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.