Village seeks help clearing hydrants

D PW, village ask residents to help

Where is the fire hydrant closest to your residence?

Ask yourself about the last time you saw that particular piece of potentially life or home-saving hardware. 

Discussion at the Feb. 7 village board meeting led to more discussion afterward and a realization – many of the hydrants in the village remain buried despite the best efforts of the department of public works.

“It’s good to get a little discussion going and sometimes a thought comes up and it’s a good idea; that’s why the public comment period is a good idea,” Mayor Jay Niles said. 

With more than seven feet of snow falling in the village during the course of the winter, DPW Superintendent Dan Williams said his crew was often interrupted during the cleanup from one storm to go plow the streets for another.

“Every time we’d start to clean up we’d get another storm and have to go right back to the beginning,” Williams said of the storms that seemed to arrive every week for several weeks in a row.

“It seemed to come all at one time over a short period of time,” Niles said of the heavy snow blanket covering Granville. “I know there’s a lot of snow; we have to work together to get through this.”

“I think the last time we had a winter like this was 1993,” Williams said. In January Williams recorded 33 inches of snow and in February, with the month not even half gone he noted 21 inches of snow – 54 inches in just two months.

Typically the DPW begins removing snow from critical areas as soon as plowing duties are over, starting with clearing out Main and Quaker streets and then moving on to various side streets.

As anyone who has driven down some of the village streets can attest, the roads are becoming smaller all the time.

Snowstorms, seemingly one right after, the other have the DPW still digging out, which is why the village is asking residents to help out and dig out their local fire hydrant.

“If you know where they are, dig them out. I think that’s just part of being in a community,” Niles said.  Niles said he hoped neighbors will help neighbors who aren’t up to the task of breaking through the tough, icy snow.

Despite putting at least one employee on the task of digging out fire hydrants whenever one employee is free, the number of buried hydrants still vastly outnumbers those that have been cleared.

“We have over 100 hydrants in the village alone and we’re responsible for more outside the village,” Williams said.

Village Fire Chief Russ Bronson said every minute counts when fighting a house fire and time spent digging out or finding a hydrant to uncover from several feet of snow could make the difference between a save and a loss.

Just finding the hydrants can prove difficult as DPW members have the best idea where the hydrants lurk beneath the snow. “If we’re not around (firefighters) could end up pulling hose from the nearest hydrant half way across town,” Bronson said. “And again, that’s time.”

Firefighters say a general rule of thumb for a fire is one minute allows a fire to double in size. A blaze left for two minutes will be twice the size it was at one minute. Which leads to the obvious question: how quickly can a firefighter dig out a hydrant, provided they can find it?

Firefighter and DPW employee George Johnson said he looked for a hydrant he was sure he knew the location of; to be sure he went to get a metal detector. He found he was off by about two feet– more time lost if a house was burning.

Johnson points out hydrants buried in the snow have another issue associated with freeing them up to get water out.

Ice.

While the hydrants themselves don’t freeze, he said melting ice and snow can get into the threads and prevent firefighters from opening the valves to release the water.

Williams said it typically takes the DPW two days to do the basic cleanup after an average storm so the frequency and size of the storms this season have kept his crew behind the eight ball.

“We haven’t had time to clean out the hydrants or for that matter the storm drains – we’ve spent all of our time plowing to keep the streets open,” Williams said. “So if you know where they are, please clean them out. I understand everyone is tired of shoveling but this is important.”

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