Frozen fire hydrants crippled firefighters' efforts to knock out a raging house fire in New Jersey Tuesday.
When flames began shooting from the townhouse at 31 Stockton Court in Parsippany Tuesday morning, the first firefighters on scene rushed to open the hydrant out front, only to find that one and two others completely frozen.
Dispatch recordings revealed the exchange between firefighters: "At this time, we're unable to find a working hydrant," one of them says. "Get me a tanker task force from the county, please."
Emergency responders used blowtorches to thaw the frozen hydrants, and firefighters drew water from their trucks into the hoses to try to stop the flames.
Parsippany Fire Chief David Hollner told NBC 4 at the scene, "Cold water is taking a toll on the guys and we had numerous frozen hydrants on arrival, delaying water getting onto the fire."
The Mount Tabor fire chief told NBC that three fire hydrants closest to the house were all frozen, and firefighters eventually had to use a hydrant more than 1,000 feet away, on a different street.
"The only way to know if they're frozen is if we open them and no water comes out," he said.
A woman who lives in the house that caught fire was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The other resident and their dog got out safely, but their home is destroyed.
Neighbor Dimple Ghandi recalled the frightening scene: "Lots of flames, lots of smoke. It was scary, very scary."
By the time the three-alarm fire was under control, all five townhouses in the row had smoke and water damage, and more than 10 people were forced out of their homes.
Red Cross is helping the displaced residents.
Parsippany Water Company said it tests the hydrants every year to make sure they're working, and it responded right away Tuesday to help thaw them.