Lack of hydrants hampers firefighting efforts

2013-01-08T14:30:00Z 2013-01-09T15:20:14Z Lack of hydrants hampers firefighting effortsBy JONATHAN EDWARDS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

A fire destroyed a three-bedroom house on Monday as firefighters struggled to tap the water they needed to attack it.

Roughly 80 firefighters went to 1241 Piper Way just before 8 p.m. and found a big fire in the house’s garage that looked like it might spread to the attic, Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Tim Linke said.

The couple that’s lived in the house a decade evacuated safely after the husband, who was watching the college football national championship game, noticed the blaze pushing into the house from the garage, said Fire Investigator Ken Hilger.

“He said he saw a wall of fire.”

The house sits in the Sky Ranch neighborhood, which the city annexed in August, and the nearest hydrant is about a mile away, LFR Battalion Chief Jeanne Pashalek said. Firefighters would have needed nine fire engines to relay water from the nearest hydrant to the house, she said.

City officials and Sky Ranch residents OK’d the annexation knowing residents, not the city, would have to provide their own water until the two sides could figure out a way to extend the city’s 16-inch water main about half a mile from 98th and Holdrege.

Once they figure out a way, crews usually need 12 to 18 months to design and build waterworks to newly annexed communities, said Nick McElvain, operations support manager for Lincoln Water System.

On Monday, Southeast Fire and Rescue, which is better equipped to fight rural fires, added its 5,000-gallon tanker to the mix. Waverly Fire and Rescue and the Air National Guard also helped.

The fire did $250,000 damage to the two-story, 1,800-square-foot house and another $200,000 to the contents inside, Hilger said.

The house, which was insured, was valued at $226,200, according to the Lancaster County Assessor’s website.

Ashes from a fireplace sparked the blaze, Hilger said. They'd been put into a plastic container and left in the garage near cardboard, toilet paper and kindling, he said.

The fire raged through an open door at the back of the garage, got hold of siding and then spread into the ceiling and attic.

Hilger recommended putting fireplace ashes in a metal container and making sure they’re outside and away from things that can catch fire.

Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/LJSedwards.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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