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Battling a blaze, at thousands of gallons per minute

Denver Water is on the scene to ensure firefighters have the water pressure they need. 
Denver Water's Tim Woodward checks the pressure gauges from a fire hydrant being used to help extinguish a warehouse fire in east Denver on Dec. 30, 2014.

On a crisp December afternoon, with temperatures plummeting to record lows, pitch-black plumes of smoke cut through the arctic air as a warehouse fire raged in east Denver.

The Denver and Aurora fire departments both responded quickly to fight the blaze. Xcel Energy cut off gas to the building, and a crew from Denver Public Works sanded the ice rink created by the water dousing the building. RTD provided a large bus as a warming station, allowing firefighters to rest and thaw out, like hockey players shifting lines.

From the time the first responders arrived that frigid afternoon until the next morning when the last crew drowned the final hotspots, there was one constant — water.

At the height of the blaze, there were more than 10,000 gallons per minute of water flowing out of the hydrants, said Lt. Mike Pylar of Denver Fire. “Having Denver Water on the scene means our firefighters will have the water they need,” he said.

Denver Water’s system is designed for such highest-intensity uses, said Tim Woodward with Denver Water Emergency Services.

For major multi-alarm fires, Denver Water monitors the situation and, if needed, can adjust water flows so firefighters have the pressure they need to fight the blaze.

Woodward was on scene within an hour, checking the pressure gauges from each of the five fire hydrants used during the response.

“We respond to make sure everything is flowing so the firefighters don’t have to worry about water supply and can focus on the job at hand,” he said.

That supply includes a water system of 3,000 miles of water pipe and 21,000 hydrants, as well as more than 30 underground treated water storage tanks throughout Denver Water’s service area. Denver Water also has in-house hydrant mechanics who keep those hydrants in top condition.

“We are not just here to provide drinking water,” said Arnie Strasser, Denver Water’s manager of treated water planning. “We are also here to keep people safe.”