- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) - A rural water district seized equipment from an Arkansas fire department after it said it discovered that some firefighters there were tapping into a hydrant to fill swimming pools of residents, not train personnel.

The Benton County Water District confiscated the equipment from the Beaver Lake Fire Department and returned it after the water was paid for. Eddie Cooper, the water district manager, said the fire department didn’t notify officials in his office that it planned to tap the hydrant or arranged to pay for the water.

John Whisenant, the Beaver Lake Fire Department’s chief, said the hydrant was used, but said his crews filled private pools with the water as part of their training.

Whisenant - the only paid employee in the mostly volunteer department - added that he personally paid $78 for nearly 13,000 gallons of water taken from the hydrant in July. A Benton County sheriff’s office investigation also determined that nothing criminal had taken place, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1KDxZoW ).

Whisenant said his department received several calls this summer asking for help to fill swimming pools.

“It has been a long-standing thing that fire departments have done,” Whisenant said. “It helps us exercise the equipment. It is a good training. We get to shuttle the equipment and use different techniques with the hose.”

Cooper disputed the water was taken for a training exercise.

“That is a lie,” he said.

Casey Ward, the Beaver Lake department’s former deputy chief who resigned at the end of July, said he stepped down partly because of the pool fill-ups.

“I’m not sure how much training a person can get watching water fill in a swimming pool,” Ward said.

But Whisenant said his plan always was to have the residents pay for the water that was used.

“It is a pretty straightforward deal. Just a training activity,” Whisenant said. “We have the money to cover it. We paid for it. I don’t think there is anything bad about that.”

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