The other day, I ran a photo from Mt. Ida Road in Dorchester showing what can happen when you park in front of a hydrant. Turns out it was for a fire on the second floor of a three decker at 36 Mt. Ida that was declared out about a half hour after firefighters arrived around 1:36 a.m.
Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, explains why firefighters might have run the hose right through the car. He emphasized he was not at the scene and had yet to talk to any firefighters who were, so he had no firsthand knowledge of the specific incident:
When we have a call for a fire, the minimum response will be two ladders, a rescue unit, a chief and three engines. It is the responsibility for each engine to get their own water source/hydrant. This will make sure that we get a supply quickly once the water in the engine tanks run out. They carry 500 or 750 gallons. It is preferable to use the short front suction hose pre-attached to the engine to hook up to the hydrant. This requires the engine to nose in to a hydrant. If no access is available that way, the following happens.
Each engine has an officer and three firefighters. On arrival the officer and one firefighter grab the hose with a nozzle attached (we call it a pipe) and head in. The driver, what we call the pump operator, will break the hose connection once the officer and pipe man are inside and call for water. He will hook it up to the side of the engine to one of several connections, open the valve and give them water. The third firefighter meanwhile has been taking the large 4" feeder hose with a very large valve on it to the hydrant and has been connecting that. In theory, he will get the engine the hydrant water before the firefighters inside go thru the tank. He will then join the other two inside.
When you have fire showing from an occupied home, you do what you have to-to save lives. I know is sounds clichĂ© but keep in mind, the firefighters in those first couple of minutes do not know how many people are inside or what exactly the scale of the inside fire is. A three-decker at 1:30 am tells you people are most likely sleeping and in danger. I cannot speak to what happened on Mt. Ida Rd. as to the thought process involved with the placement of the feeder hose. Ultimately, it was the size up the firefighters made in a split second based on what they saw, what they were told and experience.