VANDERGRIFT (KDKA) — Fighting fires is a little more difficult in one local town because of a water pressure problem. And while the fire department has found a way to deal with the issue, they’d like a more permanent solution.

The latest fire, at the end of October, destroyed a building that housed a café and spread to a neighboring vacant building.

But three different times hydrants ran dry, and firefighters inside the building were ordered out until pressure was restored.

“It’s a big concern,” said William Snoots, who lives just a few doors away from the fire.

“Even when they hooked up the supply lines to the fire hydrants, you could tell there was hardly any water coming out there,” said Snoots.

Chief Steve Potoka, of the Vandergrift Volunteer Fire Department No. 2, says it’s been something they’ve been dealing with.

“We have a little water issue here,” said Chief Potoka. “We can’t get enough to feed these newer trucks and the bigger lines.”

He says after a fire three years ago, he made it standard procedure to have water tankers from neighboring departments respond to all of his department’s calls.

He explained that they used to use three-inch hoses, but now the hoses are five inches in diameter. Plus, modern fire trucks are able to pump much more water faster.

The result is that the water lines in that section of Vandergrift can’t keep up, particularly at higher elevations in town.

Tom Ceraso, assistant manager of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, says there’s a plan to replace some of the underground water lines in Vandergrift. Lines that are four and six inches in diameter would be replaced with eight inch ones.

Work could begin next year.

Ceraso says the Authority would love replace older, smaller lines all over the county, but says the cost would be extraordinary, causing water bills to skyrocket. As a result, replacements have to be done more gradually.

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While pressure problems made the fire fight in October more difficult, the chief doesn’t think it affected the end result: “If we had a bigger line, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference as much fire as we had there,” said Chief Potoka.

Just the same, he welcomes new water lines. “It’ll help a lot.”

However, he stresses that with the back-up tankers, no one is in any danger.

David Highfield