The Fourth of July is one of those peak days for house fires. So it is a heck of a thing for residents in Collinsville, Illinois, to learn their city's water infrastructure won't save their homes.

"We are totally devastated I'm still in shock about it," said Nick Barrett, whose home on Courtyard was destroyed by fire twice.

Barrett and his wife Melanie arrived this morning to see their home destroyed by fire for the second time in six months.

Last January a fire engulfed their home and the one next door.

“Our house was almost finished,” he said.

After restoring it, the Barrett's were almost ready to move in when Sunday's fire erupted.
Firefighters say they arrived to see the Barrett's home and the one next door in flames but that was just the beginning.

"We were hampered by water supply we didn't have enough of it," said Kevin Edmond, Collinsville’s Fire Chief.

The problem? Fire chief Kevin Edmond said the closest water main was from decades old, so old that it was too small to carry enough water. The line was only four inches in diameter.

So as seconds ticked they went five houses up Courtyard, then turned left on St. Louis to the next cross street..

"When we stretched for the second hydrant we had a broken hydrant,” Edmond said.

That hydrant was covered in rust, suggesting it had been damaged for some time. Finally the firefighters went further down the road to Moffitt and found another hydrant. It worked but Edmond lamented over the time spent trying to find an adequately working hydrant.

“That [hydrant search] led to what you see in front of you with the houses," Edmond said as he stood in front two decimated homes and another that was scorched.

“If they can't get the water to put the fire out, damage could happen, lives could be taken it's pretty serious,” Barrett said.

Serous enough that he and wife Melanie say they have given up on their dream home.

“I can't see me ever been comfortable to close my eyes at night to sleep in a house that was previously destroyed twice,” said Melanie Barrett.

Collinsville is an older city and a lot of the area's aging water mains are also as much as a half-century old and may be too small to deal with some fires.

Fire Chief Edmond says the fire hydrants and mains are supposed to be checked every year, but could not say whether the ones at issue had been or whether they met water flow adequacy standards.

But he does say he will be presenting a plan to city council next week to update many of the pipes and hydrants.