AFD: ‘Clear snow from fire hydrants’ – Heavy snow can cause problems in fire emergencies

Published 6:58 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

With the heavy snows hitting the area in the past few weeks, the Austin Fire Department is reminding residents to clear the snow from fire hydrants on their property.

“Not a lot of people are digging them out,” said Austin Fire Chief Jim McCoy.

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Residents with fire hydrants on their property are responsible for keeping them clear of snow. McCoy said there needs to be three feet of clearance as well as direct access from the roadway, a requirement made all the more difficult by the large snow banks along the sides of the roads.

“Nobody likes to do extra work like that, but when seconds matter, it’s important we’re able to get water,” he said.

There are approximately 1,100 fire hydrants throughout the city, and members of the fire department have been going around the city digging out hydrants with the assistance of Park and Recreation Department employees. McCoy said some hydrants are completely hidden and the sheer number of hydrants in town prevents the AFD from looking for them.

While the AFD has not been citing homeowners for failure to clear the hydrants, McCoy said citations will be issued in the event of an emergency.

“If you don’t dig out the hydrant and we need it, you can be cited,” he said. “The more time it takes us to get water, the more the fire grows and the more damage the property sustains.”

McCoy also urged residents to take the initiative if a fire hydrant is on a neighbor’s property and to clear it themselves.

“It’s (your neighbor’s) responsibility, but it may be yours as well,” he said.