Everyone has seen at least one fire hydrant gushing out water onto the street. As you’ve driven by, you may have even wondered if it erupted, someone hit it, or maybe someone opened it.
A broken fire hydrant presents dangers that you may not even think about. Here’s four ways fire hydrants break:
Blunt force trauma:
According to an article in the Journal of the American Water Works Association, increasing numbers of motor vehicles and traffic in New York City alone broke over 400 hydrants in one year, costing the city $12,000 in replacement costs. That was in 1920. It’s a fair guess that the number of broken hydrants has increased tremendously since then.
More recently, the top was sheared off a hydrant barrel during a traffic accident spewing water three stories into the air for 10 minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but the pressure and volume put gallons of water into the air. Hours later, the water was still dripping from the apartment building causing a significant amount of renovations that needed to be performed to make the building livable again.
Traffic accidents are one of the most common situations in which a hydrant can be damaged. Whether it’s a small crack, a broken bolt or a shooting geyser when the barrel is completely sheared off, motor vehicles are responsible for most of the damage caused when they run into, run over, or back into a fire hydrant.
The cold shoulder:
What happens when the fire department responds to a blaze and the fire hydrant is frozen? With the extreme winters we’ve experienced in the past several years, wet-barrel hydrants that have frozen due to lower-than-normal temperatures or dry-barrel hydrants that have valve failures leaves the fire department in a desperate situation. House fires are far more prevalent in the winter months than summer, therefore when you see one of the city water trucks flushing a local fire hydrant, don’t be alarmed. Routine maintenance is extremely important to keep them flowing in the winter months.
Too much torque:
After a fire, the firemen must turn the hydrant’s flow off. Sometimes the water keeps flowing. In some cases, the valves get cranked down harder than they should. Unfortunately, if there’s debris left in the system, the hydrant can get damaged in the process, leaving the hydrant with a leaky valve.
Children will play:
So will adults. On hot summer days, you’ve probably passed children running through the gushing water from a fire hydrant. Not only is that illegal, it’s dangerous. Often times an adult will crank open the hydrant to cool off the neighborhood kids. As we mentioned before, there’s gallons of water gushing from the valve. The amount of pressure can quite literally knock a child down. It also floods streets, can get into basements, ruin yards, etc.
That being said, there have been times when the Toledo Fire Department has opened a hydrant or two. They know what they are doing, and for them it’s legal.
If you see a leaking or broken fire hydrant, please call 419-936-2020 and be able to provide the closest intersection. Do not try to shut it off or stop it yourself.