Fire Service Fee Information

One of the key purposes for the storage and pumping capacity of a water system is its ability to provide for adequate fire protection. Over the years, the Cambridge Water Department has spent several million dollars for this specific purpose resulting in a Class 1 fire rating for the City of Cambridge, which enables all facilities with fire suppression systems to qualify for reduced fire insurance rates. As a point of reference, in 2008, there were only 57 class 1 communities across the country; Cambridge is the only one in Massachusetts.

Water distribution system components such as pipes, pumps and storage tanks are sized and designed to provide the flows needed to fight fires and supply water to fire suppression sprinklers. The construction, maintenance and operation of these system components add to the overall system costs, yet do not necessarily benefit all water rate payers in the City. Also, water for fire protection purposes is not metered and there is no charge for the water used for fire fighting. As a result, Cambridge has established a flat fee of $500.00 for each commercial each fire service connection that they have.

The following information should help clarify the background for implementing the fire service fee.

Fire services are pipes that run from the City water main in the street into a building or property for the primary purpose of supplying fire sprinkler systems and/or hydrants.

Property owners with fire services receive the benefit of immediate access to large volumes of water to protect their buildings and occupants from fire. Buildings with fire suppression sprinklers also tend to receive lower insurance rates.

The Cambridge Water Department does not provide any other services to the owner as a result of this charge, does not maintain privately owned hydrants, fire suppression sprinkler systems, or fire service pipes and associated valves.

As defined by City Ordinance, installation and repair of any water service and its appurtenances (domestic and/or fire) from the water main to the dwelling is the financial responsibility of the property owner. Should a leak occur on the fire service pipe or associated valves, the property owner must hire a City-approved contractor to make repairs. Under some circumstances the Cambridge Water Department may make repairs, but at the owner’s expense.

Fire service pipes and valves, like all water pipes, will deteriorate with age and become more prone to breaks and leaks. Though pipes can fail at any time, owners should consider replacing fire pipes and valves that are over 75 years old. Information on the age of fire pipes at any city property can be obtained by contacting the Engineering Division.