Syracuse promises to fix low water pressure problems, discovered at deadly fire

Firefighters say they had low water pressure while fighting Sunday morning's fire on Clairmonte Ave. Syracuse City Hall promises to fix it, within the month

Syracuse's fire chief says it made no difference in the outcome of the firefight, but firefighters, on the scene of Sunday morning's deadly fire in the city's Strathmore section, complained about low water pressure from the hydrant right in front of the burning house on Clairmonte Avenue.

'This is unheard of, to have bad pressure in the city,' says Firefighters' Union President Lonnie Johnson. 'It is a big concern to the firefighters, and should be a big concern to the citizens, too."

Fire Chief Paul Linnertz tells us the reduced pressure is because the hydrant is on a 'dead end main,' at the end of a long water flow. Neighbors told us they thought it was because the nearby reservoir, off Geddes Street, has low water levels while it's being reconsructed.

'Absolutely not,' according Syracuse Chief of Staff Bill Ryan, who says the water comes directly from Skaneateles Lake. He says there've been meetings with the head of the water departmentl, and they expect to fix the problem by putting new hydrants in the area, tapping different mains, within the month. He also promises a check of other neighborhoods to make sure there are no similar low pressure problems.

The news did not sit well with the burned out home's neighbors. 'Very concerned, very much so," says next-door neighbor Rich McClurkin, who took the picture of the home in flames.

"Very concerned with the cuts they're proposing for the Fire Department, it's obscene. You know it's our safety. We pay our taxes to be safe, you know."

Neighbors were gathered around the home today, saying they did not know the victim well---she had just moved in a couple weeks ago, though residents on both sides say they welcomed her. Jill Shinaman, who lives on the other side from McClurkin, called in the fire alarm to 911 at 4am on Sunday morning, though she told us she'd smelled smoke and had gone out to investigate a while before seeing the glowing orange from a kitchen window on the upper floor.

There's a memorial to the victim, at the foot of the steps leading to her second floor apartment. On the first floor, the resident was salvaging what she could. She was not home at the time of the fire, and will now move to a friend's home in Tully.

The firefight was especially difficult for firefighters, who were pulled from the building for their own safety before they could complete their search for the victim.(Read Sunday's story for more detail.)"The firefighters left the building because their senior chief ordered them out," says Chief Linnertz. "Otherwise they would have stayed right there and searched until they couldn't stand it anymore. Its kind of what they do." The firefighters are getting counseling.

Five firefighters were hurt, four of them burned, one with a broken finger. "It lets you know this is a dangerous job and we got a lot of young men and women that are compassionate about doing their job," says union pewaiswnr Johnaon, "and now and then you get fires that could take your life."