DERBY/DERBY LINE - The water pipes on Elm Street in Derby Line do not have enough water pressure to put out fires in an effective manner. They are too small.
The issue came to light over the summer when an Elm Street home caught fire. The fire department got the fire under control, but it took longer than it should have, said fire Chief Craig Ellam. “We were hampered by the low water pressure. It’s a bad system,” Ellam said.
Derby Line Village Trustees say they were not aware the problem existed prior to the fire, even though they were aware of other problems with the village's water system. Since then, the trustees have been working to address the issue, which is a priority as the Derby Elementary School is located on Elm Street, along with many homes.
The east section of Elm Street is in Derby Line and then it becomes the Town of Derby, traveling west toward the school. Village trustees will have a preliminary meeting with engineers to determine the best way to address the problem.
The trustees sat down with the Derby Select Board Monday evening to discuss the issue. The select board agreed to work with Derby Line to address the problem.
In an interview Tuesday, Derby Select Board Chairman Brian Smith said the school and homes in the area of Elm Street need a system that is 100 percent adequate in providing coverage in the event of a fire, not 50, or even 75 percent. “It will be a joint effort,” he said, noting that no one is at fault, it was just an unknown issue. Smith said he was also unaware of the issue prior to the house fire.
In a previous interview, Fire Chief Ellam had said if a fire broke out at the school the fire fighters would struggle. The school has fire retardant construction but lacks sprinklers.
Brian Fletcher, the Road Supervisor of Derby Line, said that if a large fire broke out on Elm Street up to the school, emergency responders would have to truck water to the site, which would add time when seconds count.
Fletcher, whose department maintains water and sewer lines for the village, said that the water lines are old and change in diameter from four to six inches and back to four.
The village also suffers from old pipes and water dirty with rust, sand and other debris, and trustees have been discussing upgrading the system, however the high cost of an engineering study along with upgrades has prompted the trustees to wait and look for grants. Now that safety is a concern, they are going to address the problem on Elm Street with the town’s help.