Fire at DU building destroyed sewer trucks with $804k replacement cost

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Jan. 23—Decatur Utilities is working to recover from a pre-Christmas fire that destroyed the 10th Avenue Gas/Water/Wastewater Operations facility's engine bays and two trucks that'll cost $800,000 to replace but are crucial for DU's sewer main inspections.

Jason Jones, division chief and fire marshal for Decatur Fire & Rescue, said some people were outside the building on the evening of Dec. 9 when they noticed the smoke and called Morgan County 911.

Jones said Station 2 responded to what was initially called in as a vehicle fire, but realized the fire was bigger than expected. They called for backup and four more fire trucks responded. They managed to contain the fire to two engine bays, he said.

"We were able to contain it pretty quick, but there was a lot of smoke and heat buildup in the rest of the building," Jones said.

No one was in the building and the firefighters didn't run into any problems, Jones said.

General Manager Ray Hardin told the DU board last week that they're doing structural reviews of the building since the fire.

"No one was hurt and the Fire Department did a great job of putting out the fire," Hardin said.

The two replacement vehicles will cost the utility a combined $804,099 and sewer main inspections are on hold while the utility waits on their delivery. DU is working through insurance issues to determine how much the utility can recoup from the blaze.

The fire destroyed a 2011 Ford/CUES CCTV and Electroscan unit that was used daily to inspect the gravity sewer collection system to quantify and pinpoint inflow and infiltration to determine how to rehabilitate the sewer.

Hardin said they had planned to replace this 9-year-old truck next year, so it was nearing the end of its service time.

"We won't come close to the full purchase price (with the insurance payout) because of the vehicle's age," Hardin said.

The DU board approved on Tuesday the purchase of a Ford E-450 chassis, a CUES CCTV system with a lateral launcher and an Electroscan inspection system for $518,876 from CUES, of Orlando. The purchase includes a five-year warranty.

Evans said the lateral launcher is a new addition for DU. It will be used with the CCTV camera to inspect defective sewer service lateral connections and piping within rights of way to a sewer main. It also performs post directional bore services for lateral integrity inspections.

On the other hand, a Kenworth/Vactor Ramjet Line cleaning truck destroyed in the fire was only 2 years old. This truck, along with the CCTV/Eletroscan truck, was used to clean and inspect gravity sewer mains in the collection system.

Evans said the inspection and maintenance activities are part of the utility's wastewater system improvement program and "play a vital role in helping identify areas of inflow and infiltration, thus minimizing" sewer overflows.

The board approved the purchase of a 2018 International chassis with a Vactor RamJet System for $285,223.

DU Board chairman Neal Holland cautioned the utility officials about buying a 2018 chassis instead of a brand new chassis even though Hardin said this chassis has never been used before.

"Three years from now if you decide to do an update, there's a difference in a 7-year-old chassis and a 5-year-old chassis," Holland said.

Hardin said the problem is it would be the end of 2022 or the start of 2023 before they could get a new truck delivered "but, with these efforts by the line-cleaning crews, we just can't go a year without this vehicle for both serviceability and performance."

They did look at using contractors or renting replacements, but Hardin said the cost "just wasn't reasonable."

These two trucks and another one are usually parked together at the 10th Avenue building. One of the trucks was parked elsewhere on the day of the fire, Hardin said.

Holland suggested they look at parking the three in separate locations so another possible disaster isn't so costly, and Hardin said they will consider this suggestion.

Hardin said the purchases of the two trucks now have to be approved by the City Council, possibly as soon as the Feb. 7 council meeting. The vendors assured them they will hold the trucks for DU as it awaits council approval, he added.

Evans said he expects delivery of the two vehicles should occur in the next two or three months. The trucks are already in stock, so they don't have to be built.

"Some of the components still have to be purchased and put on the trucks," Evans said. or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.