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Yelling Fire! in a crowded asylum.
September 12, 2008 7:04 AM   Subscribe

The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself more than them. For want of water, a house burns down. The hydrants were off. Why? Well to prevent terrorism, obviously.
posted by bitmage (76 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
(via Schneier)
posted by bitmage at 7:05 AM on September 12, 2008


D'oh!
posted by punkfloyd at 7:09 AM on September 12, 2008


Sneaky terrorists with their treacherous liquids, grrr.
posted by ryanrs at 7:11 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's pretty much a win for terrorism. Remember, America, the goal of terrorism is to disrupt and upset the victims, not specifically to cause damage. They've got it so that we're so cowed and afraid that we make stupid blunders like that because we fear that someone might taint our water!
posted by explosion at 7:15 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


The neighborhood association's now working to get the tools in the hands of homeowners, as an extra precaution.

At which point turning them off is pointless. I personally suspect they were turned off to save costs, or something, and the 'Terrorists" excuse is just face saving, trump card, bullshit when the spokesman panicked.

Or, at least, I hope so. Turning fire hydrants off to prevent terrorism is the biggest example of "how the fuck will that help?" I've heard of yet.
posted by Brockles at 7:17 AM on September 12, 2008 [11 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the private development manager turned off the hydrants to save money, and that "TERRORISM!!!" is just the all purpose post-9/11 ass-covering card making another appearance.

The article is interesting and disturbing; it appears that the hydrants weren't actually there for fire-fighting purposes (hence they were painted black rather than red). They could be used in an emergency, but for that you need a special tool, a tool that no one in the situation had. It'd all be delightfully wacky if someone's house hadn't just burned down.
posted by grimmelm at 7:20 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


You may have noticed the fire hydrants along Aderholt's street are black, not red.

In Texas, that legally warns firefighters they may not function - private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.

They maintain the hydrants are technically only there to help flush out and clean their systems.


Thanks invisible hand of the market!
posted by burnmp3s at 7:21 AM on September 12, 2008 [25 favorites]


In the war on terror, God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural... fluids.
posted by Shepherd at 7:23 AM on September 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


A private water utility that doesn't seem to be held to any particular standards ... good call, fellas!
posted by uncleozzy at 7:32 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, for fuck's sake. If you want to keep the water supply clean, just put backflow prevention devices on the lines feeding the hydrants. Sometimes being stupid should be a capital crime.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:34 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


You may have noticed the fire hydrants along Aderholt's street are black, not red.

In Texas, that legally warns firefighters they may not function - private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.

They maintain the hydrants are technically only there to help flush out and clean their systems.


Yep - that's Texas for you. Your laissez-faire Republican playground. Having a publicly owned system that would actually serve the purposes of the community sounds a little too, well, collective... kind of communist. Things that exist to serve some purpose other than making some particular private interest money are about one step away from homosexuals and abortion. Got to privatize them.

Coming soon to a neighborhood near YOU!!
posted by Naberius at 7:36 AM on September 12, 2008 [14 favorites]


If we have to lose a few private residences to keep the terr'ists on the run, so be it. It's a small price to pay to protect our cherished freedoms. Why does Eric Aderholt hate America? Vigilance!
posted by Thorzdad at 7:38 AM on September 12, 2008


"These hydrants need to be cut off in a way to prevent vandalism or any kind of terrorist activity, including something in the water lines,"

They should be turned on to prevent any kind of arsonist activity. Or faulty wiring activity. Good Christ.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:52 AM on September 12, 2008


You see terrorists all the time playing out in the spray from the fire hydrants. Or whatever those people are. They don’t have jobs you know.


“He explains all the district's hydrants, including those in Alexander Ranch, have had their water turned off since just after 9/11”

Well, there are reasons to have non-charged hydrants but... ...terrorism is perhaps the stupidist...I mean....
*exasperation*
ok, bit of a long preface to a comment on this sentence but - there’s a scene in Broadcast News where Peter Hackes says to Holly Hunter: “It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.”

And she says: “No. It’s awful.”

What is said there in an atmosphere of irony and self-deprecation I say from desperation and bewilderment: “Aw christ don’t tell me people are that f’ing stupid.”

Y’know what’d be worse than zombies? A hoarde of idiots.
Think about it. You can’t just shoot them in the head.
In fact, if you have any compassion at all, you’d have to take care of them. And that’s the rest of your life - one day everyone becomes so much of an idiot (save for your small group holed up in the indoor mall) they’re about as survival savvy as a 4 year old and there you are opening tins of beans, cooking them and whatnot. Keeping them out of the rain, keeping them from sticking their fingers in electrical outlets, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:52 AM on September 12, 2008 [16 favorites]


Nation. Of. Idiots.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:55 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hard to believe that insurance companies aren't clued into this. Are policies based on the homeowner's independent confirmation of working hydrants? Or (more likely) do the insurance companies know the status of the protection available in various communities? If the latter, then the homeowners are probably not unaware, given that they're paying higher premiums.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:04 AM on September 12, 2008


Oh, for fuck's sake. If you want to keep the water supply clean, just put backflow prevention devices on the lines feeding the hydrants.

I'm not even sure how a malicious substance could be injected into a pressurized fire hydrant in the first place. I'm picturing a guy in a black ski mask and a shirt that says "EVIL" trying carefully pour a vile of Joker brand Smilex into a gushing fire hydrant and realizing things are not going according to plan.
posted by StarForce5 at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2008 [31 favorites]


Pfft. "Terrorism" is just a cheap dodge by a profoundly cynical individual. This could have been much more amusing -- say, if the public water system had been the one turned off. Hydrants that aren't legally "fire hydrants"? Meh, makes it a lot less interesting.
posted by aramaic at 8:09 AM on September 12, 2008


Terrorism, or squeaking out every last nickel to fatten the profit margin? I vote the latter.

This, above all else, is why the privatization of public utilities must be ended. The government is inefficient, this is true, but generally competent and accountable. When presented with a monopoly, private companies will always deliver craptacular service at inflated prices, and sneer at you and lawyer-up when you try to hold them accountable. This is =always= the case.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2008 [17 favorites]


Deregulation of public utilities was clearly a good idea...
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:12 AM on September 12, 2008


Are policies based on the homeowner's independent confirmation of working hydrants? Or (more likely) do the insurance companies know the status of the protection available in various communities?

Insurers keep track of whether or not your home is located close to a hydrant and base your premiums on the proximity. Usually by contacting the homeowner or the local fire department. I can't say that any insurer has ever asked me whether or not the hydrants actually work. I mean, it really wouldn't occur to me that a hydrant wouldn't work. But, then, hydrants in my neck of the woods are owned by the municipality, and not by a for-profit business.

That said, if Texas actually has a legal framework in-place to identify non-working hydrants (painting them black) it would seem plausible that insurers in Texas would ask what color the homeowner's hydrant is.

But, who knows? The whole system looks like a free-market clusterfuck meant to increase profits and cover asses, at the risk of private citizen's property and lives.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 AM on September 12, 2008


Another "win" for the ownership society. I mean, the company is literally called "Cash Water." Water should be socialized not privatized.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:20 AM on September 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


The fire department lacked the tool to turn on the hydrant? What is up with that?

The more disturbing part of the story:
Cash Water's also sent out a letter letting fire departments know they're welcome to use the hydrants, if there's enough water pressure....

You may have noticed the fire hydrants along Aderholt's street are black, not red.

In Texas, that legally warns firefighters they may not function - private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.

They maintain the hydrants are technically only there to help flush out and clean their systems.
posted by caddis at 8:35 AM on September 12, 2008


I live in an area with the water to hydrants shut off and I wouldn't have it any other way. We're in a desert area with dirt roads and local kids used to open the hydrants to destroy the roads and leave use with no way out of the neighborhood until the bulldozers and graders repaired the damage.

Each hydrant has a shut-off valve that can be turned on by one fireman as the others are running hoses.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:36 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Still, it's a nice example-in-miniature of why antiterrorism measures rarely work.

Problem: The terr'ists might poison the water.
Solution: Turn of the hydrants.
New Problem: Ther terr'ists might set the buildings on fire.
Solution: Turn on the hydrants.

Rinse. Repeat.

Meanwhile, in practice, the terrorists just sit at home and watch the fun.
posted by Crosius at 8:40 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


holy schnikees!
posted by cashman at 8:44 AM on September 12, 2008


Everything's bigger in Texas, including the assholes!
posted by tommasz at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2008


I don't understand why we can't
Use the fire hydrant
When our house combusted?
They say we are at war now
So the hydrants are off for now
Because the enemy can't be trusted.
It's a small price that we pay now
To strip the hydrants of their spray now
To address the terrorist threat.
Yes, for the small price that we pay
The terrorists, on a hot day,
Won't be able to open the hydrants
And cool off in it's jet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2008


Sooo, this fire department shows up with fire trucks that don't carry their own water? I don't see any mention of them fighting the fire and running low on water and going to the hydrant for supplemental water.
Hope that guy had a good home owners policy.
posted by a3matrix at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2008


Why are people in places least likely to be hit by terrorism, the most likely to be freaked out by the idea?
posted by octothorpe at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Sooo, this fire department shows up with fire trucks that don't carry their own water?

What can you expect from a FD that shows up without a tool to turn on the hydrants? The standard response in my area includes a Type 3 wildland engine with pumper and a water tender.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2008


The government is inefficient, this is true, but generally competent and accountable.

More than this. A government, or ANY agency that wants to do incident response is, by nature 'inefficient'. Efficiency means doing the most with least. Being prepared means having redundant capacity to absorb overflow. To most 'efficient' managers, preparedness---unused capacity, redundant business processes and stockpiles of materiel---looks like waste. It's always an easy argument to make to cut capacity when times are good.

The problem is, of course, when things go wrong, like in New Orleans, the damage caused is usually worse than the 'efficiency' savings of cutting the preparedness budgets. There are risk calculations that can be made to balance this. Katrina was very hard to predict but the damage potential from a Cat 3 storm was well-understood for at least a decade prior. For something as commonplace as a housefire both probability of occurrence and probable damage are well known.

It's hard for me to understand why the water company and/or firefighters aren't being sued by the homehowners' insurance company. If it's legal to paint hydrants black and not provide service, I'll bet insurance rates are going to rise pretty quickly for private residence associations.
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2008 [8 favorites]


Awesome. Now I have something to use to make libertarians shut up every time they get going.
posted by GuyZero at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


“What can you expect from a FD that shows up without a tool to turn on the hydrants?”

Well, yeah. But again:
“ ‘private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.’ “

So even if they turned it on - will it work? Who knows?
No, seriously - who is it that knows? Doesn’t look like anyone there did.

“When presented with a monopoly, private companies will always deliver craptacular service at inflated prices, and sneer at you and lawyer-up when you try to hold them accountable.”

I’d set my insurance company against them.
Of course, having Gog and Magog duke it out while your pictures and movies of your kids smolder in ash isn’t much of a comfort.

I’d augment your statement in that it’s not just accountability, but the localized and personal responsibility that adds to the immediacy of response.
I mean, I can march over to the local fire district office and give them what for, or I can go down to public works and punch someone’s nose or something - where’s the “Cash Water” office?
Even if someone’s in charge there, you’d just be hassling the local dufus, not the absentee landlord who’s actually responsible and pocketing the profits. Even then - shareholders. And on and on. Until well, gee, nobody’s responsible.
And there you are in the ashes.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:37 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Onion did it first
posted by sandking at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not a drowning man!
And I'm not a burning building! I'm a tumbler!
Drowning cannot hurt a man!
Fire cannot hurt a man. Not the Government Man.

posted by nosila at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Guys, WTF? This was a screwup by the fire department. They HAD the tool, they just didn't bring it. They KNEW that they these types of fire hydrants were in the area.

The water utility isn't responsible for this.

Let me know when the firefighters open an empty hydrant there, then I'll get upset.
posted by FuManchu at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2008


Loved ones, loved ones visit the building,
Take the highway, park in front of the hydrant
Ill be burning, burning but if you come visit
Ill put down some asbestos, my friends are important

posted by pyramid termite at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Because the terrorists couldn't purchase this special tool off the internet with a little effort.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 10:14 AM on September 12, 2008


The water utility isn't responsible for this.

From the article: In Texas, [a black-coloured hydrant] legally warns firefighters they may not function - private companies such as Cash Water are not required to maintain enough water pressure to fight fires.

It looks to me like there would be a good case for liability from the fire agency, sure. It's not as simple as just not having the right tool though. Were I that fire chief, I'd be planning to truck in my own water too, at least partially. It would take quite a while to repressurize a low pressure fire line. In practice 10 minutes is enough to make a difference between saving a house or writing it off. Ange then there's the chance of fire spreading to the neighbours...

Having to haul water is going to significantly increase the cost of the fire service and delay the ability to fight fires though---one water tender isn't enough to fight a big house fire.

Like I said, were I an insurance adjuster in Texas, I'd be sharpening my pencil right now.
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2008


FuManchu, the fire dept is not without blame. However the water company is also at fault, for not following standards. For things like municipal water systems we need to subscribe to one standard.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:26 AM on September 12, 2008


bonehead, I think you're right. I'd also think that in the future fire departments and water utilities will have to work closer together. In an area where water is expensive, or where people want to conserve water, or where you want to stop the durn kids from opening the hydrant, it probably makes sense to have on-the-fly pressure. Companies would want to save money, local goverments would have "green" pressure.

Fire departments or 911 would feed the address to the water utility when the call comes in. They'd head out their with their water trucks and use what they can while the pressure builds, then switch over as needed.

BTW, of all the people angry about this, have any of you lived in areas without hydrants? Sometimes the gov't just can't afford them. This company's solution is actually kind of neat (assuming the firefighters distribute a tool to every truck in the future).
posted by FuManchu at 10:30 AM on September 12, 2008


Notice that a house burned down but no skyscrapers collapsed. That's mission accomplished right there.
posted by rokusan at 10:32 AM on September 12, 2008


My house - s'out of the ordinary
That's right - don't want to hurt nobody
Some thing sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house.

posted by Meatbomb at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the gov't just can't afford them.

Except this was Texas, not Somalia. Why do people keep defending this third-world level of civic infrastructure? Maybe they should make these hydrant-less neighbourhoods safer by not having electricity or natural gas lines either.
posted by GuyZero at 10:58 AM on September 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why do people keep defending this third-world level of civic infrastructure?

A lot of people want to see government go away / property taxes eliminated / services privatized / etc. and are willing to put-up with the consequences, no matter what?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:19 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


A lot of people want to see government go away...

Don't bother sending the fire department next time then I guess. Let the whole neighbourhood burn down.
posted by GuyZero at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Haven't any of you naysayers ever seen Batman Begins?

Sheesh.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, you didn't answer my question but I assume that no, you have never lived in an area without hydrants. I also doubt you've ever lived somewhere with wellwater. Texas is big. Parts of Texas are also rural. There are plently of places in the developed US of A without hydrants.

Also, check out a neat blog on Texas Rural Water Utilities, which discusses some conflict over painting the hydrants black!
posted by FuManchu at 11:47 AM on September 12, 2008


Its still a stupid solution because its security through obscurity. Once these solutions become mainstream then copycat key tools will be everywhere. Now every district or development area will have its own unique key that it must change to keep up with the copycats. Now Joe Firefighter will have a key chain of a dozen keys for different hydrants and will need to replace the ones that have been successfully copied.

This has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with the cost-cutting nature of privatization. Its stupid and reckless and if someone died in this fire then all the blame in the world wont bring them back. Hydrants are emergency services and need to be easy to access. Its really that simple.

Fire departments or 911 would feed the address to the water utility when the call comes in. They'd head out their with their water trucks and use what they can while the pressure builds, then switch over as needed.

More complexity and more hoops to jump through in an emergency == disaster.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:02 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Governments are subject to costs and budgets, too. We're not talking about NYC or Sunnyvale, here.

Complete lack of hydrants or disabled services due to budget shortages in an emergency == disaster.
posted by FuManchu at 12:08 PM on September 12, 2008


a vile of Joker brand Smilex

I was going to correct your spelling, but "a vile of poison" sounds about right.
posted by SPrintF at 12:16 PM on September 12, 2008


Did you see the photo of the house ITFA? That's not poor rural. People who can afford those types of homes can be afforded to be taxed on the proper infrastructure to help guarantee their safety and the safety of the first responders.

On top of it it costs 70 dollars to paint a hydrant. What if there are 3,000 in this area? 210,000 dollras to be less safe? On top of that the PPC rating on home owners insurance will go up and then premiums will go up. The point it: youre paying one way or another. Might as well pay for, you know, having the damn things work when you need them.

Lastly, the idea of the black hydrant was to inform firefighter that that particular hydrant is bad. Water utility lawyers saw this as permission to paint them all black. That's not right.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:22 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is all just a plot to begin the digitization of our water sources. No you can't haz analogue water!
posted by furtive at 12:37 PM on September 12, 2008


Awesome. Now I have something to use to make libertarians shut up every time they get going.

The fire department-- the public fire department-- inexplicably forgets to bring the magical tool, and somehow doesn't have a tanker truck, but it's still somehow the fault of the market, and libertarians are stupid.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:14 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kwantsar, yes the public fire dept was impeded from doing their job by a private company and their proprietary configuration of a typically standard public utility interface.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:31 PM on September 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


but it's still somehow the fault of the market

So, I don't see this as all the fire dept's fault. There was a whole chain of shitty thinking that ended in someone's house burning down.

Shitty ideas, roughly in order:

1) that someone granted a construction permit for residential houses in an area that lacks support for residential utilities, i.e. water for hydrants. That ain't no farm house in the picture. There are plenty of bad places to build houses and the reason the building permits exist is to stop stupid/greedy people from building houses there.

2) someone decided that since there's a way to indicate that some hydrants may be inoperative they would could escape all culpability by making them ALL that way. i.e. a de facto declaration that there were no guaranteed operational fire hydrants.

3) Someone decided to then take these only-maybe-operational hydrants and LOCK THEM with a special tool. A tools that anyone can buy but that firefighters might forget and/or lose. To protect against an unspecified threat ("terrorists"). Seems like an obviously bad tradeoff to me.

4) Fire department does not have the magical tool. Which is unnecessary for most other fire departments out there, but whatever.

So far the only people who seem to pose a clear and present danger to the residents of this Texas neighbourhood are the local administrators and the people running the water utility.

Why do I dump on libertarians? Because sometimes the government creates and enforces good rules. Like a rule that says that wherever you build residential houses you have adequate hydrants to provide protection from fires. Seems like everyone was happy to let the invisible hand do its magic here until someone's house went up in flames.

Also, as for Texas being short of water - then why are they building houses there? I know very well what rural living is like. And the house pictured in that article ain't no rural house. It's a city house that seems to have lost its city.
posted by GuyZero at 1:57 PM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Rural fire area with hydrants often have the water turned off. This prevent line freezing, leakage, and when someone drives over the hydrant, you don't spew millions of gallons of water before someone goes out to fix them.

HOWEVER. The FD knows this. They have the tools on the truck, and the maps. In these calls, a second car goes out, follows the line, and turns the water on while the engine is en route.

The questions:

1) Was this hydrant properly mapped? Was water access properly maintained. A dry line is fine, as long as it can be made wet in an emergency.

2) Was the FD properly informed about what lines were needed to activate this hydrant?

3) Was this hydrant functional? As in, if the FD turned the correct valves in route, would there be water at this hydrant? Could this hydrant be opened.

If any of the above are NO, the it's the water companies fault. If yes, the Fire Department's fault for not following the proper, known procedure for rural on-water-line firefighting.

HOWEVER, part #2.

As to black body? There is a law in Texas(pdf) about this. It went in effect this year, and it states that a hydrant that is painted black tells the fire department that the hydrant is "nonfunctioning or otherwise unavailable for use by the entity providing fire suppression services in an emergency"

So: The fire department was told that these hydrants were either not working or not to be used by them, by color code. So they didn't.

Sucks to live near one of those. If you do, can I suggest that you build a pond and fill it, or a firefighting cistern?
posted by eriko at 2:11 PM on September 12, 2008


I don't buy the story, they're painting the firefighters as idiots, but I'd guess their covering up for the water company. Well, the water company might not have done anything criminal, as they bought a law saying so, but they are still civilly liable since they've obviously deceived residents.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2008


If you do, can I suggest that you build a pond and fill it, or a firefighting cistern?

Because nothing says "homeowners' association" quite like "digging a huge ditch in your backyard to store water in case of fire."

I'm curious as to the "if there's enough water pressure" quote - the fun "what if" here implies that, even if the firefighters had the right tool at the right time, there may not be enough water pressure to allow hydrant use in any case.

I'm curious - now that this article is getting a wider audience, what are these Texas homeowers going to think when their home insurance rates skyrocket? After all, technically speaking, that entire neighborhood is nowhere near a working hydrant.
posted by FormlessOne at 2:54 PM on September 12, 2008


What a lawsuit these folks have!
posted by zardoz at 3:56 PM on September 12, 2008


Texas is funny.
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on September 12, 2008


Rural hydrants are shut off all over the country, including here in the SoCal desert.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:04 PM on September 12, 2008


Must. Defend. Libertarians. At. Any. Cost!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:56 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because nothing says "homeowners' association" quite like "digging a huge ditch in your backyard to store water in case of fire."

Hey, if you really want someone else to decide what you can park where, what you can paint what color, and what you can put in the yard, I'd suggest you rent. If you insist on buying into an HOA, well, good luck with that.

The fun part, I'm thinking, is that when the house burns down, the HOA is going to fine you until you rebuild it.

I'm curious - now that this article is getting a wider audience, what are these Texas homeowners going to think when their home insurance rates skyrocket?

That's a really good question.

Another is -- if a fire department uses a black hydrant, and the fire isn't controlled, are they liable? The hydrant says, clearly, that the hydrant is *not* useful for fire suppression?

Then again, this is what you get with privatization. A public water system is beholden to the public. A private water system is beholden to the shareholders.
posted by eriko at 6:27 PM on September 12, 2008


I think there's only one thing to take away from this: DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS house fires.
posted by inigo2 at 6:47 PM on September 12, 2008


Sometimes the gov't just can't afford them.

Except this was Texas, not Somalia. Why do people keep defending this third-world level of civic infrastructure? Maybe they should make these hydrant-less neighbourhoods safer by not having electricity or natural gas lines either.


You know, these comments remind me of when the guys from Top Gear visited the Louisiana area about a year ago, and they were amazed at how bad the area still was after Katrina. They could not believe that the US would allow part of the country to stay like that -- like you describe, like a third-world country, for so long.
posted by inigo2 at 6:55 PM on September 12, 2008


Except this was Texas, not Somalia. Why do people keep defending this third-world level of civic infrastructure? Maybe they should make these hydrant-less neighbourhoods safer by not having electricity or natural gas lines either.

We're talking rural america, where things are so spread out, installation costs per household are much more expensive than in a city. It would cost approximately $250K to run a hydrant to the edge of our property line from the nearest one currently in existence (and even then, it's another .78 miles to our house).

It doesn't make sense to spend 250K to protect a 200k structure that isn't that likely to burn anyway. That's the case in much of America.

We live in the boonies, we deal with a lower level of government protections and we don't expect the rest of you to pick up the tab on our behalf. On a related note, the wife and I are still ecstatic we got DSL even though there's no USPS delivery in this area.

p.s. There's not a natural gas line within 35 miles of here, but we do have some awesome dining and shopping opportunities 60 miles from here in Palm Springs.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:07 PM on September 12, 2008


We live in the boonies, we deal with a lower level of government protections and we don't expect the rest of you to pick up the tab on our behalf.

Libertarians don't use ROADS!
posted by Artw at 7:41 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds like those involved all went to school with Wile E. Coyote.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2008


Mind, what happened with the house isn't as bad as what happened to the sick baby in the hands of TSA/DHS.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 PM on September 12, 2008


StarForce5 writes "I'm not even sure how a malicious substance could be injected into a pressurized fire hydrant in the first place. I'm picturing a guy in a black ski mask and a shirt that says 'EVIL' trying carefully pour a vile of Joker brand Smilex into a gushing fire hydrant and realizing things are not going according to plan."

It'd be pretty easy. All you'd need is:
  • Five sided hydrant wrench
  • Bladder pressure tank
  • chunk of hose and an assortment of fittings
  • Air compressor (Even one of those 12V emergency jobbies)
  • A couple gallons of liquid nefarious chemical, say LSD
  1. Deflate bladder on pressure tank
  2. Pour LSD into liquid side of pressure tank
  3. Using hose and fittings connect pressure tank to hydrant
  4. Use hydrant wrench to turn on water
  5. Connect compressor to bladder inside tank and bring pressure up to a few pounds greater than municipal pressure
  6. Bladder expands injecting LSD into water system.
Of course you could do this in your basement as well. However because of the nature of the distribution system you'd probably only dose at best a few blocks around you house. Because hydrants are generally connected directly to large water mains a carefully chosen hydrant could dose an entire neighbourhood or more.

unrepentanthippie writes "Because the terrorists couldn't purchase this special tool off the internet with a little effort."

The water company is going to hand them out to home owners. Zero effort required.
posted by Mitheral at 11:19 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So there are these non-functioning black fire hydrants on the street. Even if the department had the tool, everything I've read suggests that there would not have been enough pressure for anything but a bucket brigade. So why are there hydrants on the street anyway? Isn't that just a waste of metal and paint? Get rid of the hydrants and just have all the fire trucks have tanks in them.

Or am I missing something?
posted by Hactar at 2:06 AM on September 13, 2008


Mitheral
Yeah, I omitted the sarcasm tag. As in, that's the stupidest story I've heard all week, starting with the level of difficulty in obtaining the tool.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:17 AM on September 13, 2008


I'm starting to hate this country more and more every day. I can't wait to move to Canada.
posted by mike3k at 8:17 PM on September 14, 2008


So long as you're coming to Canada because you believe workers have rights and that governments provide modern-life-sustaining social infrastructure¹, I'm cool with having you immigrate, mike3k. This country has a lot of damn fine places to live, where someone innovative can make a real go of it without spending a pile of dough.

The company I work for is in an unlikely location, but where the living is near perfect. There was a time it cost fuck-all to live here. There are many other places in Canada awaiting discovery. The opportunities for development of employment-by-telecommuting must be pretty big back on the East Coast. Dirt cheap to buy land, by all accounts the living can be great for a certain type of loner-genius sorts, good telecommunications links. Easy private jet flight to all important places. Fertile ground for thinkworks.

There's lots of opportunities for Canada to become the same sort of model society as Sweden, Denmark, and a couple other odd European countries where it seems the standard of living is high and the standard of freedom is high. Some countries are obviously doing some things right: Canada is still in a position to learn from them, and learn from others' mistakes.

¹I believe the primary purpose of government should be to ensure all citizens have near-equal access to useful opportunity. Healthy, safe, educated citizens: that should be goal number one.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:57 PM on September 14, 2008


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