Unlike sidewalks, nobody legally required to clear snow from Boston hydrants

Where's the hydrant?

Boston has more than 13,000 fire hydrants, and this winter it's been a struggle to keep them clear for firefighters.

Although the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and the Boston Fire Department are responsible for making sure hydrants actually work, there's no law regulating who has to keep them clear after snowstorms, Boston Fire spokesman Steve MacDonald said.

In an interview with Universal Hub, MacDonald said that while firefighters shovel what they can, there's only so much they can do in a winter like this. "We have to rely on the owners and neighbors to take care of shoveling the hydrants out," he said. With no ordinances, though, there is nothing the city can do to force property owners such as the ones near this hydrant or this one to actually do anything.

This past weekend, a city team organized a volunteer effort in Charlestown to clear hydrants.

MacDonald said firefighters are familiar with the general locations of hydrants in their coverage areas because they inspect every last hydrant each September to make sure they're in good shape. And each fire house has maps showing hydrant locations.

MacDonald said the city has been lucky because there have yet to be any signification complications because of snowed-over hydrants, in part because Boston has enough hydrants and fire engines so that if one hydrant goes missing, firefighters can tie into other nearby.

Fortunately, there have been no significant complications because of the snow-covered hydrants, though MacDonald stated, “there is always a potential for one.” During a fire, a minimum of three engines are required on scene, hooking up to different hydrants, so if there was a delay with the use of one because of snow, there would still be others in use.

MacDonald said the Charlestown effort could prove a model in the future for getting hydrants cleared relatively quickly after future storms.

Photo of hidden Allston hydrant by Cynicallife used under this Creative Commons license.

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Comments

Hydrants & Snow

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There is a law but as you can see it's only towards the private citizen who piles snow on a hydrant. With the amount of snow this winter it seems like a losing battle. Firefighters are out at all hours of the day shoveling hydrants.

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really? Really?

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"Firefighters are out at all hours of the day shoveling hydrants."

Really? Because I haven't seen a single firefighter doing this...

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even better

While out last Friday, a hydrant in front of a firehouse was not only not cleared properly, they had dumpsters on the street blocking the hydrant. Nice example they're setting...

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If you live - or own property

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If you live - or own property - and your nearest hydrant is not shoveled out, what are you waiting for? Are you going to sit at home waiting to die in a fire because the city should really do it?

Never mind the landlord, or the business, or the church or the city. Just get out and do it. And don't worry if someone is getting away with shirking - when you're trapped in a burning building, will you be thinking about those slackers or your own ass?

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Exactly

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If you can't see/don't remember where they are, your local fire department will be more than happy to help out. I called mine the other day expressing that I was planning on shoveling them out and they called back in less than 5 mins with the exact locations on my street.

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Well stated. If you're out

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Well stated. If you're out shoveling and there's a hydrant there, why wouldn't you shovel it? Fires don't make appointments and it could be your house that burns down because you didn't take 10 mins. to clear it out. That should be incentive enough.

What's worse, some residents feel it's OK to bury hydrants when removing snow from THEIR car or property. Height of ignorance and dangerous to boot.

Oh well, a downside of the 'new' Boston.

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Clear sidewalks for all

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And if you are lucky enough to be a pedestrian, young, elderly, or handicapped in the City of Newton . . there is no requirement for resident to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice at all.

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Drove behind the Brighton D14

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Drove behind the Brighton D14 Boston Police Station today and notice the very top of a hydrant poking out from a melting snow bank. Nice that even the police can't take the time to shovel them out.

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Why not have fire dept do it?

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Wouldn't it be a win for all concerned to have the on-duty crew drive the fire truck around the neighborhood and shovel out the hydrants?

You've got folks who are already at work and on the payroll - on standby waiting for an alarm.

You've got a truck they can use to get around.

If an alarm should come in while they're shoveling, they would ditch the shovels and proceed directly to the fire: no increase in dispatch time.

The hydrants would then get shoveled at no extra cost to anybody.

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They do that

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But they still can't do all 13,000 hydrants. It's not like they spend all their time just sitting around the firehouse making lasagna with Hunts tomato paste.

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That's a good point

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There are around 1400 firefighters in Boston; if there are 13,000 hydrants asking each FF on average to shovel out ten hydrants personally would be kind of an awful lot.

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When I've seen them do it in

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When I've seen them do it in Cambridge, an engine with a complement of firefighters drives along and stops at each hydrant. Would take a while, and I doubt they can do all the hydrants in a day, even if they didn't save their backs for actively fighting fires.

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Shouldnt there be some kind

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Shouldnt there be some kind of identification system?

Hydrants in rural roads usually have a 5 foot red pole sticking up to it's easy to find.

In California, every hydrant location is marked my a blue reflector in the middle of the street.

You could do the same here, even without the reflector. Just add a blue (or red) blob at the center yellow line of the road.

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