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Fire call sparks need for water overview

Rather than trying to cobble together water supplies once they are on a fire call, city fire and public works officials are planning to walk through the city's water infrastructure to better equip crews to fight fires.

The plan has been ongoing but got renewed attention last month when city firefighters, unable to find a fire hydrant able to deliver the necessary water pressure, opened five hydrants before enough water pressure was available to put out a Grand Avenue fire.

Public works officials were at the scene to direct crews to a new 8-inch main nearby that would provide the right pressure.

The aging 4-inch mains that serve a larger portion in the area of Grand Avenue have been problematic in the past, said officials.

The plan is to work out the kinks in the aging system and update fire crews on the inner workings of the water lines.

It's an issue of old infrastructure and an old neighborhood. We continue to update as we can and can afford to do, said Bill McTygue, director of the Public Works Department.

Last year, public works put in a new 8-inch main to service new development in the area, said McTygue, but updates and the information available to fire crews is sporadic.

Typically fire crews don't need public works officials on hand because many of the fires can be fought with the water infrastructure as is. But the Wednesday, Jan. 23, fire on Grand Avenue was larger than a typical blaze and required a greater volume of water. In those cases the DPW is on hand to help.

It took crews longer than expected to extinguish the blaze at the two-story, four-unit apartment. The building's roof and many of its structural supports were badly damaged.

McTygue and Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Robert Cogan plan to study the aging mains to learn how and what can be done to bolster water pressure and improve service to the hydrants.

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