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The Domino Effect
by Mark van der Feyst

Handicap firefighting: Water source issues

Whenever we respond to structure fire, having access to, securing water source is vital component of overall fireground operation

By Mark van der Feyst

Whenever we respond to a structure fire, having access to and securing a water source is a vital component of the overall fireground operation.

Our water sources will either be a pressurized source such as a hydrant or a supply source such as a body of water or a water shuttle operation.

Either way, it is important to have unobstructed access to our water sources. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on hydrants mainly in an urban setting. Whenever we have hydrants that are blocked by vehicles, obstructed or not working, we begin the domino process of smaller problems leading up to a bigger problem.

This can be true when the first due apparatus arrives on scene, only to have their immediate hydrant unavailable or obstructed, which slows down securing the water source thus allowing the fire to grow substantially.

In May last year, the Calgary Herald ran a story about the parking problems with taxis in the downtown core of the city. To alleviate the congestion problem, the taxis would be allowed to park in front of hydrants, freeing-up short term parking spots for customers.

Another news story that was printed in November in The Jersey Journal showed a fire department SUV being parked in front of a hydrant at a lounge. This vehicle had been parked there for several hours, blocking the hydrant.

Finally, in the video below, a police car is seen arriving at a structure fire and parking right in front of the hydrant. The responding engine from Detroit has to blow its air horn to get the attention of the police officer so that he can move his car out of the way. In all three cases, the hydrants are being blocked or obstructed.

What can be done to help alleviate this handicap? A proactive approach needs to be taken by the fire department to ensure their hydrants are unobstructed by parked vehicles.

This can be done by the Fire Chief lobbying city council to amend and remove any loopholes or exemptions that will allow taxis, for example, to park in front of hydrants.

The Fire Chief along with the Prevention division can also lobby parking enforcement to ticket and remove parked vehicles that are found in front of hydrants. If the offender is a fire department employee such as in the case in North Hudson, then disciplinary action needs to be enforced by the Fire Chief.

Another proactive approach is to cross-train with EMS and Police with, educating them on fire ground operations. Many times the fire department will-cross train with EMS in knowing the locations of certain equipment on the ambulance so that we can be of better assistance to them.

The same happens with police, with education from them on where to park our apparatus at motor vehicle collisions and what to be careful of at a crime scene with our presence. The fire department would benefit if we cross-trained with both agencies to educate them on where they should not park their vehicles when arriving on scene.

As we are also citizens of our local communities, we can also voice our concerns to our elected officials about such matters in an effort to make them aware of the implications of their actions.

By indentifying and controlling the dominos in a quick and proactive way, we will eliminate any handicaps that may develop with regard to securing our water source.

About the author

Mark van der Feyst is a 13-year veteran of the fire service. He currently works for the City of Woodstock Fire Department in Canada. Mark is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He also a Local Level Suppression Instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, and an Instructor for the Justice Institute of BC. You can contact Mark with feedback at Mark.vanderfeyst@firerescue1.com.


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