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Lack of Fire Hydrants Causes Problems for Firefighters
• While Samara has 4 hydrants, Nosara still has none

By Wilberth Villalobos Castrillo

Photo by Adam Dietrich
Nosara firefighter Jo Pinheiro pulls up the garden hose he was using to douse hot spots from a field fire in Santa Marta in March 2012

“To put out a fire I draw water from the river, the sea, a pool or the well of a friend or neighbor. Here there are no hydrants”, explained Jo Pinheiro, describing the dramatic situation the Nosara firefighters go through when they need water to extinguish fires.

Specifically in the case of an emergency, firefighters depend on the available water supply in nearby aqueducts as well as water found in hydrant units near the incidents.

It is for this reason that the Nicoya Fire Department recognizes that the lack of hydrants not only affects the Nicoya district, but they are a necessity in other places like Nosara and Samara. Javier Guevara, Nicoya fire chief, says that not only do they need more hydrants; they also require the collaboration of people to reduce the number of alarms during the dry season.

“Just this year (2012) in Nicoya, we have had more than 600 alarms,” ??he explained. “Avoid burning in the summer, and if you do burn, it should be supervised because the wind can spread the flames and the ground topography favors the fire,” he said.

According to Guevara in 2012 they received at least 30 emergency calls for burning weeds; such cases are specific to the summer and escalate from January to April.

Faced with this dangerous situation, it is necessary to comply with Hydrants Act 8641, which states that installation and maintenance of the units are a public service by Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA), the Administrative Associations  of Communal Water and Sewage (ASADAs) and the fire department as a technical advisory on hydrants.

However, while the rules place the responsibility for hydrants with the administrators of the aqueducts,  AyA and ASADAs, they haven’t set specific deadlines for installing the units or penalties for those who are responsible. It is for this reason that the enforcement of the 8641 law, which has been in effect since 2008, remains voluntary for the administrators of the aqueducts.

According to the firefighters, this year they installed and replaced 75 hydrants throughout the canton of Nicoya and Hojancha. Of these, 10 were located in the center of Nicoya, according to information from the regional office of AyA.

However Samara has only 4 hydrants and Nosara still doesn’t have any. The reason, according to the ASADAs, is lack of resources.

Samara Needs Wider Pipes for Hydrants

Eduardo Arnáez, ASADA administrator in Samara, said that they currently have 355 subscribers who are charged 12 colones monthly for the service of the hydrants. However, according to him, to install more units requires not only buying hydrants, but also changing the pipes to widen the diameter, so this is an additional economic cost.

Carlos Esquivel, president of the ASADA in Samara, said he checked into the cost of each hydrant unit, which is around 270,000 colones ($540), so the investment is feasible with a little more money.

Arturo Rodriguez, official of the regional area of hydrants of AyA, explained that the minimum diameter of the pipes in order to have adequate fluid pressure should be 100 millimeters.

Nosara Remains Without Hydrants

The outlook is not encouraging in Nosara. Although there is a group of volunteer firefighters tending to their neighbors’ emergencies with their own resources, the ASADAs don’t charge the 12 colones fee to subscribers, nor are there hydrants, and they need to change all of the pipes.

Luis Ruiz, manager of the ASADA for central Nosara, recognizes that they cannot collect any amount from users for maintaining the hydrants if there currently aren’t any hydrants. He estimates that it would take at least 10 million colones ($20,000) to change the entire pipe system and then they could install hydrants.

Jo Pinheiro, mentioned earlier, explained that in the absence of the hydrants he keeps his truck loaded with water, which has a capacity of 1000 liters. But he said the problems faced by firefighters are when water pressure is insufficient or they simply run out of water.

“In those moments, seconds are what are needed to burn a house,” he said.


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