Water infrastructure issues hinder Metro East firefighters

A fire in Cahokia Heights early Sunday morning destroyed a family’s home.
Published: Mar. 20, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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CAHOKIA HEIGHTS (KMOV) - A fire in Cahokia Heights early Sunday morning destroyed a family’s home.

All of the people inside of the home got out safely, but the daughter of a woman inside said she thinks the Cahokia Heights Volunteer Fire Department could have saved some of the house had they been better equipped.

“They said there wasn’t enough water,” Tiffany Palmer said. “It’s a failure to the community, that’s what I think about it.”

Talk about the area’s water pressure started on social media within hours of the fire. Many residents expressed their concerns about the fire hydrant’s water pressure.

News 4 asked local volunteer firefighters if they had experienced issues with water pressure while responding to fires.

Former Prairie Du Pont volunteer Firefighter, Bobbie Borders, said he faced water pressure issues “multiple times” in the area. The Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Department often assists on calls in the Cahokia Heights area.

Borders left the department in December. He recalled moments he said his life was in danger because of the issues with water.

“There was an occasion when we were inside of the house and the hose quit working because the hydrant went out and we had to transfer to the truck,” Borders said. “We were just standing there waiting for water for what had to be six minutes.”

Another local firefighter, who chose to remain anonymous, said the hydrants in Cahokia Heights and several of the surrounding areas are in such bad condition that departments rely on water tankers.

“You feel hopeless to the community because they want you to save their property and you can’t save their property because you don’t have the pressure,” Borders said.

Illinois American Water Company (IAWC) owns most of the water distribution systems in the Cahokia Heights area. The rest are owned by the village of Cahokia. The village turned into Cahokia Heights in 2021 with the merger of Cahokia, Alorton and Centreville.

A representative with IAWC told News 4 all of their hydrants are up to code and are inspected annually.

Senator Tammy Duckworth said Cahokia Heights plans to use $2.8 million in COVID-19 relief money to repair the water system.

News 4 has reached out to the mayor of Cahokia Heights and the Cahokia Volunteer Fire Department for this story and is waiting to hear back.