An investigation by KCEN 6-TV found that Killeen city workers don’t regularly inspect fire hydrants in Killeen despite a city ordinance that requires the public works department to do so.
The code says that fire hydrants should be inspected, flushed and painted annually. The TV station learned about the missed inspections last December, in an inquiry following a fire that destroyed the home of Tanisha Hill on Gray Drive. Firefighters had trouble getting the hydrant nearest the house to operate. Hill believes her home could have been saved if the hydrants had been working properly.
Two week after the fire, KCEN found that that hydrant still had not been repaired and that a second hydrant nearby was badly rusted. After KCEN made its inquiry, a city crew repaired the hydrants.
An email to the station, from a city email address, said that “hydrants do not have a regular inspection schedule.”
A subsequent records request in April uncovered an email in which water and sewer director Steve Kana told city spokesperson Hillary Shine that the city wasn’t following proper controls and asked Shine to tread carefully in answering the TV station’s questions.
“These are dangerous questions that need to be handled very carefully. Fire Hydrant [FH] inspection and maintenance is required by the state, and I’m sure by our ISO [Insurance Service Office] rating. Unfortunately, the city has not had a FH inspect/main program in place for many years,” he wrote.
“This is definitely not the first time that a FH was inoperable in the time of need,” he added.
Other emails showed that city staff sometimes waited months to repair hydrants after residents complained they didn’t work. City staff complained in emails the council didn’t budget money for a hydrant maintenance program, but Mayor Jose Segarra and council members told KCEN they had never heard of a budget request for such a program.