Edinburgh ex-MP calls for assurances over water to put out fires

A former MP is calling for public reassurances about the adequacy of Edinburgh's water supply for fighting fires.

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It follows fires in England during last week's heatwave when there were reports of no water pressure in some fire hydrants.

Former Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP John Barrett said firefghters had a similar problem when they arrived to tackle the 2013 blaze which the Corstorphine youth and community centre.

And with thousands of new homes being built in the city since then, he said he was concerned about whether the water infrastructure had been expanded in line with the Capital’s growing population.

Sixteen homes were destroyed in Wennington, east London, on the UK’s hottest day last Tuesday after grass fires spread and engulfed the properties. London Fire Brigade sent 15 engines and 100 firefighters to the area to tackle blazes.

Mr Barrett said: “I saw a young man being interviewed on television and he said the fire engines got there fairly quickly but there was a low water supply. I saw that first-hand here in Corstorphine with the fire at the community centre.

“There was no pressure from the first hydrant they went to and as they tried to get some water the fire took hold and the place burned down. It's now nine years on and the burned-out shell is still there.

Fire crews tackle the blaze at the Corstorphine Youth and Community Centre in October 2013.

"I know the fire brigade does go out and check hydrants, but clearly that one in Kirk Loan there was nothing coming out of it.

“Nobody took any responsibility at the time, but since then they've dug up the road and they have reinstated the water supply.”

Mr Barrett pointed to the many housing developments in the west of the city and elsewhere.

"There are thousands of new houses being built with no obvious improvement to the infrastructure. When you build houses you have to have the infrastructure to support it or we'll see deaths.

"We need to be assured that the water supply for fires is adequate throughout the city.

"The builders who get permission for new housing developments ought to be responsible for improving the infrastructure that supports them.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said it had a close working relationship with Scottish Water where water levels could be increased as requested to support demand.

All fire appliances carry 1,800 litres of water to enable firefighters to begin tackling a fire immediately while additional water sources are sourced and connected. And additional resources such as water bowsers can be brought in where required.

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “Scottish Water works hard to safeguard our network so it copes and continues to provide a consistent water supply. Fire hydrant maintenance and operability is a shared responsibility between Scottish Water and SFRS. For fire fighting purposes we have a shared Standard Operating Procedure which allows SFRS to call in our support in order to augment water supply during a firefighting situation.”

Hal Osler, convener of the council’s development management sub-committee, said: “We do consult with Scottish Water where the development is likely to require a material addition or change in the services provided. When doing this we haven't found water pressure to be an issue in Edinburgh.”

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