Balky hydrant hinders Pike crews in condo fire

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It had been almost 20 years since Bertha Crenshaw moved into her condo on Apache Drive,  near 52nd and High School Road. Sitting across the street Sunday afternoon, she watched her home burn - the fire taking everything she had.

And thirty feet from her front door is a fire hydrant - one that did not work when it was needed, according to the Rob Saunders of the Pike Township Fire Department. "We have had some hydrant problems early on," he said at the scene. 

Smoke so thick it was impossible to see through met the fire fighters at the front door, along with flames that moved with ease from one condo to another. Firefighters tried to use traffic control flares to melt the ice on the hydrant, but had to move on to another hydrant several doors away from the fire. The fire got the upper hand.

Every time the Indianapolis Fire Department uses a hydrant, the water company is there to make sure the hydrant is closed properly so it does not freeze. That agreement has not been extended to the Pike Township Fire Department, and no one knows when Crenshaw's closest hydrant was used last, or whether it was closed properly.

Bertha Crenshaw had smoke detectors in her condo, and she says they worked just fine. But finding the fire associated with the smoke was another story, "I was just surprised to see all of the smoke and I could not find out where it was coming from," she said. "I opened the front door and noticed all of the smoke was coming from her place," said Crenshaw, referring to her neighbor's condo.

The fire department says a malfunction in a clothes dryer most likely started the fire. The building is a total loss.

No one was injured.