flushing, oiling and painting them.

“We get to them as soon as we can,” Waugh said.


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