EXCLUSIVE to theLoop
An interesting story is developing up the road which should concern all Westchester residents, and reenforce the issue of fire safety in our communities.
Chappaqua and Millwood fire commissioners are said to be holding private discussions after the Chappaqua Fire Chief went on record saying his firefighters have been endangered by the town’s failure to maintain hydrants and the water mains leading to those hydrants.
Meanwhile, Millwood’s Fire Department has reportedly received records that firefighters say show the fire hydrants in their district haven’t been properly maintained.
The issue has pit the incumbent New Castle Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein (R) against his opponent Kristen Browde (D) in next week’s election.
theLoop received a copy of a July, 2017 letter mailed by U.S. Mail to the Supervisor Greenstein, whose office encompasses Chappaqua, Millwood, and some homes with Mt. Kisco and Ossining postal addresses. In it, Chappaqua’s Fire Chief cited a recent house fire where the hydrant used was marked as one that was supposed to deliver between 1000 -1499 gallons of water per minute (GPM). Chief Greg Bologna writes the hydrant was in fact giving firefighters only 560 GPM.
“…lives were needlessly put in jeopardy based on the assumption that there was adequate water supply to carry out the needed firefighting tactics,” writes Bologna.
Town Administrator Jill Shapiro told theLoop the Chief should have let Town officials know immediately.
“(He) waited for it to go thru the U.S. Mail?,” asked Shapiro. ” I can’t tell you how upset we were. He says he’s concerned and puts it in the mail 30 days later?”
In a second fire, the Chief said two massive rocks were found inside the hydrant. The Chief said that the rocks could have destroyed $250,000 pumper trucks had they been sucked into the hoses. In both fires, the houses were completely destroyed by the fires.
In neighboring Millwood, sources say hydrants were not inspected as required leaving rescue workers unable to determine if hydrants can supply adequate water for a fire.
New Castle Administrator Jill Shapiro says “those documents were for internal use only.”
In exchange for maintaining and servicing the fire hydrants and water mains leading to them the Town of New Castle collects hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the fire districts serving the towns.
When they learned of the problems faced by the Chappaqua Fire Department the Millwood Fire Commissioners demanded that the Town of New Castle produce records of inspections, flow tests and maintenance of the hydrants in their service area. One senior fire official told the Loop they received no such records, but instead were given records of snow removal around hydrants and weed clearance, and that even those records seemed sloppy.
“Not one flow test was recorded in the documents we received. There was no evidence of maintenance,” said one fire official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to share the information. “And when some of our people went out and did random inspections on our own we found cracked gaskets and other indications that no one had been anywhere near the hydrant in years.”
“Our town’s failure to properly maintain our fire hydrants and the water mains leading to them puts every resident of New Castle at risk,” said Kristen Browde, running for Town Supervisor again Greenstein.
“That the incumbent appears to have either failed to detect the problem or has ignored it in my view disqualifies him as someone capable of properly overseeing our town’s operations.”
Browde pointed to a February 2017 fire at Mt. Kisco Yeshiva at which the nearest hydrant to the fire didn’t work, requiring firefighters to run two miles of hose to the next working hydrant.
After that fire, it was discovered that the Town had failed to conduct required fire safety inspections the Yeshiva, said Browde.
“The first priority – on January 1 – will be to launch a full scale hydrant inspection program, implement technology to make sure the records are accurate and available to the firefighters, and then we’ll turn to the task of finding out whether further action is necessary with regard to the individuals responsible.” she said.
note: theLoop endorsed Browde’s candidacy earlier this year.