Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is scheduled to release a preliminary report Friday on the July 29 blaze that destroyed the home of arts patron Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
But behind the scenes, the fire once again is pitting the District Fire and Emergency Medical Services against the Water and Sewer Authority as to whether low water pressure may have hamstrung efforts to put out the blaze.
In letters this week to City Administrator Neil O. Albert, WASA interim general manager Avis Marie Russell appears to warn the city to tread delicately before trying to find the authority at fault.
Russell wrote in a letter Wednesday that she was grateful for the chance to sit in on a meeting with Albert and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, but resented that the city could make WASA appear to be at fault in recommendations that the administration would make concerning the blaze.
"I recognize that the recommendations are preliminary but as presented, all of the recommendations state actions that should be taken by WASA. There is not one recommendation directed to FEMS," Russell wrote. "I think that to present the recommendations in this manner implies only WASA needs to act and this is inconsistent with the findings and the discussions we have had over the last several days."
She points Albert to a letter she sent Tuesday in which she outlined that the "alleged issues" did not exist. They were: "low pressure in the service area; mechanical condition and serviceability of public fire hydrants; and availability of adequate water flows for fire suppression."
"In fact, not one of these distribution system performance issues has been shown to be deficient with regard to the availability water supply to Fire and EMS to suppress the fire in this emergency."
WASA Chairman William Walker is scheduled to appear with the mayor as he presents the preliminary report at a news conference Friday near Cafritz's home.
- Nikita Stewart