Why did low water pressure plague firefighters in Northwest Side apartment fire?

SAFD says there was “extremely low pressure,” but water utility says 9 of 10 nearby hydrants met pressure standards

SAN ANTONIO – As San Antonio firefighters battled a massive blaze Sunday night that took down roughly 20 units at a Northwest Side apartment complex, their efforts were complicated by weak water pressure from nearby hydrants.

The building in the Frederick Apartments sits at the top of a small hill in the 4800 block of Gus Eckert Road, near the intersection with Fredericksburg Road. Though SAFD said it had trouble with water pressure on some of the water utility’s hydrants, the San Antonio Water System suggested it was a symptom of the firefighting effort.

SAFD Chief Charles Hood told reporters Sunday night, “The challenge is some of the hydrants that were very close, we were unable to get a good connection, a water flow from them. So then we had to go further away. It’s all hydrants, but some of these were ineffective. And then, because of the elevation, we’ve got to pump that water up. So it’s just a challenging fire. But we did have water, water challenges, and we finally do have water. You can see how quick we knocked that down.”

A department spokesman on Monday told KSAT private hydrants on the property and the San Antonio Water System hydrants along Gus Eckert had “extremely low pressure.” Meanwhile, it was “a long, uphill lay from the good hydrants on Fredericksburg Road.”

SAWS spokeswoman Anne Hayden said the utility checked the 10 nearest hydrants to the fire Monday morning. Nine of them were determined to have “sufficient pressure,” while the 10th was down after likely being recently hit by a car.

There was only one private hydrant inside the complex with a hose lying next to it, the spokeswoman wrote in the emailed statement.

She also wrote, “We need to note that multiple large pumper trucks simultaneously pulling water can cause a dip in pressure in any water service area, especially when they are moving water uphill and shooting the water to multilevel structures.”

SAFD had inspected the hydrants adjacent to the complex the past October, she said. The hydrants are due to be inspected again this October.

However, Hayden was unable to explain why SAFD apparently had better luck with hydrants on Fredericksburg Road, saying the utility had not undergone a technical discussion.

She said the pressure issues were unrelated to any water restrictions or lack of water supply.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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