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Fire chief: Good, strong water pressure is essential

Email from Fort Wayne Fire Chief Amy Biggs as distributed Friday by the city:

From: Amy Biggs

Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2012 1:43 PM

To: Tom Henry

Subject: IURC letter

Greetings Mayor Henry,

As Fort Wayne’s Fire Chief, it is my duty to be vigilant about issues that could risk the protection of residents in our community. This includes the impact of current drought conditions and how they might hamper our water supply needed for firefighting. These conditions create the opportunity for fire to spread rapidly and ignite surrounding structures, which can quickly deplete resources.

Water is the single most important resource we have, as a fire department, to save lives and preserve property. The ability to obtain a water source that is reliable and sustains adequate pressure to support fire ground operations is crucial to our mission. Every second that passes without this resource endangers lives of firefighters and residents and causes significant property damages.

Aqua Indiana, which serves Southwest Fort Wayne residents, is experiencing a shortage of water. Seventy percent of its customers are in the Fort Wayne city limits. The company recently called for consumer conservation – but still found it was falling short in efforts to keep up with the demand for water. This concerns me greatly.

During the past several weeks, residents have experienced low water pressure in their homes – so low in fact, that recent news reports told the story of residents who didn’t even have enough pressure to wash the shampoo out of their hair, while showering.

Finally, the company asked for assistance from Fort Wayne City Utilities to supply water, which would allow for an increase in pressure and the ability to meet customer demands.

I understand how the arid conditions can affect a water utility, as we are currently dealing with a burn ban in Fort Wayne. But, I’m glad Aqua finally reached out and asked for water from City Utilities, because, while we have plans for mutual aid from neighboring fire departments and certainly plan for additional tanker trucks in such situations, the lack of pressure caused by Aqua’s water shortage, was a real concern for the Fire Department.

The Aqua service area in Fort Wayne has many large homes, and as you know, many of them have families with children living in them, as well as several large apartment complexes, hotels, medical facilities and nursing homes. Good, strong water pressure is essential and critical to our fire protection in Southwest Fort Wayne.

Because of these safety concerns, I’m hoping they will continue to keep the lines open for City Utilities to supply Aqua with water in the immediate future, while searching for a long-term solution to prevent this situation from recurring in the future.

I appreciate your dedication and commitment to resolving this issue.

Sincerely,

Amy Biggs

Fire Chief

City of Fort Wayne

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