Agencies Weigh New Water Standards for Firefighting in D.C.

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 5:32 PM

The D.C. Fire Department and D.C. Water and Sewer Authority are considering whether to revise the minimum standards for the amount of water available to fight fires in some areas of the city, authorities said Wednesday.

Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin and Interim WASA General Manager Avis Marie Russell testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing that they are examining whether the current standard -- 1,000 gallons per minute within 1,000 feet -- should be increased for areas of the city that are hilly or have other factors that affect water pressure.

The discussions come after a July fire on Chain Bridge Road in Northwest that destroyed the home of civic activist Peggy Cooper Cafritz. D.C. officials said in a report that water pressure problems caused by the age and location of water mains near the house, which sat on a hill, hampered firefighting.

Rubin and Russell said at the hearing that their agencies are currently examining what changes might be needed at Chain Bridge Road and 37 other areas in the city that could cause difficulty for firefighters because of topography, the age of nearby water mains, or other issues.

Authorities did not discuss a timetable for their discussions at the hearing.

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