That Sinking Feeling

Crews needed a crane and tow trucks Tuesday to remove a fire engine that fell into a sinkhole in Valley Village.

The truck's cab was submerged, but the four crewmembers were able to escape before the 22-ton engine fell into the hole.

A tow truck arrived at about 7 a.m. At about 12:30 p.m., crews pulled the vehicle from the hole.

City fire units and Department of Water and Power repair crews were at the scene of the water main break Tuesday morning. The water main gushed water near the intersection of Hartsook Street and Bellingham Avenue, located east of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and south of Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood, according to city fire Capt. Rick McClure.

The break was reported about 5:20 a.m., McClure said.

The fire truck blundered into the sinkhole and was left with its back half protruding at a 45-degree angle. No injuries were immediately reported.

That's just a few blocks from where a 64-inch steel water main broke Sunday, flooding a section of Studio City and washing away an important thoroughfare across the Hollywood Hills. Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged, prompting evacuations. Coldwater Canyon Avenue between Halkirk and Ventura is projected to be closed and under repair through Friday.

It was not immediately determined what caused the latest break and if it was related to the rupture Saturday night of a 95-year-old 64-inch pipe in neighboring Studio city. The weekend rupture sent a flood over several streets, including Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Ventura Boulevard.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the ruptures did not appear to be related, noting that the latest pipe to be affected was installed in 1969.

"Let me say how thankful I am that nobody was injured, that the firefighters in that truck were able to extricate themselves safely, because anybody who's gone to visit the site can tell you that could've been an absolutely horrific disaster," Villaraigosa said. "But thanks to God and their good work they were able to get out without any injury."

The mayor said the city has a five-year plan to repair and replace old pipes, but the city would need more money to make the upgrades.

"I know there are some funds to do this but it is a very expensive proposition, and as I've said on a national TV interview, L.A. is not alone in grappling with infrastructure challenges, whether they're sewers, whether they're the electric grid, whether it's our roads, highways, our bridges," he said. "They are in disrepair in big cities across the country. And one of the reasons why cities have pleaded with the federal government here is precisely because cities can't pay for infrastructure projects of this magnitude without a great, great deal of sacrifice."

Two for Tuesday

A water main broke in the Mid-City area Tuesday, as Department of Water and Power crews scrambled to repair one of region's biggest pipelines and a smaller main that dug a sinkhole that swallowed fire engine.

The break in the 2400 block of South Marvin Avenue was reported at 2:08 p.m., Devin Gales of the fire department said. He estimated that about 3,000 gallons of water were lost and characterized the problem as more of a leak than a break.

A DWP crew was dispatched.

Gales said breaks that result in losses on the order of 3,000 gallons are common.

"There are about 2,000 leaks and ruptures throughout the city each year," he said.

Maybe 200 of them are serious, such as the two breaks causing problems in the San Fernando Valley on Tuesday, he said.

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