VRFA: Thefts of fire life-safety equipment up
By ROBERT WHALE
Auburn Reporter News reporter
July 11, 2012 · Updated 6:08 PM
The Valley Regional Fire Authority and other fire agencies throughout the greater Puget Sound Region know a lot about beating back flames and saving lives.
But a recent uptick in the number of thefts of outside brass hose connections has created a new type of emergency that firefighters are hard pressed to handle.
More important, the absence of these connections, which support fire protection systems like standpipes and fire sprinklers inside buildings, can kill.
To date in 2012, thieves have walked away with a total of 37 individual fire department connections (FDCs), compromising at least 34 fire suppression systems in the VRFA-service area.
While a handful were the single connection model, most were the "Siamese" model that lets firefighters attach one or more supply lines to provide sufficient water to firefighters when the flames are up, said Kimberly McDonald, a public information officer for the VRFA.
The cost of replacing these devices can easily exceed $500 per unit, McDonald said in a release.
Until recently, thefts of FDCs were relatively rare events. But earlier this year, the VRFA's Fire Marshal's Office started to notice an uptick in FDC thefts at apartment complexes, commercial businesses and hotel-motels. Business owners, fire system contractors, and firefighters going about their regular duties started to notice the problem, too.
The VRFA has since advised all victimized businesses to file a report with their local police. It has also notified all registered fire protection system contractors in its service area.
"The VRFA encourages the public to be on the alert for any person or persons trying to remove this life-safety equipment," McDonald said. "We ask the public to immediately call 911 and report it to the police."
McDonald said legitimate contractors should have well marked vehicles and the owner's permission to be working on the system. Such contractors typically work or are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week because the nature of their business.
"They all carry identification and won't be offended should police contact them about what they're doing," McDonald said.
Anyone with questions about this or any other VRFA-related topics should call 253-288-5800 or email askthevrfa.org.
"The water helps augment what we have or adds more pressure as needed," said Mike Lee, VRFA assistant fire marshall. "Obviously, we want to get people to safety, but many of FDCs are also designed to help protect the building. Not being able to augment the water system can be detrimental to the effectiveness of the fire fight."Contact Auburn Reporter News reporter Robert Whale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-833-0218, ext. 5052.