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Low water pressure hampers Falls firemen at vacant house fire

NIAGARA FALLS – Low water pressure in a fire hydrant caused delays in battling a blaze Thursday morning in a vacant home on Pierce Avenue.

Firefighters were called to the building on the 700 block of Pierce between Whirlpool and Eighth streets just before 7 a.m. Flames were reported in the rear of the building, according to fire department radio transmissions.

There was a hydrant right outside of the house but, due to low water pressure on the street, firefighters had to stretch a hose past that hydrant and another to hook their lines up to a hydrant on Whirlpool Street.

Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo said this delayed putting out the fire by a few minutes. He admitted there are low pressure areas in the city; sometimes firemen know where the problems are before arriving at the scene but other times they are caught off guard.

He said it is not known how much difference the hydrant problem made in the Pierce Avenue fire. Since the house was vacant, firemen don’t know how far the fire had progressed inside before they arrived.

He said the department is working with the Niagara Falls Water Board, which regularly tests hydrants, to come up with a computerized map to identify problem hydrants.

Colangelo said new pumper trucks will have access to computerized maps that will guide them to the best hydrant when they head to a scene.

“It’s not just a problem in Niagara Falls, its a problem statewide,” Colangelo said of aging water lines.

He said the water lines, much like a blocked artery to the heart, fill up with erosion, causing the lowered pressure. Colangelo said the newer water lines are twice as large as lines of 40 to 50 years ago.

City firefighters were able to use a pumper truck when they first arrived to begin fighting the fire.