Tucson modern streetcar creates fire safety concerns

Tucson streetcar to nowhere

The Tucson Modern Streetcar has had its share of problems and created it’s share of problems for downtown business owners and bicyclists. Now, there are looming issues that have been recently brought to light.

As first reported by Tucson radio host Jon Justice, the “modern” streetcar is powered by electricity – 750 volts to be exact strung 19 feet over the cramped streets of downtown Tucson, and fire officials are concerned about access to buildings and the people who occupy them.

While their vehicles can move under the lines, their ladders cannot safely come near the lines. “It’s like suicide,” said the source. “You can’t raise them near power lines and water. Taking the time to contact the power substation to have power turned off costs valuable minutes.”

Tucson Fire Department sources say they were not consulted during the $196 million project’s planning stage. They now say they have concerns that their ladders will not be able to be raised for firefighting purposes until the electric system is turned off, costing valuable time when people are stranded in the area’s high rises.

The proliferation of new restaurants has raised concerns due to their high risk potential for kitchen fires. Just this summer, a small Tucson restaurant fire required the attention of nine units and 23 firefighters.

The sources expressed concern that future buildings will not pass Fire Marshall inspections due to the time it would take to access the building.

Two local insurance experts said that the overhead lines should not increase insurance premiums, as is the case when a property is a distance away from fire hydrants or fire stations. The issue of the lines first arose when local real estate agents began inquiring about added insurance costs for downtown properties.

During Tucson’s Monsoon season, questions were raised about the power lines which can be adversely affected by strong winds bringing the wires down and stopping all trains. Power storms can also knock the power out with lightning strikes on systems with overhead wires, thereby stopping trains if there is a power surge.

One Tucson fire official said he was dismayed that the city planners had not given consideration to potential rescue services.

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