Frozen water hydrant hampers fire-fighting efforts

By Linda Looney-Bond


Frozen water in a fire hydrant at a Morrow townhouse complex made battling a blaze more difficult, but did not delay efforts to fight the fire Sunday morning, according to Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

The fire broke out at the Morrowood Townhomes, in the 5000 block of Trammell Road, around 11:25 a.m., Sunday, Merkison said.

No one was injured in the blaze, according to Merkison. He said six units were destroyed, five of which were occupied.

Merkison said it appears that the fire started in unit C-5, but said fire investigators are not sure how the fire started. He said arson is not suspected at this time.

When firefighters discovered that water in the hydrant was frozen, they immediately switched to a back-up water supply, he said.

"It [frozen water] delayed our permanent water supply, but it didn't delay our fire-fighting or anything," he said. "We just had to shuttle water until we found another fire hydrant. We just had to bring in a couple extra trucks and dump their tanks. We just transferred water from one truck to another."

Merikson said each fire truck carries a water supply of approximately 750 gallons.

He said it's rare to find that water in a hydrant is frozen. "That's the first time I've ever seen it" he said. "I've been here for 14 years, and I've never seen it, so that was a first.

"Typically, there's no water up in the hydrant," Merkison said. "The water's typically four to six feet underground. Maybe, that valve had a leak in it that was causing water to be up in the hydrant [and freeze]," he said.

"When the hydrant is closed, it [valve] keeps water from coming up into the barrel of the hydrant," he said.

Merkison said the hydrant is privately-owned and maintained by the townhome complex. "Anything on private property like that, the water department doesn't maintenance. It would be up to the apartment complex to make the necessary repairs," he said. "Pretty much in every apartment complex, they're private hydrants. We still ... check them twice a year," he said.

Morrowood Townhomes Manager Sabrina Neason declined to comment regarding the hydrant on Monday. "Right now, we're placing the families that were burned out. Our hearts are with them right now," Neason said.

The American Red Cross, which typically helps fire victims with food and temporary housing, was also on the scene to assist the affected residents, according to Merkison.