At the most dangerous point during what became an eight-alarm fire in East Boston Wednesday night, Boston firefighters scrambling to get water to their colleagues ran into a barrier: Someone had parked a BMW coupe in front of the hydrant near the blaze.
So they punched out the windows, ran a 4-inch hose from the hydrant through the driver’s side window, through the passenger’s side window, and out to an engine waiting to pump water to firefighters directly engaged in quelling a powerful fire threatening the neighborhood.
“The general reaction is that some people find humor in it,’’ said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. “But it’s really a serious situation. That water supply is the lifeblood of the engine company. The engine carries 750 gallons – and that could be gone in just two minutes. With that number of alarms, every hydrant is important.’’
“There is really nothing funny about it,” he added.
At the fire scene, MacDonald said, firefighters noticed that the way the hose was snaked through the car created a major kink, slowing down the volume of water flowing to fight the fire that eventually displaced an estimated 30 people.
A small platoon of firefighters circled the two-door, lifted it slightly and moved it about a foot away from where the driver had originally parked it, MacDonald said.
“I’ve seen that done many times,’’ MacDonald said of the “lift and slide” maneuver firefighters used. “It was a small car, and you get a bunch of firefighters there with one purpose. … They slide it over a little bit and the water obviously flowed a lot better.’’
Once the firefighters deployed the hose through the passenger cabin, the car and its unusual passengers stayed in place for the next several hours until firefighters were released from the scene, MacDonald said.
MacDonald said firefighters don’t go out of their way to damage property as they were forced to do by the driver of the BMW. He said they rarely encounter someone parked in front of a hydrant at a fire scene, perhaps a handful of times every year.
The goal, he added, is to protect the people’s lives and they need water to do just that.
“People always think it will never happen to me. But fire is so unpredictable, you just never know when that hydrant is needed,’’ MacDonald said.
Boston police said an officer ticketed the vehicle last night. The fine for such a violation is $100.
This morning, the BMW is no longer is parked next to the hydrant.
“It’s similar to those who park in a handicapped spot,’’ MacDonald said. “It’s just something you don’t do.’’