I am a firefighter in a town of around 1200. The other day we had a house fire and used a hydrant (which up until recently was a rarity in this town). Anyway, later that same day a main was found to be leaking SEVERAL blocks from where the fire was. Through the grapevine, we heard that our city administrator blamed this on the fire department. So my question is, how often do mains break as a result of firefighting operations?

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Well in our district we have never had a water main break on soft suction, now hard suction might be a little different story. But all and all I dont see how your responsible for something that was out of your control...Whos to say the water main hadn't been broke or leaking for some time and now its just appeared or it could have been an old line that needed to be replaced years ago. Sounds like to me someone is looking for someone to blame when all along it falls back onto the department (water Works) hint hint that withholds its standing with the DEQ, if you know what I mean...Dont sweat it brother, been there in your shoes before. Just hold your head high and walk tall and at the end of the day your still the ones who came to someones call on a house fire...
Ask the administrator when was the last time the system was maintained, tested and documented. Failure of all three... then sure its possible you triggered an issue. I have seen and can show you some poorly maintained mains that had to be replaced... you are lucky if you can fit a pencil inside the pipe with all the corrosion and setiment build-up.

Ask him next time there is a fire in the hydrant district, should the FD not use those taxpayer hydrants because they might leak later...
I'm with FETC, ask the town administrators when the last time the system was inspected, tested and preventative maintenance preformed, and don't just take their word, ask for proof. More than likely use of the hydrant may have contributed to the leaks/break, but it's not your FDs fault. It happens, even in towns and cities with well maintained systems.
Water Hammer. While it could be poorly maintained pipes, too quick a shut down from the knob or the pumper can and does cause a water hammer. It's never happened to us here (85% hydranted) on a call but "some people" have broken mains during training as a result of the pump operator or the knobman shutting down too fast. (soft suction 5" ldh lines)

I don't know that the dept. has even been responsible for fixing it (I'm pretty sure we haven't) but we have been "banned" from using certain hydrants (apparently more susceptible than others) for any training. We do actually have to pay for any water we use for training or in re-filling the engines. (Hey, we're affluent (or is it effluent :) nobody gets nothing for free round here)
Trying to pull too much through the line and water hammer are the only instances that come to mind right off which could cause a rupture.

Given that the leak was several blocks away, it sounds to me that the line was weak to start with. This problem occurs many time a year all over the country, and is usually a maintenance issue. Given that some of the mains are 60 + years old, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out old lines will simply fail.

Also remember, the grapevine is not an extremely reliable means of communication.
60+, you're lucky. Some of the lines in my Borough are approaching 90! Thankfully, though, they've started replacing the older lines last Summer and it's continued through this Spring, Summer and Fall.
Watter hammer is exactly what I was thinking when I read this...
Well believe it or not, if you "suck it dry" so to speak, you CAN collapse it...that's why it is important to know your water supply system and have hydrants tested and marked on what they can flow. You also need to be careful of water hammers on both your equipment and the water supply system as this can have a devastating effect also....it has happened before...and will probably happen again......Paul
I've recently seen a rupture pipe that the water companies pump had a water hammer that rupture it! To blame it on the fire department was easier.
ive never broke one because of causing a water hammer (i was told i would have to fix it for free) but ive heard of it causing heck for months and months after somone causes a watter hammer
One of the first things I was ever taught- "turn it off slow." I've never heard of a main break caused by fireground activity but if you are taught that, it must have happened before.
This primarily has everything to do with lack of maintenance on the part of the water department. Of course someone could have turn on or turned off a hydrant way to fast and caused a water hammer down the line. Who knows! But the point is. Are you not going to use a hydrant because you might cause a main break. I think not. That hydrant is there for fire purposes. You and the citizens of the community depend on the system that is behind that hydrant. Lack of use and maintenance is a big factor in keeping the system working. Going out drilling using the hydrants should be part of your process. You need to know what hydrants are working and what kind of flows you can get out of them. Sounds like there needs to be some level of communication with the water department and training along with it.

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