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Kirby FD, SAWS meet in wake of fatal fire

Captain: Fire hose adapters incompatible with hydrants

KIRBY, Texas – In the aftermath of a fatal fire last Friday just outside the Kirby city limits, representatives of its fire department and the San Antonio Water System sat down Monday to discuss the problem firefighters on the scene encountered when some of their fire hose adapters were incompatible with three nearby fire hydrants.

"We actually had the whole hose blow off the hydrant because we couldn't get a good fitting," said Capt. Steven Gawlik, of the Kirby Fire Department.

Anne Hayden, SAWS spokeswoman, said the problem was due to the Kirby Fire Department not having the correct adapter for the fire hydrant in that area.

She said the standard is for fire departments to carry multiple adapters for different hydrants. 

Hayden said Kirby's adapter had fine threads, which is the national standard, while the threads on the hydrant were coarse.

Still, Gawlik said his department wasn't the only one at the scene that has ever encountered the problem.

"More than likely it's the age of the hydrants," Gawlik said.

Hayden said most of the hydrants there date back to when the subdivision was built in the mid-1980s when the neighborhood was not served by SAWS.

She also said firefighters on the scene from the San Antonio Fire Department did have the proper adapter for those types of hydrants, and other fire crews had pumper trucks on scene providing water.

"It didn't slow them down. They had what they needed. It just made it a little more difficult," Hayden said.

She said SAWS and the Kirby Fire Department are working together "to make sure either the remainder of the hydrant fittings or adapters will work in the future."

Gawlik said after checking the seven hydrants in the neighborhood surrounding the 5600 block of Lochmoor on Monday, only one of the hydrants fit their adapters or. SAWS crews were also in the area.

He also said Kirby firefighters will be doing the same throughout their entire coverage area on a daily basis and report back to SAWS.

Gawlik said up to now, attaching fire hoses to hydrants has not been part of regular inspections.

But given what occurred Friday, Gawlik said, "We really have to be sure which hydrants we can attach to and what hydrants we can't."

He said in his opinion, if the problem had not occurred, that still would not have changed the outcome for the victim.

Gawlik said his crew was the first to arrive, but the fire was already intense and fueled by the clutter inside the apartment, making rescue attempts impossible.

Due to the devastation caused by the fire, a spokeswoman for the Bexar County Fire Marshal's Office said it is likely the cause will remain undetermined.

A spokesman for the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office said they are waiting on the victim's next of kin before releasing the identity of the victim in his 50s.