Mitchell replaces fire hydrants after 13 Investigates report

The City of Mitchell installed several new fire hydrants after a 13 Investigates report.
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An Indiana city is installing new fire hydrants after 13 Investigates exposed a dangerous problem.

For months, the residents of Mitchell asked for emergency action to fix broken hydrants, but city leaders weren't acting quickly at all. It was only after a tragedy - and phone calls from residents to 13 Investigates - that the city got involved.

It's a common sight throughout Mitchell. Houses badly burned, or even burned to the ground, after emergency crews could not get water from nearby hydrants.

"Nobody had water. Hoses were all over the ground, no water running through them. None. It was just surreal. No water. None," said Tina Colbert.

Colbert's home sits just a half-block from two fire hydrants, but when neither of them worked, her home continued to burn.

"Gone. Gone to the ground," she said. "I've lost everything. My daughter and I only have the clothes on our back."

Pam Condra and her grandson tell the same story, after firefighters responded to an electrical fire at their home.

"They almost had the fire put out. Then they ran out of water," Condra said. "While this is happening, I'm standing there watching my home burn. Why wasn't there any water?"

13 Investigates first showed the problem in June. We asked just how many Mitchell fire hydrants were broke and city officials gave us a disturbing answer.

"I really don't know," said Mayor Gary Pruitt.

"When's the last time the hydrants have been tested?" asked senior investigative reporter Bob Segall.

"I don't know when they were tested," Pruitt said.

"If you don't know how many are working and you don't know the last time they were tested, this seems like a pretty significant safety issue for your entire city," Segall said.

"Well, yes it is," Pruitt responded.

Two months later, the city has made some major changes. Since our report, the Mitchell Fire Department has flushed and tested all 207 fire hydrants in the city.

Pruitt says investigators have identified five hydrants that are broken beyond repair and all of them are being replaced by the end of this month. The water department is also installing three additional hydrants in areas that don't have them.

The new hydrants will offer better fire protection for hundreds of Mitchell residents and they will hopefully prevent more families from losing everything in a house fire.

The city isn't out of the woods just yet, however. Pruitt says it's been a busy summer repairing water main breaks throughout Mitchell. Some mains and some hydrants are more than 70 years old, so repairs to that infrastructure is something that likely won't go away soon.