Fire plan questioned by fire department

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) — A career Wabash Valley firefighter is speaking out against a still-in-the-works plan to transition a federally subsidized elderly housing development off of the water supply it’s counted on for fire protection since it opened 34 years ago.

“We’re going from approximately 1,000 gallons a-minute to 200-gallons a-minute — which, for Sugar Creek Fire, puts us at a major disadvantage,” said Darrick Scott, chief of Sugar Creek’s department and the man who would oversee a fire call of any magnitude at the Maryvale Apartments just off the campus of St. Mary of the Woods College.

Scott was referring to the impending reduction in fire hydrant strength once St. Mary’s Sisters of Providence officially sever the water supply and wean Maryvale Apartments onto its own water supply for fire suppression.

“Now that we’re losing this much water supply, I have to totally re-vamp my action plan,” said Chief Scott, adding that he and his colleagues have expressed to the Sisters, more than once, their opposition to the transition.

“We have recommended that they stay, that Maryvale stays on the Sisters of Providence water system — because of the water supply that it gives to Maryvale,” he said.

Asked what the Sisters’ of Providence reply was to Sugar Creek’s suggestion, Chief Scott said:   “His response was no, they wanted to be released from the liability of Maryvale,” the “he” being Jim Brown, the primary Sisters of Providence staffer the fire department has been dealing with since late last summer.

Chief Scott admitted that bad as the new fire safety plan might be for the roughly 150 residents who call Maryvale home, that his men and women would find a way to make the changes work without compromising public safety.

“We will come up with a plan to give them the best fire protection we can! Is it the best as far as water supply? No! But will we do our best to provide that? Yes, we will! Will there be a delay (in response times)? Definitely!”

Maryvale is managed by Pfister and Company, Inc., and executive vice president Yvonne Avary, who declined News 10’s request for an on-camera interview, defended the new fire plan that still has not been implemented.

In a statement to News 10, the Sisters of Providence released the following response late last week:

“The Sisters of Providence are continuing to provide fire protection to the residents of Maryvale Apartments through the use of a fire hydrant, which the complex is currently connected with. The fire hydrant is located by the new sports and recreation center on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Currently, there are four fire hydrants at each corner of the complex for emergencies as well. The four hydrants, according to information, are scheduled to be connected to the Indiana American water main for usage.

The hydrant with water for fire emergencies provided by the Sisters of Providence is intended as a back-up for fire protection at no cost, and is still operational. The hydrant was disconnected for approximately one hour on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, due to changes of the Sister’s water distribution system.

Even though the complex will no longer be connected to the hydrant, it will be still used for emergency situations as a backup for fire protection at no cost, per agreement between the two entities involved.

It is the understanding of the Sisters of Providence that additional fire protection at Maryvale Apartments will be provided within days as the complex will connect to the Indiana American water main.”

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