Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting

Minnesota Suburbs Find Many Private Fire Hydrants Not Working

City officials in Burnsville, Lake­ville and Eagan (MN) discovered last year that most owners weren’t maintaining their hydrants and didn’t even know they should, reports the Minnesota Star Tribune.

“They were under the impression their hydrants were public, and that the city was taking care of them,” said Steve Albrecht, Burnsville’s public works director.

Firefighters dispatched to a Lake­ville restaurant last summer were confronted with an unpleasant surprise, a situation waiting for emergency crews in a number of Twin Cities suburbs.

The nearest fire hydrant didn’t work.

They rushed to a second hydrant and were able to quickly extinguish the small fire. But Fire Chief Mike Meyer said they were fortunate.

“There’s a time loss. You wind up diverting people away from extinguishing the fire to dragging the hose,” he said.

In some cases, decades had passed with the hydrants uninspected. Tests suggest that as many as one in five of the private hydrants in the cities don’t work.

Minnesota’s fire code requires that all hydrants be inspected annually and kept in working order.

In addition to Lakeville, Burnsville also knows of at least one instance in which firefighters have shown up to a fire and the first hydrant they tried didn’t work. They also were able to switch to other nearby hydrants in time. “We all had been lucky, but the potential is there,” Albrecht said.

Burnsville and other neighboring cities have begun contacting private hydrant owners, letting them know they’ll need to document inspections and take care of repairs. In most cases, owners will have the option of hiring outside contractors to do the work or have the city do it and bill them.

“We’re trying to be proactive, and the owners have been supportive,” Albrecht said.

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