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Lack of fire hydrants in residential areas a problem for fire fighters

house fire
Joyetter@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A fire demolished a family home in Fogagogo early Tuesday morning and the Fire Dept. is investigating what started it, although a lack of fire hydrants in the area may have contributed to the incident; and the director of fire services says, “Unfortunately we are not in charge of the fire hydrants…”

This was confirmed by Director of Fire Services Sinauli Faamasino Upuese Galoia in a response during an interview with Samoa News.

“We are investigating both fires in Tafuna and Fogagogo and once the report is complete we will be able to answer any questions the media has.

 “Also the firefighters only investigate how the fire started — that’s it. If there is any criminal elements in terms of arson, then it will be referred to the Department of Public Safety, they investigate criminal activity,” said Sinauli.

This is the second fire in two days in a row and Sinauli said their major concern is the lack of fire hydrants in residential areas and this has proven to be challenging for the fire fighters that respond to the calls.

“Fortunately no one was injured from the two fires in Tafuna and Fogagogo.

“The struggle is being able to get fire hydrants in residential areas, like the fire in Fogagogo, there were two fire trucks that responded, but they needed to refill but they had a hard time as the hydrant is not in close proximity.

“Unfortunately we are not in charge of the fire hydrants, but we will address it with the appropriate authority,” said the Director.

The American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) is in charge of installing and maintaining the fire hydrants. Samoa News reached out to Acting CEO of ASPA Ryan Tuato’o for comments on the issues addressed by the Fire and Rescue Director, but as of press time, no response has been received.

Sinauli said he has little to no information on the fire involving a vehicle in Tafuna (published as front page photo Oct. 25, 2022 issue), as the investigation report by the firefighters is not yet completed.

At the fire in Fogagogo Tuesday morning, Samoa News arrived close to 7am, and the firefighters were still trying to squelch the fire that started around 4am.

At the scene, Police Captain Annie Coffin said she was heading to work and saw dark smoke and she immediately called 911 for assistance.

“The owner of the home was at the house when it happened,” Coffin told Samoa News.

Deputy Director of the Department of Health, Vesi Fautanu Jr said their department was looking at renovating this house for their Veterinarian to use.

“It’s sad what occurred, this is a private area and we were hoping to renovate it for their Vet, but now they have to look elsewhere.

“Fortunately no one was injured,” he said.

The Deputy Director also expressed concerns on the lack of fire hydrants in the area.

“The firefighters are struggling in the area as the fire hydrant is further down, yet this is a residential area where fire hydrants should be close to the main road — there is a huge store across and many family homes, this is just unacceptable,” Fautanu said at the scene.

The Fire and Rescue Director also used the opportunity to remind the public the need to remain “vigilant” as this is key in protecting properties and saving lives.

“Make sure to check your electricity outlet, make sure there are not that many extension cords and when you’re cooking, pay attention and make sure the fire is completely out before you leave the house.

These are simple steps to ensure that you are safeguarding your properties,” he said.

Of interest, Samoa News points out that according, in part, to the American Samoa Administrative Code Title 12 chapter 13 water/ wastewater — “No person or persons, other than those designated and authorized by the department of public safety, or by the Utility, shall open any fire hydrant, attempt to draw water from it or in any manner damage or tamper with it. Any violation of this rule will result in a report to proper law enforcement officials.

(e) When a fire hydrant has been installed in the location specified by the proper authority, the Utility has fulfilled its obligation.

“Cost of such installation, maintenance, and upkeep shall be borne by applicant or fire authorities. If a property owner or other party desires a change in the size, type, or location of the hydrant, he shall bear all costs of such charges, without refund. Any change in the location of a fire hydrant must be approved by the proper authority.

“Any damage to a fire hydrant, and the consequent resulting loss or damage to property, or any injury to persons arising from or out of the damage to fire hydrants, shall be paid for by the person or legal entity responsible for the damage.”