The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Pullman Fire Department sees 30% increase in calls

Increase in calls can be attributed to low temperatures, freezing pipes last month
Courtesy of DARREN JONES
Pipes freezing is one of the biggest reasons for the increase in calls this past month.

The Pullman Fire Department saw a 30% increase in calls in January, in part due to the extremely cold weather.

Fire Chief Mike Heston said an uptick in calls is to be expected during the winter months as the lower temperatures are more likely to damage sprinklers and water pipes. 

“A fire alarm would go off and when you get there, you’ll see that the sprinkler system has either gone off or there’s a water pipe broken in the system that’s leaked water through the electrical components of the fire alarm system,” he said. “Or somebody would have called and said ‘I got water coming into my place, I don’t know where it’s coming from [and] I don’t know how to shut it off. Can you help?’”

Fire Marshal Darren Jones said usual winter temperatures transitioning into negative temperatures cause these issues to become more prevalent.

“Every winter, of course, you’re always gonna get a few broken pipes. But when it hit those negative numbers … that -20 mark, that’s really cold,” Jones said. “That hit those spaces that typically can’t handle cold weather. When it gets down that far below freezing, pipes just freeze. It’s in those unconditioned spaces where there’s no heat.”

This Fire Department had to bring on extra personnel to deal with the extra calls, Heston said. At times, the department has to rely on mutual aid to cover their calls.

“We definitely could use more staffing as anybody else, but we have backup and contingency plans for those times when we’re not available or we need some more help, just as any other fire department or police department,” he said.

The low temperatures coinciding with Pullman residents turning off their heat when traveling out of town is another significant contributor to issues with water pipes, Heston said. 

“Today we’re up 68 calls from this time last year, but all those calls are due to the water pipe breaks that we had,” Heston said. “We had over 51 places that were affected by water we responded to, and a lot of those places we responded to more than once.”

These calls were not limited to residential areas but domestic water lines as well as pipes and sprinklers in commercial buildings, government buildings, and WSU and Pullman School District buildings, Jones said. 

While the Department is seeing a return to normal call rates, Pullman residents are encouraged to be vigilant in maintaining heat in their homes when temperatures drop, Heston said.

“When you leave home for the holidays, make sure you keep your heat above 50–55 degrees and then open the cabinets to the outer walls that are on the outside of a sink if it’s to the outside wall,” he said. 

Pullman residents are also advised to have the pipes in their homes checked by friends or trusted neighbors in order to avoid water damage, Heston said. Those who are renting are also strongly advised to have renter’s insurance.

Renter’s insurance may also help those who are impacted by damages from neighboring apartments and residences, Jones said.

“For people living in rented spaces [make sure to] have renter’s insurance. That’s the big thing because it might be the apartment above you, and then it drips down into your apartment or the apartment next to you,” he said. “So having that renter’s insurance certainly helps you mitigate those damages.”

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