I just stumbled onto a troubling article. Authorities in Tennessee recently struggled to contain raging forest fires because some of the fire hydrants ran dry. According to the local Fire Chief, the reason was that “intermittent power outages caused interruptions to the pumping stations” which caused a loss of water pressure in different areas during the event.
Luckily the fires were ultimately contained, but make no mistake, this was an absolute disaster. This firestorm was huge – requiring the assistance of nearly 1,000 firefighters from 153 fire departments across the state. The damage ultimately covered more than 17,000 acres, as the conditions were ripe for the fire to quickly spread, with wind gusts up to 87 miles per hour. Thousands of structures across multiple counties were damaged, and 14 people died. Disgustingly, the fire was set on purpose by two teenagers.
The Silver Lining of Fire Hydrants Running Dry?
The entire story bothers me, but in terms of a silver lining, there is one huge lesson to be learned here. It is my understanding that the pumping stations did not have backup generators, which seems like a glaring oversight to me. Water utilities must have backup generation as part of their emergency planning. I believe that if the local pumping stations had backup power, the situation would have been far less severe. It is unacceptable for fire hydrants to ever run dry, especially when this apparently could have been easily avoided.