Friday, February 5, 2010
7 News Investigations: Getting Burned
How would you like to spend a million dollars for a product that doesn't work? Fire officials in Broward County say it happened to them, after buying a very expensive fire hose system. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafeiro explains why the County thinks it's getting burned.
WSVN -- You don't have to be a trained firefighter to know dealing with a burning storage tank full of fuel is dangerous business, and at Port Everglades that sort of disaster is always a possibility. If it happened today, Broward's fire chief says we'd be in trouble.
Chief Joseph Lello, BSO Fire: "The current system, the hydrant system that's been at the port, is not sufficient enough to handle the six to 8,000 gallons a minute that you would need on these tanks."
So the port spent a million dollars to buy this, a firefighting system based on a 12 inch hose designed to dump large amounts of water on fuel fires.
Chief Joseph Lello: "There's nothing that is inexpensive in the fire service and this was an important purchase for Port Everglades and Broward County."
The system is supposed to take water from the Intracoastal and pump it along the port to the tank storage areas. The hose is so big, huge machinery is required to move it and small bridges are needed for vehicles to drive over it, but after a million dollar investment and three tests, 7 News has learned Broward County fire officials say it doesn't work.
The latest test was done in August. That's when these pictures were taken. This memo on the test cites several problems. The pumps were hard to start. Pump pressure fluctuated and a priming system, which is what gets the water flowing, overheated and smoked. There was a problem with the giant hose reels, the memo says a roller guide failed and almost hit a firefighter, and then when it came to getting water to a potential fire, the memo says the water stream didn't reach.
As a result, the department concluded: "BSO Fire Rescue can not depend on this equipment to function properly in the event of a large scale petroleum tank fire at Port Everglades. Life safety and property will be at risk."
Carmel Cafiero: "If there was a fire today, could your use what we have spent a million dollars on?"
Chief Joseph Lello: "No."
Carmel Cafiero: "Does that disturb you?"
Chief Joseph Lello: "It does disturb me and that's why it's in the hands of the legal department."
Kidde, the Pennsylvania company that provided the hose system sent this statement. In part it reads: " The Kidde "big flow" firefighting equipment meets Broward County's bid specifications and Kidde's contract obligations. We have been working closely with the County and understand that there are questions about whether the specified equipment meets all the County's current needs. We have agreed to further demonstrate the system at no cost to the County. "
Carmel Cafiero: "This dispute could end up in court. In the meantime, all this hose and all this equipment sits in a warehouse and gathers dust."