If your home or property catches fire will the fire department have enough water to extinguish it quickly? If your home or business is in the City of Brazil, the answer is -- maybe.
The city is facing the problem of aging fire hydrants and supply system. One in five hydrants in the city, 20 percent, does not function. The non-functioning hydrants have been painted black to provide quick reference to firefighters.
Some hydrants are nearly 100 years old, which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to purchase parts. The city buys replacement parts from a company named Waterous but they can supply parts only 60 years old or newer.
"We are working hard to get this problem fixed," said Fire Chief Tobey Archer.
Another problem facing the city is the aging pipeline water delivery system. Water lines are about are as old as the hydrants. Pipes supply water to the hydrant and the fire engine then pressurizes the water into the hose used to extinguish the fire.
"The engine doesn't make water, it can only pump what is given to it," said former firefighter and Clay County Redevelopment Commissioner Rob Moore. "You may have an eight-inch line going to the hydrant but when the line is gummed up with lime it might actually be 2 inches."
Why can't the city just replace the aging hydrants? The average cost of purchasing a hydrant is $3,000. There are approximately 47 broken hydrants in the city, costing more than $140,000, a difficult, if not insurmountable budget issue in light of the court-ordered sidewalk replacement to make the city's sidewalks handicapped accessible.
Another issue concerning hydrant replacement is safety. When a hydrant is replaced, most of the city's water system has to be shut off because the system does not have shut-off valves to isolate hydrants. If a fire would occur in the city during the time the system is shut down, firefighting would be made more difficult.
The department has purchased a 5-inch diameter line to aid water flow from hydrants to the trucks.
"We bought the technology but we still have the problem of providing the water," said Moore. To utilize the 5-inch diameter line the hydrant has to have a steam valve and not every hydrant has the correct valve.
The Redevelopment Commission is planning to help the city address the problem. A property study is necessary and it is hoped the study will be funded by the Redevelopment Commission and the City.
Once the study is completed the City can apply for grants to correct these problems.
Money will come in part from tax increment funding to extend City water along S.R. 59 to I-70. The reason the City wants to extend water lines to the interstate is economic growth.
Moore hopes the pipeline/fire hydrant problem will be properly addressed.
"For the problem to be corrected it will mean tearing up streets and sidewalks, but if it is going to be done, it needs to be done right the first time," he said.