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Eye witness account challenges Nolensville fire chief’s claim regarding fire hydrant malfunction


Eye witness account challenges Nolensville fire chief’s claim regarding fire hydrant malfunction

PHOTO: A still-image captured from a video shows the house on Stonebrook Boulevard engulfed in flames on May 25 in Nolensville

By ALEXANDER WILLIS

A previous statement made by Nolensville Volunteer Fire Chief Brian Moat regarding a fire that had destroyed a home in May has been challenged by an eye witness account.

On May 25, a home in the Stonebrook community of Nolensville was destroyed by a fire, along with multiple vehicles. While one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion, all occupants of the home managed to escape unharmed.

While the fire was eventually contained, firefighters were initially unable to access the nearby fire hydrant, forcing them to use a hydrant further away. The incident brought to light the currently ongoing fire hydrant maintenance issue in Nolensville, where town staff had discovered no entity had been maintaining the hydrants for years, with some hydrants in the Stonebrook community not being maintained for decades.

Moat had previously stated that the fire hydrant malfunction did not result in any additional damage. Colin Bain, a resident of a nearby subdivision who witnessed the fire, said he believes otherwise.

“It is clear that if that fire hydrant was working, they wouldn’t be able to salvage that house, but they could have salvaged some things in the house, [and] things behind the house that ended up being melted would not have been melted,” Bain said. “And if there were people in that house, that would have been the difference between life and death. The fact that [Moat] had the audacity to say that no further damage was caused due to that just really rubs me the wrong way.”

Bain was leaving his home for work on the morning of May 25 when he saw a large plume of smoke in the sky. Curious as to the source, Bain jumped in his vehicle and headed towards the smoke, where he also managed to capture multiple videos with his mobile phone.

Footage captured from one of those videos shows firefighters at the scene at 6:21 a.m., later cutting to an unused fire hydrant with a hose lying next to it.

A different video captured by Bain shows the home from behind at 6:23 a.m., where two vehicles can be seen next to the house. The vehicles appear to be undamaged at the time of the video, and look to have been a white van and a black SUV. Those two vehicles were ultimately destroyed by the fire.

“The house’s structure was going to be gone regardless, but they would have been able to save things inside the house, and they definitely would have been able to save the vehicles outside the house for sure,” Bain said. “In that video, you can see the vehicles behind the house are not destroyed and melted out yet.”

After being asked about Bain’s account of events, Moat stood by his statement that he did not believe the fire hydrant malfunction caused any additional damage.

“As far as saying [with] 100 percent certainty that it didn’t contribute to the events of the fire, I won’t go on the record saying that, but what I will say is from a lot of years of firefighting experience, it didn’t make a difference,” Moat said. “The outcome of the house would have been the same.”

Moat said that even during the lapse in having access to a functional fire hydrant, water was still being put on the fire.

PHOTO: A still-image captured from one of the videos shows the two vehicles that were destroyed appearing to be undamaged as of 6:23 a.m. on the day of the fire

“We carry water on the trucks, so even if there was an extended period of taking time to get a water source, there’s still water on the apparatus that’s being utilized, so it’s not an all or none kind of thing,” Moat said. “The water was being utilized off the apparatus while they were switching to another hydrant.”

Bain said he did not recall seeing any water being put on the fire while he was watching the incident from his car.

Moat, who has been a firefighter for more than 30 years, went on to explain that there are extensive variables that go into the spread of a fire, and that even if there were four or five fire trucks there that day, the outcome would have likely been the same.

Regarding the amount of time lapse there was between using water from the fire truck and when the firefighters had access to the fire hydrant that was further away, Moat said it was “not more than a minute or two.”

“Every city, every town, before they were where they were at, was a small suburb of something,” Moat said. “I’m sure I can go to any major city and there are roads that aren’t built to the current standards, there are water distribution systems that are 30 years behind the times, because you can’t physically keep replacing the infrastructure every time you update something in technology.”

“What happens is that those problems are found from occurrences just like this,” Moat said. “This is not irresponsibility of leadership or anything else, this is just a growing pain that every community, every city goes through.”

Currently, the town is in discussions with the College Grove Utility District to facilitate a plan of action, and who will bear the costs of maintenance. The College Grove Utility District supplies water to the residents of Nolensville, and is not part of the town government.

“That’s what bothered me about it; without that statement from him, I wouldn’t be telling anybody anything about this,” Bain said. “I would have forgotten about it and moved on with my life. When [Moat] said that, I’m thinking about, ‘that poor family, they might get shafted.’”

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