Private Hydrant Malfunctions at Colo. Apt. Blaze

LAKEWOOD, Colo. --

The West Metro Fire Protection District has issued a Notice of Fire Code Violation to management at the Timberleaf Apartments in Lakewood after one of the complex’s private hydrants malfunctioned during a major fire Sunday.

Fire Chief Bruce Kral told 7NEWS that a crew on a medical call discovered the fire at 5:45 a.m.

A few minutes later, Doris Burton looked out her window and noticed the flames in the building next door.

She called 911.

“It was just a sheet of flames,” Burton said. “It was so bright, it looked like the sun was coming up early.”

Kral said the first fire crew on the scene hooked up a hose to the closest hydrant.

“The water started to flow, and then stopped,” Kral said. “Another truck was able to locate a second hydrant nearby. It functioned properly.”

Kral said that it’s the responsibility of the property owner to maintain a private hydrant and to inspect it annually.

“Those hydrants can go decades without being used,” he said. “They can rust and corrode shut. That’s why it’s important to maintain them and to lubricate the parts.”

When 7NEWS tried to ask apartment management about their last inspection, the maintenance director accused the news crew of “blowing (expletive) out of proportion.”

He then ordered the news crew off the property and ordered apartment residents to refrain from talking with news crews.

7NEWS asked the fire chief if he knew when Timberleaf conducted their last inspection.

He said, “They told me verbally it was within the last year. I’m still waiting for their paperwork.”

Kral said, “The management was issued a Notice of Code Violation with instructions on how to make those hydrants functional again.”

He said, if they fail to do so, they’ll be levied a fine.

When asked how much time they were given, Kral said, “Since we’re close to the holidays and there are several functioning hydrants adjacent to the complex we’ll work with them.”

He said it makes sense to get it done before the weather gets much colder.

Burton and her husband Charles said they had no idea that a hydrant had malfunctioned.

“I didn’t know about that,” Charles Burton said.

“It scares me to death,” Doris Burton added.

Lakewood is not the only community with private hydrants.

“There are quite a few in Denver too,” said Phil Champaign of the Denver Fire Department.

“It’s the responsibility of the owners to maintain them and to provide paperwork on their annual inspections so we have them for our files,” he said.

“Our biggest concern,” Champaign said, “is that some apartment communities are going into foreclosure and the inspections may not be getting done.”

Champaign said Denver Fire tries to avoid using private hydrants and instead uses those on the public right of way adjacent to private property.

Kral said regular hydrants can malfunction as well.

“It’s always important to have a second source for water in case there is a problem with the closest hydrant,” he said.

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