Construction has been suspended at a Stanford University construction site in Menlo Park, where workers partially sheared off a fire hydrant that gushed an estimated 4,500 gallons of water per minute for an hour, according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
Firefighters responded to a water flow alarm that originated at the Stanford Park Hotel located at 100 El Camino Real shortly before 10 a.m., the district said in a press release. Crews arrived to find all hotel guests evacuated from the building and standing outside.
Acting Battalion Chief John Wurdinger determined the issue wasn't at the hotel, but at the neighboring construction site at 500 El Camino Real, according to the release.
Crews were working on Stanford's "Middle Plaza" development, a complex with offices, housing and retail near the Palo Alto border.
Construction workers were operating a Gradall-brand forklift near the railroad tracks where they partially sheared off a fire hydrant, releasing water into a future three-story, sub-surface parking garage. It created a "waterfall effect" and appeared like a "large bath tub," according to the release.
"It also appeared to be undermining the actual retaining wall itself, which could result in even greater catastrophic consequences," the release states.
Firefighters notified California Water Service (Cal Water) to the accident and looked for the hydrant valve, but were unable to stop water from flowing out. Cal Water personnel also faced trouble locating the correct valve to turn off the water main connected to the new hydrant as a result of the project.
The fire district has halted construction for the Middle Plaza development for water to be pumped out and damage inspection, Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a press release. Then, the site will need to be backfilled, recompacted and deemed safe before work can resume on the project.
The construction site saw a major water distribution line break during the early 1990s on the side closer to El Camino Real, Schapelhouman noted.
"The water was coming out of the ground and was twice as high as the Palm Trees that are still here and along the street," he said. "Anderson Chevrolet was located here at that time, and we helplessly watched as their brand new Corvettes disappeared under water in the back lot, almost in the same location as today's event."