‘It was terrifying’: Investigation underway into malfunctioning fire hydrants in southeast Calgary fire

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WATCH: An investigation is underway after residents in southeast Calgary say a lack of water pressure in fire hydrants delayed firefighting efforts in a blaze that damaged two homes last weekend. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports on the investigation and the city's efforts to reduce response times in the deep south – Nov 10, 2019

Residents of the southeast Calgary community of Legacy are raising concerns about fire hydrants they say were malfunctioning a week ago when two homes were damaged by fire.

READ MORE: Arson unit investigating after 2 southeast Calgary houses go up in flames

Lorne Podiluk lives across the street from the home that burned down. He could only watch helplessly as his neighbour’s new house went up in flames last Sunday.

“It was terrifying to know that the same thing could happen to us,” Podiluk said

Fortunately, no one was injured. But now neighbours are angry over delays in getting the fire out.

“I wouldn’t blame the fire department. They did a good job, but when you have no water to work with, they can’t fight a fire,” Podiluk said.

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Fire hydrant in the southeast Calgary community of Legacy states “Out of Order” on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

An “Out of Order” sign was posted on a fire hydrant across the street from the burned home. Residents said they could hear firefighters say there was no pressure in the hydrants when they showed up at the blaze last week.

“They literally couldn’t fight the fire because they had no pressure. They had a truck that was putting water on the house but it could barely reach the house. And the roof started going and it was a write-off from there,” Podiluk said.

He said he reported the issue to 311 and the city water department. Podiluk said he was told the city is investigating.

Calgary crews responded to a fire in the Legacy neighbourhood on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. James Hill/Global News

Mike Henson, the president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, said the closest hall to the fire in Legacy was in Midnapore, but there wasn’t an engine in the No. 26 station that afternoon.

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“The first-in engine to that fire was over 12-and-a-half minutes, and you can see the damage of what happens when a fire gets a 12-and-a-half minute headstart on our crews. The Calgary Fire Department resources are stretched thinner and thinner to try and protect properly those communities. The Legacy fire was a prime example of that,” Henson said on Sunday.

Temporary fire hall announced

Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong said there is an investigation underway involving city water, the fire department and the area developer to find out what happened with the water pressure.

In the meantime, Demong announced that a new temporary portable fire hall will be built by June 2020 in the neighbouring community of Walden that will help reduce response times. It will house four firefighters and one engine at the corner of Walden Drive by Walden Common.

Two houses in Calgary were engulfed in flames on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019.
Two houses in Calgary were engulfed in flames on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Courtesy: Larry Zaleschuk

“It is always a concern… but you have to realize when you’re moving into a brand new community that services generally will come after the fact,” Demong said.

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“We, for the most part, make sure that the fire department is well-manned the best we can, but sometimes stuff happens, and it’s an unfortunate situation. My heart goes out to those people who have lost their homes, and I sincerely hope something like that doesn’t happen again.”

READ MORE: Longer wait times expected following budget cuts: Calgary fire chief

Henson said the temporary fire hall is a great idea but added it should have been built a year ago. Demong said it could be years before a permanent fire hall will be built at the site in Walden, adding it will depend on Calgary’s economy and how rapidly the area builds out.

“With the development levies, that’s where our capital dollars come forward, and once we have enough capital dollars from the build-out of the communities, that’s when we will build the actual permanent fire hall and we will move the temporary one to another location,” Demong said.

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