Hydrant Concerns Raised After Fatal D.C. Fire

The valve fell off before crews were able to turn the hydrant on and had to carry their hose one block away to reach a second hydrant.


WASHINGTON, D.C. --

Around 3:30 a person passing by a three story rowhouse near the intersection of 16th and Oak St. noticed heavy smoke coming from the top floor and window, according to fire officials. When firefighters arrived, they were met by flames shooting out of the roof at 3602 16th St.

After evacuating five family members and extinguishing the fire, firefighters found an adult male victim in a third floor bedroom. His death marks DC's 9th fire fatality this year.

Fire officials say it appeared there was renovation work being done on the top floor where the fire started. They found construction equipment and are still investigating whether that had anything to do with the cause.

"He was always working on his house," said a neighbor, Matthew Kappingerri, who lives next door to the house that caught on fire. "He was a very very nice man. This is painful."

Kappingerri was also upset to hear that the nearest fire hydrant fell apart when firefighters first arrived. The valve fell off before they were able to turn the hydrant on. Firefighters had to run with their hose one block away to reach a second hydrant.

According to Battalion Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite, the faulty hydrant didn't hamper firefighters.

Back in 2007, following the Georgetown library fire city officials began a program between DC Water and Sewer Authority and DC's Fire Department. Firefighters checked hydrants twice a year and reported any problems for DC Water crews to fix.

Last October, that program was cut for budget reasons and now, those hydrants are the sole responsibility of DC Water officials.

According to DC Water and Sewer Authority Spokesman Alan Heymann, the fire hydrant under scrutiny following Monday's fire had bee checked by firefighters in May and August. No problems were found.

In September, that same hydrant at the intersection of 16th and Oak St. was flushed by DC Water crews and they too found nothing wrong with the hydrant.

The problem has been flagged as a priority in the system, said Heymann. Crews will be checking the hydrant on Tuesday morning.

Republished with permission of WUSA-TV