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Water woes: How local fire departments battle fires without hydrants

EAST BRANCH, N.Y. (WBNG) — If you look around East Branch, you won’t see any fire hydrants. Instead, fire crews have to pull water from the Delaware River.

“You feel helpless because you’re limited in your abilities because of your sources,” said Rod Keesler, Chief of the East Branch Fire Department.

On Monday, a century old structure, the East Branch Harvard United Methodist Church, caught fire. The church is so close to the fire department, that you can see one building when standing at the other. Due to a lack of fire hydrants, however, the fire department has to go a mile out of the way to the bank of the Delaware River. From there, they’ll truck back water, a process that takes time when firefighters are often racing against the clock.

“With this, you have to set ponds up, have excess man power to run the trucks, and get the water source set up, and set your shuttle,” said Keesler.

According to fire officials, fires spread extremely easily, especially when the building is old. The church was a total loss, leaving officials wondering if the situation would have been different if a fire hydrant system was in place.

“If you don’t get it knocked down enough to where you can control it enough for surrounding departments to come with tankers, then you’re back at square one. It’s going to ignite and stay ignited,” said Keesler.

In the winter when rivers begin to freeze, the fire department’s water source may not be reliable.

“You’re not only fighting the climate, you have to fight through the ice to be able to lay your suction in the river. It delays the process that much more,” said Keesler.

Katie Jones

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