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Fire hydrant maintenance is constant, but firefighters still run into problems

Crews with CS Utilities manage hydrants, but find people often create challenges
Fire hydrant maintenance is constant, but firefighters sometimes run into problems
Posted at 6:20 AM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 09:04:16-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — They are crucial pieces of fire fighting equipment that we see all over town, but we don’t often think about them until disaster strikes. We’re talking about fire hydrants. But who is making sure they work in a city facing consistent fire danger? News5 finds those answers and what’s costing fire fighters precious time when they need to hook up the hoses.

Yes, Colorado Springs firefighters are the ones who rely on working fire hydrants to put out fires, but it’s actually Colorado Springs Utilities crews who are doing daily routes to inspect and repair fire hydrants across the city.

News5 discovered a working fire hydrant still isn’t helpful if things are in the way, and that seems to be happening quite often.

”Obviously water, that is the lifeline of what we do. We need water to do our job,” said Captain Michael Smaldino of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. ”Fire doubles in size roughly every 30 seconds. So, each second that we’re waiting, that fire is getting bigger and bigger and taking stuff out with it.”

Far too often firefighters are having to wait for that precious water, slowed down because people have planted things around or built too close to fire hydrants.

”So if it takes us even 30 seconds to a minute to clear that area out to be able to get water from that hydrant that’s more damage that’s happening to the environment in the case of a wildland fire, or to a building because of a structure fire,” said Capt. Smaldino.

It’s why crews with Colorado Springs Utilities are running daily inspections on fire hydrants across the city

”The city code, fire code requires a three foot space in all directions around the hydrant, '' said Andrew Cripe of Colorado Springs Utilities. “If you see something, say something. If you notice obvious damage to a hydrant or water seeping from a hydrant.”

Contact Colorado Springs Utilities about a fire hydrant issue in your area.

Here’s what News5 uncovered about the fire hydrant maintenance program:

  • There are roughly 20,000 fire hydrants citywide that need to be monitored
  • They are prioritized as either critical or non-critical
  • Right now, at least 2,200 fire hydrants are designated as critical. These are in population dense areas and places at high risk for fire danger
  • The critical hydrants are serviced annually
  • Non-critical hydrants are on a five year cycle 

”We’re adding hundreds of them every year with the new developments. We are growing south east and west for the most part in Colorado Springs,” said Cripe.

Even with the daily work of these utilities crews to make sure the water will flow when it’s needed, firefighters say people are often still in the way.

”The one that’s a daily occurrence and this is why most curbs are painted red… somebody parked in front of it,” said Capt. Smaldino. I mean that’s going to be probably our number one problem, someone saying I’m just going to be here for a minute, well that’s when the emergency is going to happen.”

And firefighters across the country have proven they’ll do what they have to even if it’s bad news for the car owner who made a bad parking decision.

”Well, when we need the water we’re going to take it and if your car is in the way it’s probably going to be in there for awhile,” said Capt. Smaldino.

If firefighters find there isn’t a safe way to access a fire hydrant, they are able to move to one that’s nearby, but again that takes valuable time away from the fire fight.

”When time matters, running 500 feet with a bunch of hoses to get hooked up to another hydrant matters a lot,” said Cripe.

If you get a door hanger like this (See below) it means crews have identified a situation where you need to clear more space around the fire hydrant near your home to help in this effort.

The fire hydrant system is being constantly evaluated. Every few years fire officials meet with utilities leaders to decide which fire hydrants should get the most attention.

Here is more information on Colorado Springs fire hydrants and how they are managed and used.

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