Illegal Use of Fire Hydrants
In many cities the strictest supervision of the use of fire hydrants by street and building contractors and private individuals is maintained and the water works or fire department authorities, whichever have charge of the hydrants, require a permit before the plug is allowed to be opened by other than members of the two departments. In some instances no one is allowed under any circumstances to open the hydrants except the department employees, and when a contractor or other individual or corporation desires to use the water from a hydrant an employee of one of the departments is sent with the person making the application, to open the hydrant for him in order to make the necessary connection and to close it when the purposes are accomplished. This latter plan avoids the unnecessary use of Stilson wrenches on the valve stems, resulting in the destruction of the nuts and the wrenching of the stems.
Of course the ideal method is to absolutely prohibit the use of the hydrant for any other purpose than that of fire. But, unless there are provided separate street hydrants and openings that the street cleaning and other city departments and private users can fall back upon, it is practically impossible to carry out this plan. An alternate method is that adopted by Rochester, N. Y., and other cities, of a separate auxiliary connection on the fire hydrant for other than fire purposes, so that the openings of the fire department are not interfered with.
A smaller city that has had some difficulty through the surreptitious use of hydrants by parties without permits is McKeesport, Pa. Its ordinances call for the obtaining of such a permit before opening the hydrant, hut Councillor Richards, in charge of the water works, has discovered that this is being violated and that the parties using the hydrants without permission have damaged the valve stems and otherwise caused trouble for the fire department. McKeesport is by no means alone in this trouble, for this surreptitious use is often one of the sore spots in the superintendent’s daily routine. The only remedy is a careful watch for the violators and the making an example of one or two of them, when caught, through a vigorous punishment. And the offense deserves it, for the delay that may be caused to the fire department at a vital moment may result not only in heavy property damage, but loss of human life as well, in a building on fire.