Water pressure was problem at church fire

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A fire that started at a vacant East Side home quickly spread to a neighboring church on Monday morning, with both structures being destroyed.

Investigators are still working to determine a cause, but low water pressure was a problem firefighters faced while battling the blaze on Shehy Street.

Rosalyn Stevenson lives on Forest Avenue in Youngstown, which is four houses away from where Grace Evangelistic Temple Ministries burned to the ground. Stevenson said low water pressure is a problem on her street.

“You try to use the shower, the water won’t come out. The sinks and the water from where we wash our clothes is coming out real, real slow,” Stevenson said.

And firefighters battling the Shehy Street blaze noticed the same thing.

“The East Side is notorious for low water pressure and that really hurt us,” said Youngstown Fire Capt. Terry Stephens.

“I know they called and our water tank level was fine. We put on another pump for them just to try something, but our water tank never got low. It was full,” said Youngstown Water Department Chief Engineer Gene Leson.

Leson said a faulty fire hydrant could be to blame for the water pressure issue. He said hydrants are mechanical and can fail. There is one on Forest Street, three houses down from where the fire was, that has not been replaced since 1985.

“We don’t have the details yet. I spoke with the fire chief this morning and he said we can sit down and meet with the people who were actually on the fire. I was not there,” Leson said.

Youngstown Fire Chief John O’Neill said even if they had a higher water pressure, they still would not have been able to save the the church. He also said firefighters will be meeting with the water department to review where the grid changes so that they can get stronger pressure when fighting fires on the East Side.

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