Two Evergreen residents are questioning whether there is enough water flowing in hydrants in some Evergreen areas, concerned there is not enough water to protect existing buildings, let alone future development.
Ken Fricke questioned the Evergreen Fire/Rescue board at its November meeting about why nothing was being done to meet the water-flow expectations in the International Fire Code, which is the guiding principle for EFR.
Evergreen resident David Chapman added that even when EFR uses a sophisticated shuttle system to bring water in to fight fires, there is no guarantee that enough water exists to douse them.
“Until we know fully that we can protect what is within the fire hydrant zone, we don’t need any more density in the activity centers,” Chapman said. “We need transparency. … We don’t need a lot of houses together. … I hope (EFR) is going to embrace the water-flow issue.”
He advocated for Jefferson County hitting the pause button on new development requests until the hydrant water-flow issue could be resolved.
Parts of Evergreen and Kittredge are in one of three water districts: the Evergreen Metropolitan District, the West Jefferson County Metropolitan District that includes Bergen Park and El Rancho, and the Kittredge Water & Sanitation District.
Fire officials said a good share of property is the Evergreen Fire Protection District is not in a water district, so those properties don’t have the benefit of fire hydrants.
Dave Lighthart, general manager for the three water districts, said in an interview that the Evergreen and West Jefferson districts have 840 fire hydrants, and the hydrants’ locations determine how much water is available. He explained that water systems are not built with fire protection and fire flow in mind.
EFR Fire Prevention Chief Jim King said in an interview that it’s inaccurate to say there is no water in the fire hydrants within the fire district. In addition, the fire district uses supplemental sources by shuttling water with the department’s water trucks, called tenders, to aid in fire suppression.
As an example, Jeffco Public Schools is installing a cistern to make sure there is water available for the new Marshdale Elementary School, and two residential developments that are moving forward — one on Kerr Gulch and one south of Marshdale — also are planning to install cisterns.
“There are alternative methods to get the water there that we need (for new development) without having to overtax the existing (water) system,” King said. “If someone is going to develop property, they have to work with us, and we have to work on ways (other than hydrants) to have an adequate water supply available.”
He noted that water was an issue everywhere, even in large cities that don’t have the infrastructure for tall buildings. To compensate, some buildings have floors containing water tanks available in case of emergency.
“This is nothing unique to fire service and not unique to Evergreen,” King said. “Water is an issue everywhere you go.”