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The importance of uncovering fire hydrants hidden in snowbanks

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 2:13 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Imagine being a firefighter arriving at a fire and you can’t find the hydrant. It happens. 7 News rode with the Watertown Fire Department to see what happens then.

Watertown’s snowbanks have been getting bigger. Firefighters have a map of hydrants they consult en route to a fire.

But what happens if the hydrant is buried in snow?

“This time of year it’s always an issue for us to locate hydrants when we’ve had heavy snow. This particular section of town the water department’s been very proactive in adding the hydrant markers, you can see the fiberglass posts there. We have had hydrants in the past that don’t have that marker. So when they don’t have it, it’s literally a game of like, hunt and peck with a shovel, trying to hit something metal in the snowbank,” said Captain Derek Derouin, Watertown Fire Department.

And finding the hydrant is one thing. Getting it cleared for use is another.

“It takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes sometimes to shovel a hydrant out, it can be even longer, based on previous weather conditions. It’s a time sensitive issue. Fire doubles in size every minute, we like to say, so the more time we’re spending trying to locate and dig out a hydrant definitely influences fire spread. If we’re unable to get water on the fire, it’s obviously going to double much faster in size,” said Derouin.

If you have a hydrant near your house, is it in your own best interest to keep it cleared out?

“Yes, it is definitely within your best interest to shovel a hydrant if you have one in front of your house and even in your neighborhood, your block. You may have neighbors who are elderly or physically incapable or just don’t have the means to keep that hydrant clean, it’s just better for the neighborhood in general. If you can do it, clean out the hydrant in your neighborhood,” said Derouin.

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