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When every minute counts

Buried fire hydrants create safety hazards

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 12:47 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 12:51 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — Some things are best kept hidden, but a fire hydrant isn’t one of them.

With all the snow this year, a lot of people have had to shovel their driveways and clear sidewalks numerous times — left wondering if this long, brutal winter will ever end.

There are limits to where the snow can and should go, but when it’s mounded around a fire hydrant, it creates a safety hazard.

“People removing snow from their driveways and sidewalks can cause fire hydrants to be hidden from view,” said Princeton Fire Chief Chuck Woolley. “Even city snowplows can cover hydrants. The plow drivers don’t even know it, but someone who lives near it does, and they are the people who will depend on us finding the hydrant and being able to use it quickly in the event of a fire.”

Fire hydrants should have a minimum of 3 feet of clear space around them, he added.

Currently, many fire hydrants aren’t visible to firefighters at all, let alone at night.

A hidden fire hydrant is absolutely useless to firefighters in an emergency,

“We look for the closest hydrant, but if we don’t see it, we are forced to look further away, increasing the time it takes to set-up a water supply,” Woolley said.

Digging-out a fire hydrant takes time and manpower away from saving lives and property ... if it can even be found.

“It’s generally accepted that the size of a fire will double every minute, some say seconds,” Woolley said.

“If it takes us an additional five minutes to locate or get to a hydrant, the fire is growing, and there many be nothing we can do about it,” Woolley said.

He suggested residents look around neighborhoods and make sure hydrants are visible and accessible to firefighters.

“We need water to put out fires,” he said. “We need people to help us do that by keeping hydrants available to us.”

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