HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Six people lost their home in a fire on Fairfield Avenue back in September because fire hydrants near the house weren’t working properly. Some of the pipes on Fairfield Avenue in Holyoke are from 1883, and the slim pipes only have so much capacity.
Plans have been in the works to improve the systems, but it turns out, there are parts of the city where the situation is even worse.
Head of Holyoke’s water system, David Conti, said areas throughout Holyoke have small, low capacity pipes that can’t provide the pressure needed to support a hydrant. The city has been upgrading the pipes for decades, but it’s a long, multi-million-dollar process.
In the ’90s, the solution suggested by a deputy fire chief was to identify the high capacity hydrants and mark them.
“So that, in the event that there is a fire in an area that has limited capacity, the fire department can go to these hydrants, and they can use these hydrants to supplement that area,” said Conti.
These high capacity hydrants have a pumper cap painted white. It was this type of hydrant that was ultimately used on Fairfield Avenue after a house burned down because the nearby hydrant had low water pressure.
The incident brought about questions about hydrant flushing, and despite state law, the city had fallen behind.
“We have to flush annually yes,” said Conti. “The last time we did that was 2017. The cost was one thing and we also lost the individual that oversaw the program.”
Conti said a lack of flushing had nothing to do with the hydrant not working on Fairfield Ave., and he said they will now be doing hydrant flushing throughout the city.
So, what’s next? The city is filled with old pipes, and the latest multi-million dollar upgrades will take place in three phases in high priority areas. The first in the lower wards, which will begin in the spring of next year. In parts of the lower wards, the situation is even worse than Fairfield Ave.
Conti told 22News, “South East Street is so bad we actually removed the fire hydrants on it, so the fire department couldn’t use them.”
Leaving them to rely on hydrants on neighboring streets.