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Lakeside fire water failure

What do you mean you ran out of water? My house is on fire!

Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there.
Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there.

Lakeside's Lisa Zouhar woke up to a fire at her home on Shamrock Lane by Woodside Avenue on May 26. She, her husband, and two dogs made it outside, but she said she lost her home and everything in it. She said she believes part of her home could have been saved if the firefighters who responded to her 911 call weren’t delayed getting a water supply. 

According to a Lakeside Fire Protection District incident report, more than half the home was on fire when firefighters arrived. “There was no way to make an interior fire attack safely. This was a defensive fire…Resident was at the garage with a garden hose trying to put the fire out. He had to be removed by [a deputy sheriff.]” According to the report, the engine crew assigned the role of fire attack pulled a 2.5-inch hose line on one side of the house and a 1.75-inch hose line on another. 

Another crew laid a 4-inch hose from the fire hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith on Woodside.


Zouhar said, “We heard the chief say, ‘We are out of water.’ My husband replied, ‘What do you mean, you ran out of water? My house is on fire!’ Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there. And the hydrant down the road wouldn't open. There was no water for at least five to seven minutes.The battalion chief was on the phone with the water district and they told him they hadn't maintained that hydrant in ages.”

A neighbor confirmed, “The fire truck ran out of water. It took forever for them to get water again while the house was burning down in front of them.”

Lakeside fire marshal Jeremy Davis explained that while the fire attack crew went into quick attack mode on the fire, another crew laid a 4-inch hose from the fire hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith on Woodside, east of Shamrock (less than a block from the fire), but the 500- gallon tank in the engine ran out of water before it was connected to that hydrant. 

Davis added, “The 4-inch water supply cap was not readily openable. The firefighter made the switch from the 4-inch port to the 2.5-inch port on the hydrant and was able to get water from the fire hydrant to the engine that was pumping the hose lines on the fire…the incident commander reported the water supply was down for less than a minute.”

Davis claimed that the Lakeside Water Department told him the hydrant is an older style that will be up for replacement. He said, “All public fire hydrants within the Lakeside Fire Protection District are maintained by their respective water districts. [Lakeside Water] fire hydrants receive an annual to biennial inspection and maintenance, and are replaced as needed.” He pointed to the California Fire Code, which states, “Fire hydrant systems shall be subject to periodic tests as required by the fire code official.” He didn’t clarify whether his two-year standard for hydrant maintenance is the legally required standard, pursuant to fire code. And I did not get an answer as to why the four-inch hydrant cap was not readily openable.

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Much of what the fire department said was contradicted by the water department. Lakeside Water District operations superintendent Quinn Johnze said, “The Lakeside Water District completes preventative maintenance on each fire hydrant every 4-5 years.” He said that maintenance standard, more than double the time given by fire marshall Davis, is provided by the State Water Resources Control Board-Division of Drinking Water. That state board declined to confirm his statement and referred me back to the local jurisdiction. 

Johnze said before the May 26 fire, the hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith was last serviced more than three years ago, in February 2021. “At that inspection all three caps were removed, inspected, lubricated and one was replaced as it was missing at that time of inspection. All other functionality of the hydrant was verified as in good or better condition…Fire hydrant caps are typically made of cast iron and the threads they attach to are made of brass. This is done to make sure that caps cannot become ‘rusted’ together, as brass will not rust.”

He said the hydrant passed re-inspection five days after the fire, May 31. “Lakeside Water District has no plans to replace the hydrant in the near future as the average lifespan of a wet barrel hydrant can range anywhere from 50-100 years. The hydrant in this scenario is about 30 years old and it would be financially irresponsible to replace a working, fully operational, part of our infrastructure.”

"There's a big disconnect on what's being said,” Zouhar said. “We are currently seeking legal counsel about this."





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Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there.
Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there.

Lakeside's Lisa Zouhar woke up to a fire at her home on Shamrock Lane by Woodside Avenue on May 26. She, her husband, and two dogs made it outside, but she said she lost her home and everything in it. She said she believes part of her home could have been saved if the firefighters who responded to her 911 call weren’t delayed getting a water supply. 

According to a Lakeside Fire Protection District incident report, more than half the home was on fire when firefighters arrived. “There was no way to make an interior fire attack safely. This was a defensive fire…Resident was at the garage with a garden hose trying to put the fire out. He had to be removed by [a deputy sheriff.]” According to the report, the engine crew assigned the role of fire attack pulled a 2.5-inch hose line on one side of the house and a 1.75-inch hose line on another. 

Another crew laid a 4-inch hose from the fire hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith on Woodside.


Zouhar said, “We heard the chief say, ‘We are out of water.’ My husband replied, ‘What do you mean, you ran out of water? My house is on fire!’ Our neighbors offered their pool, but were told the truck didn't have the tools to pull water from there. And the hydrant down the road wouldn't open. There was no water for at least five to seven minutes.The battalion chief was on the phone with the water district and they told him they hadn't maintained that hydrant in ages.”

A neighbor confirmed, “The fire truck ran out of water. It took forever for them to get water again while the house was burning down in front of them.”

Lakeside fire marshal Jeremy Davis explained that while the fire attack crew went into quick attack mode on the fire, another crew laid a 4-inch hose from the fire hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith on Woodside, east of Shamrock (less than a block from the fire), but the 500- gallon tank in the engine ran out of water before it was connected to that hydrant. 

Davis added, “The 4-inch water supply cap was not readily openable. The firefighter made the switch from the 4-inch port to the 2.5-inch port on the hydrant and was able to get water from the fire hydrant to the engine that was pumping the hose lines on the fire…the incident commander reported the water supply was down for less than a minute.”

Davis claimed that the Lakeside Water Department told him the hydrant is an older style that will be up for replacement. He said, “All public fire hydrants within the Lakeside Fire Protection District are maintained by their respective water districts. [Lakeside Water] fire hydrants receive an annual to biennial inspection and maintenance, and are replaced as needed.” He pointed to the California Fire Code, which states, “Fire hydrant systems shall be subject to periodic tests as required by the fire code official.” He didn’t clarify whether his two-year standard for hydrant maintenance is the legally required standard, pursuant to fire code. And I did not get an answer as to why the four-inch hydrant cap was not readily openable.

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Much of what the fire department said was contradicted by the water department. Lakeside Water District operations superintendent Quinn Johnze said, “The Lakeside Water District completes preventative maintenance on each fire hydrant every 4-5 years.” He said that maintenance standard, more than double the time given by fire marshall Davis, is provided by the State Water Resources Control Board-Division of Drinking Water. That state board declined to confirm his statement and referred me back to the local jurisdiction. 

Johnze said before the May 26 fire, the hydrant in front of TNT Locksmith was last serviced more than three years ago, in February 2021. “At that inspection all three caps were removed, inspected, lubricated and one was replaced as it was missing at that time of inspection. All other functionality of the hydrant was verified as in good or better condition…Fire hydrant caps are typically made of cast iron and the threads they attach to are made of brass. This is done to make sure that caps cannot become ‘rusted’ together, as brass will not rust.”

He said the hydrant passed re-inspection five days after the fire, May 31. “Lakeside Water District has no plans to replace the hydrant in the near future as the average lifespan of a wet barrel hydrant can range anywhere from 50-100 years. The hydrant in this scenario is about 30 years old and it would be financially irresponsible to replace a working, fully operational, part of our infrastructure.”

"There's a big disconnect on what's being said,” Zouhar said. “We are currently seeking legal counsel about this."





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