House Fire - 211 East Forest Ave
Today one of our long-time residents suffered a tremendous loss. Jimmy Permenter whose home stood at 211 East Forest is tonight homeless. The house and most of his possessions on East Forest Avenue have been completely destroyed. Jimmy was one of the very few residents that stayed during Hurricane Ike and never left. He rebuilt and repaired and never looked back. Tonight the challenge is so much greater. We are very sorry for his loss.
It's fortunate that in these drought conditions we didn't see more fire damage. Nearby trees caught fire and windblown embers set grass and brush ablaze half a block away. La Porte firefighters and EMS assisted by Shoreacres Police offices were able to tamp out those small fires and prevent further loss.
It was a very hot fire and despite escaping the spread of fire the neighbors certainly suffered damage from the extreme heat. Siding melted off the house across the street, patches of lawn were scorched, and even nearby vehicles felt the effects.
I'm sure that you will hear any number of stories about the fire and what happened. One of things you might hear is that the City of Shoreacres didn't have enough water pressure to fight the fire. However, that would not be entirely true. We maintained water pressure in our system throughout the fire, at least to the best ability of our system. That said, we have been operating at about half capacity since Hurricane Ike destroyed Water Plant #1 near City Hall. About half the water storage, about half our water sources, about half the water pressure boosters, and about half the pressure/elevated storage were completely destroyed by Ike. Additionally, most of our hydrants were damaged to some extent by Ike and are still awaiting repair. As a result a handful of hydrants may not be functioning to their full ability. None of this however come as a new revelation.
Our system today simply is not up to the high demands of large scale firefighting. All of our water comes from our smaller Water Plant #2 on Bayou Forest at the extreme west end of the City where the water tower is located. The further east you go the harder it is for us to supply large volumes of water.
There were pressure issues at the fire today. I personally monitored the supply (suction) pressure at the first-in pumper. It was zero and intermittently negative at the peak of the fire. As more trucks arrived and more demands were made it wasn't going to get any better. That said, I also can tell you that no amount of water pressure or supply would have saved this house under the circumstances present this afternoon. The fire just had too much of a head start before any fire hoses were charged.
We have been anxious to rebuild Water Plant #1 for almost three years so that we can meet the city's routine demands and improve water pressure and delivery. And we look forward to having a good supply of water for fighting fires like the one today. The new water plant will be a huge improvement and provide better pressure than the city has ever experienced. That won't however improve our distribution system, the pipes in the ground. We have fewer hydrants than we should have. But hydrants require large water mains, the pipes that we don't have.
What we do have are plans. We are working towards rebuilding Water Plant #1 which should be fully operational early next year. While that process is moving exceedingly slow, it is moving as quickly as we have the ability to push. We also have plans to rehabilitate all of our fire hydrants. Plans that were discussed as recently as yesterday in preparation for starting work. Originally we requested FEMA funds to rebuild the hydrants, but were denied. We then successfully had the hydrants included on our TxCDBG grant which prevented us from doing any work on them. Then last week we learned that the hydrants were dropped from the TxCDBG grant. Since then David Sutton, our Public Works Director, and I have begun planning to do that work in-house. Yesterday we discussed specifications and compatibility with the City of La Porte.
Recently we've also discussed an interconnect with the City of La Porte so that we could supply them with water in emergencies. In that initial conversation I proposed adding a Shoreacres fire hydrant on the extension, on our side, to provide better coverage in the area of Sunrise and Baywood.
Friday we will open bids to replace four blocks of water mains east of Old Highway 146. Not lines big enough to supply a fire hydrant, but mains that will improve our system's pressure and capacity in those areas. It's the first step of a long range plan to upgrade our water distribution system.
Prior to today's terrible fire loss the gears were already in motion to not only repair our water system to its pre-Ike condition, but to upgrade it and provide better service and protection to our residents. You can follow the progress on the City's website under the heading, "City Project Status Reports." You can also find photographs of today's fire on the City's website flickr Photo Album link.
And, again we pause to think of Mr. Permenter and offer our sincerest wishes and prayers as he confronts his personal tragedy.
David K. Stall, CFM
City Administrator - City Secretary - EMC - Floodplain Administrator
City of Shoreacres, 601 Shoreacres Blvd, Shoreacres, TX 77571
281.471.2244 - 281.471.8955 Fax