A very unusual sight very early Thursday morning in one of Washington, DC’s premiere nightspots. Adams Morgan became a giant laboratory, as DC Fire & EMS and the DC Water & Sewer Authority (WASA) tried to replicate the water flow during the 4-alarm fire on Adams Mill Road on October 1st. The fire was the latest problem in an ongoing dispute between the fire department and the water agency.
DC Fire & EMS Chief Dennis Rubin has contended that old, four and six-inch mains surrounding the fire building, along with a hydrant at a 16-inch main, nearby at 18th Street and Columbia Road, did not supply enough water to fight the fire. Firefighters were forced to get water from hydrants much further away. Rubin said at the time that fire crews created an above ground water main, with two runs of large diameter hose, each stretching 2,000 feet to Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street.
WASA has insisted the hydrant on Columbia Road should have been adequate to fight the fire, providing 3500 gallons of water per minute. DC’s testing shortly after the fire showed the hydrant flowing at about half that amount.
Battalion Chief Kenneth Crosswhite said the early morning testing, at multiple hydrants, was done to show the actual conditions firefighters faced. Crosswhite said when the many hydrants were opened the morning of the fire, the water flow dropped dramatically.
WASA crews worked alongside DC firefighters preparing for the test. Chief Dennis Rubin brought in two experienced fire chiefs to consult on the project and look at the department’s actions during the fire. Gordon Routley is a former chief in Shreveport, LA and was an assistant chief in Phoenix, AZ. Routley, who watched the tests with Chief Rubin inside the mobile command post, is currently leading an investigation into the deaths of nine firefighters in Charleston, SC.
Nick Finamore retired in 1988 as a deputy chief of the Prince George’s County Fire Department and is currently a volunteer division chief in the same department. Finamore walked through the various locations watching the testing. He told STATter 911 the old water infrastructure presents a serious problem for firefighters.
Also monitoring the testing were Battalion Chief Mark Davis of the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service, Chief Ty Dickerson of the College Park Volunteer Fire Department and Fred Brower of the Insurance Services Office.
We will bring you the results of the testing when they are available.