Town manager gives update on Gate City fire hydrants

Holly Viers • Oct 18, 2019 at 9:30 AM

GATE CITY — Since Tuesday evening’s Gate City Town Council meeting, at which the primary topic of discussion was fire hydrants in the Manville community, Town Manager Greg Jones has released new information about the hydrants and about the history of house fires in that area.

During the meeting, several residents stated that four homes in the Manville community had been destroyed by fire in the last two years. At that time, neither Jones nor the town council members disputed those claims.

However, after consulting 911 records, Jones said on Wednesday that between 2009 and 2019, two homes were destroyed by fire: the home at 126 Elliott Drive last month and a vacant house, located at 194 Chestnut St., in 2017.

“There were six other house fires during this time,” Jones said in an email, “but all the homes are currently occupied and the structure appears to be sound.”

What about the fire hydrants?

Jones on Wednesday also provided background information on one of the hydrants that was in question at Tuesday’s meeting. He stated that the fire hydrant on Chestnut/Promise Street was replaced “several months prior to the fire in 2017.”

“The hydrant in this location is on a 4” line with a max capacity of 499 gallons per minute,” Jones said in an email. “The hydrant according to the inspection report is delivering 455 gallons per minute.”

Is there a backup plan for power outages?

As reported yesterday by the Times News, Jones said at Tuesday’s meeting that the fire hydrants were not working properly the night of the Elliott Drive house fire due to a power outage that occurred an hour before. The outage disabled the water pump that was responsible for creating water pressure on the Manville water line, leading to low water pressure from the hydrants.

Since that time, Jones said he consulted engineers to determine a price for a backup generator for the Manville waterline. The cost is expected to be around $100,000, Jones said.

What else is new?

Jones said he contacted Mike Paris from the state fire marshal’s office, who told him that there are no “standards of flow in neighborhoods.”

“Mr. Paris stated that each hydrant is color coded to the capacity available in the area,” Jones said in an email. “The hydrants should be tested every year in accordance to NFPA 291 standard 2019 to ensure the hydrant is producing the flow for which it’s rated.”

According to Jones, Paris also said there are no laws stating that a fire hose cannot cross a street or impede traffic, as was claimed by some Manville residents during Tuesday evening’s meeting. Jones added that it is illegal for traffic to cross over a fire hose and that fire departments can do “whatever is necessary to protect life and property.”