Elk Ridge Mobile Home Park has been ordered to perform a fire watch 24 hours a day. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
As of Thursday afternoon (June 3) Elk Ridge Mobile Home Park on East Jemez Road has been ordered to perform a “fire watch” 24 hours a day in order to watch for fire and notify Los Alamos Fire Department by calling 911 in case a fire occurs. The order from Los Alamos County Fire Marshal Wendy Servey came just two days after water service was restored to the mobile home community after being off for close to 40 hours over Memorial Day weekend.
The Los Alamos Reporter began to ask questions Memorial Day about the fire protection situation at Elk Ridge while the main water system was shut off. She discovered that Elk Ridge and not Los Alamos County is responsible for the fire hydrants at the property and that there have been issues with water pressure in the hydrants in recent years.
The Reporter contacted LAFD’s Fire Marshal Wendy Servey Tuesday last and found out that the last time LAFD “flowed water” from the hydrants was 2014. She indicated that she would not have known the hydrants had not been inspected if it had not been reported to her.
“After 2014, it was determined that LAFD should not be testing those hydrants annually because the mobile home park is owned privately and it is a private hydrant system so it is the owner’s responsibility,” Servey said.
Servey said the fire department division of the Fire Marshal’s Office inspects commercial buildings and businesses.
“This occupancy is classified as residential so we don’t perform fire inspections there. LAFD performed a pre-plan, which is our document for fire and emergency response purposes only, that looks at fire access, location of fire hydrants, any hazardous materials, and gas or electrical shut-offs, however this was only performed on a small office building on-site, and not the residential trailers,” Servey said.
Los Alamos Fire Department currently operates under National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1 Fire Code. Chapter 18 of the code notes that the minimum fire flow and flow durations requirements for one and two family dwellings having a fire flow area that does not exceed 5,000 square feet shall be 1,000 gallons per minute for one hour, Servey said.
Chapter 18 also states that private fire hydrants have to be inspected at intervals not greater than one year and again after every incidental operation.
Asked if anyone keeps a record of when hydrants on private property are inspected, Servey said the owner is supposed to keep records. If a certified entity performs an inspection of the hydrants and they don’t pass Servey said she assumes that if a third party company is performing the inspections, they would have to make notification since it is a fire safety concern.
Asked by the Reporter how LAFD would respond to a fire at Elk Ridge if the hydrants the property are not working properly, Servey said operationally LAFD would use responded with tenders, which are carry about 2,000 gallons per truck. At a minimum, LAFD has 6-8 tenders. Bringing water from hydrants installed by Los Alamos National Laboratory on the other side of East Jemez Road is not an idea, she said.
“Running our large diameter hose across East Jemez Road would block the road and affect our response and tactics and would not be a best practice in fire service. This is why tender trucks for a “mobile hydrant” so to speak,” she said.
On Thursday, Servey said she had a site visit with a manager at Elk Ridge and that the owners, Yes! Communities, were “actively arranging to have a company inspect their fire hydrants”. She said if the hydrants are deemed to be substandard during inspection, Yes! Communities will have to hire a company to repair them as soon as possible and then have them re-tested.
“While this is going on they will have to perform a fire watch where management would have to drive around the property and be able to call LAFD by cell for an early notification process in case of fire, Servey said. “This would be documented on an approved form from LAFD Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Operations has been notified that a fire watch is being performed at the property and they would adjust by providing tenders if needed.”
Servey said she didn’t have a list of properties in the County with privately owned fire hydrants but has requested one from DPU since they service Los Alamos County and should have records. It is not known what inspections have been done on other privately-owned fire hydrants in the County.
Servey told the Los Alamos Reporter that the Elk Ridge manager indicated that the hydrants had been inspected in 2020. She said she had not asked to see the paperwork for that inspection or records of records for prior years’ inspections.
Several Elk Ridge residents told the Reporter Sunday afternoon that they have not received notice of the fire watch situation from management.