Petersburg fire department to help public works check city fire hydrants

PETERSBURG, Va. -- For the second time this year, the Petersburg Fire Department had trouble using a city fire hydrant that did not work properly while fighting a fire.

Wayne Greene raced down the interstate in his tow truck Monday afternoon desperate to get back to his family's home near the intersection of N. Jones and High Streets, and do whatever he could to keep it from going up in flames.

"Everything my wife and I had was in there, clothing, pictures, jewelry," Greene said.

The Petersburg Fire Department bolted to the house fire too, yet almost ran out of water when they couldn't open the fire hydrant down the street, which wasted precious minutes to find another hydrant.

"They could not get it to turn at all," acting Battalion Chief Steve Yohe said.

Yohe told CBS 6 the fire department used to check every fire hydrant in the city to make sure they worked properly, but he said a few years ago the water department took over those duties.

"They started doing line testing, but I don't think they were doing any type of hydrant testing,” said Yohe.

Thankfully Firefighters found an alternate hydrant to use.

There were no injuries in the fire, but Greene and his family of five have been displaced.

Greene looked stunned when we told him about the issues with the hydrant right down the street.

"I hope that will end right here... little things like that holding the fire department up turns a small disaster into a major disaster," he said.

CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit brought Greene’s concerns to Petersburg Vice Mayor Sam Parham.

"I'm pretty mad. I'm really, really mad. I'm upset this hasn't been done," Parham said.

Parham told Hipolit the fire department is supposed to be working with department of public works to check the hydrants.

"Because the fire department knows where all these hydrants are... because they are the firefighters, I don't know why public works is involved in this," Parham said.

During Tuesday night's city council meeting, interim city manager Dironna Moore Belton addressed the fire hydrant issues.

She said fire hydrant maintenance is still being done throughout the city. She said over 300 of the city’s 1700 fire hydrants have been checked so far.

In fact, Belton said some hydrants haven't been checked since 1996.

Parham said the hydrant checks must be done as soon as possible as a matter of public safety.

After Parham's suggestion, Belton agreed to let the fire department be brought in to help public works check the remaining fire hydrants.