Homeowner sues West Virginia American Water after fire hydrant failure

A homeowner has filed a lawsuit against West Virginia American Water after three fire hydrants...
A homeowner has filed a lawsuit against West Virginia American Water after three fire hydrants near their home were non-functional on May 5, 2023.(WSAZ)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 2:27 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A homeowner has filed suit against West Virginia American Water after firefighters encountered low water pressure at three fire hydrants, ultimately leading to the destruction of a home.

The fire occurred on Chester Road in Charleston on May 5, 2023. Firefighters were alerted at 11:14 p.m. Friday, May 5, and arrived roughly five minutes later; however, crews didn’t gain control of the flames until four hours later.

According to the suit, the fire hydrants near the home were non-functional and failed to deliver enough water pressure to fight the fire.

The homeowner lost personal belongings and the family dog in the fire.

“[The homeowner] was forced to endure those consequences on May 5, 2023, when his home burned to the ground while firefighters scrambled around the neighborhood for hours desperately searching for a fire hydrant with water supply,” the suit reads. [The homeowner] and neighbors looked on in dismay as firefighters scoured the neighborhood, trying – but failing – to get water out of the three hydrants.”

The lawsuit claims American Water Company ‘failed its legal and contractual duties to deliver sufficient water pressure to the fire hydrants.’

The lawsuit says the homeowner seeks to hold American Water Company accountable for its failure to maintain adequate water pressure.

“The City of Charleston will pay American Water Company $160,000 of taxpayer money in fiscal year 2023 for fire hydrant fees, which, upon information and belief, includes fire hydrant maintenance and upkeep,” the suit continues.

In a statement, WVAW said the three hydrants which remain out of service are installed on 4-inch water mains.

WSAZ found state law changed nearly 30 years ago, which requires all hydrants to be installed on 6-inch water mains.

The reason is because the larger line allows for the water flow needed to fight fires.

In 2017, the company added a surcharge to customers’ bills for infrastructure improvements.

In press releases, the company states specific amounts of money will be used for upgrades and replacement of fire hydrants.

Since the fire, American Water Company has covered the non-functioning fire hydrants with garbage bags.

On May 5, the Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department, the 130th FES McLaughlin Air National Guard Base Fire Department, and the Glasgow Volunteer Fire Department were able to assist by bringing in tankers of water.

Four hours after the fire department was called firefighters were able to gain control of the flames.

The complaint says the house destroyed in the fire was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For previous coverage, click the links below:

WSAZ Investigates | Fire Hydrant Safety

WSAZ Investigates | Water Supply Issues

WSAZ Investigates | Council Members Sound off about Hydrants

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