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Fire at Little Lotts Creek Apartments leads to drop in city water pressure
In this file photo, emergency vehicles from public safety agencies respond to a fire at Little Lotts Creek Apartments on East Jones Avenue on March 29. More than a week after the blaze severely damaged the 20-unit Building C of the apartment complex, all 63 residents, including 40 children, remain displaced, but community donation efforts have helped, and some are finding new homes. - photo by JIM HEALY/staff

A fire Monday morning at Little Lotts Creek Apartments displaced residents of a 20-unit building, and the volume of water used to fight the fire resulted in a drop in pressure in Statesboro’s water system.

That, in turn, prompted city officials to issue an advisory that brown  water from displaced rust deposits in pipes could appear anywhere on the system.

The fire in one three-story, 20-apartment building of the complex off East Jones Avenue was reported shortly after 9 a.m. Most of the Statesboro Fire Department’s on-duty firefighters were attending training a few blocks away and were able to respond very quickly, said Fire Chief Tim Grams.

“When we arrived there was fire on the third floor and in the attic area,” he said. “Overall there were 12 apartments affected either through fire directly or water damage and things of that nature from us fighting the fire, and then there were eight apartments, I think, that were indirectly affected.”

In other words, the entire building was affected, since water, power and natural gas lines had to be cut, Grams said Monday afternoon.


No injuries reported

Residents had safely evacuated the building, and no injuries were known at that time, he said.

Fire had been showing through the roof when firefighters arrived, and at first Grams had thought they wouldn’t be able to contain the blaze, he said. But all of the SFD’s on-duty crews responded, the city department requested and received assistance from the Bulloch County Fire Department, and the fire reportedly was under control within an hour.

“Our guys did an outstanding job and got in there and got it taken care of,” Grams said.

But so much water was diverted to the fire that drops in pressure were registered at distance points in the city’s system, including at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, said Statesboro Public Utilities Director Steve Hotchkiss.

“We got a low water pressure alarm all the way out by the hospital, and it’s not significantly low, but we know when we get that kind of alarm that we’re pulling water from all over the system, and lots of times pulling that much water … stirs up sediment, iron oxide that accumulates in the bottom of that pipe over time.”

The city’s advisory stated, in part:

“Some customers might experience brown, discolored water. Avoid using hot water when possible to keep discoloration to a minimum. If your water is discolored, you can try running cold water for 15-20 minutes. … The discolored water is safe to drink, but avoiding washing clothes until the water is cleared up.”

Using hot water can cause more of the brown water to flow into a water heater’s tank, where it can be hard to get rid of, Hotchkiss explained.

But he had not received many complaints of brown water by the afternoon, so the problem probably wasn’t as widespread as he first feared, he said.

Grams did not know the point of origin or the cause of the fire Monday. Both a state fire marshal and his department will be continuing to investigate, he said.


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