Unexpectedly dry fire hydrant problem for Tucson fire

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's something you really count on in the case of an emergency.

But what if a fire hydrant isn't working and no one, not even firefighters, knew about it

That happened during a house fire 2 days ago.

"The fire fighter was testing that hydrant and we found out the hydrant was not working at that time," Captain Trish Tracy from the Tucson Fire Department.

It's not uncommon for a hydrant not to be working, but usually out of service hydrants carry a special ring around it a a sign that it's out of service.

And the fire department is usually first to know from Tucson Water that it's out of commission

Neither of those things happened on Wednesday.

"When we respond to a fire typically the dispatcher will tell us which hydrants are out of service, in this case that information wasn't available," said Capt. Tracy.

Tucson Fire was able to get the three people who lived in the apartment out But in a situation when seconds matter, an out of service fire hydrant could have made this outcome much worse

"We take this very seriously," said Tracy.

Tucson Water's Fernando Molina has been trying to figure out why that hydrant wasn't ready to spew water.

"We're having to go back to see if the other water company may have had some construction related work or work going on in that service area that maybe the contractor may have shut a valve off, not knowing it was a Tucson Water valve," said Molina.

And why they may not have known is because this area is particularly tricky Just south of miracle mile, all the hydrants are operated by Tucson Water, but north of the intersection, the Flowing Wells irrigation district is in charge of the hydrants.

Something happened, and Tucson Water wasn't informed.

"This is a case where we're still looking into that," said Molina

Tucson operates 20,000 fire hydrants in the city And when this one was needed for emergency The odds of it working were favorable.

"I think this is just an anomaly.  For some reason that valve was turned in an off position," said Molina.

Construction was going on across the street at the police station, but it's not clear it had anything to do with the faulty hydrant.

Fortunately, there were alternate hydrants nearby.  Fire department trucks also carry 750 gallons of water, which usually can last between 5-10 minutes before running out.