Written by Kelly Kaczala
February 11, 2011
City plows, while clearing streets of snow in the last couple of weeks, have inadvertently covered fire hydrants, raising concerns in Oregon about the ability of the fire department to find them to fight a possible fire.
City Councilman James Seaman said at a meeting last week that he had just cleared snow from his front yard when a city plow sprayed additional snow onto the apron of his driveway and onto a nearby fire hydrant.
“It’s a safety concern. We’re having a banner year for snow. In front of my house, I have a fire hydrant. By the time I’m shoveling the apron of my driveway, the plows, which are coming through real nicely, are plowing the snow up. It’s almost like it’s not there anymore,” Seaman said of the hydrant. “I’m sure it’s like that in other parts of the city.”
The possibility of the fire department not being able to access or find a hydrant at a time when people are increasingly using auxiliary heaters in their homes as a result of the snow and cold temperatures, said Seaman, is very real.
"I get very concerned that something could happen where we wouldn’t be able to get to the fire hydrant in time for the full safety of our citizens,” said Seaman.
City Administrator Mike Beazley said the issue was discussed at a senior staff meeting last week.
Fire Chief Ed Ellis, said Beazley, is going to have his staff check all fire hydrants in the city to ensure they are clearly visible and accessible in case of a fire.
“He’s taking ownership of it and will have his daytime guys patrol the city and check on their status, and if necessary, shovel them out,” said Beazley. “If they felt like there was more of a problem than they anticipated, they were going to get in touch with us to see if they can use folks from the streets [department].”
Councilman Jerry Peach said the city has actively restored the hydrants that were low in the ground to an appropriate height in anticipation of snowfall. “There are hydrants from five years ago that would have disappeared under the snow that are now readily accessible.”
Councilman Mike Sheehy said his neighborhood on Schmidlin Road has some of the restored, elevated hydrants.
“In spite of that, some of them, I think, are still covered up. However, we’ve been helped along by some of the dogs in the neighborhood. They have appropriately marked the hydrants. In that regard, in our neighborhood, everything’s under control,” said Sheehy.
Councilman Sandy Bihn noted another safety concern about the obstruction of snow drifts at street corners.
“The snow has built up so much that I can’t see the cross traffic. The vehicle almost has to be out in the intersection before you can see. So I would encourage the street department, where possible, to make that a priority because safety is always at the top of the pile. I know we’ve had an enormous amount of snow. This is not a criticism of the city. But it is difficult to see around some of the corners because of the amount of snow we’ve gotten.”
She also thanked the city for keeping the bikeway cleaned so often. “You’ve done a great job. It’s been cleaned more than I’ve ever seen before. Some of the neighbors have stopped and said `Thank you.’ So I really appreciate that.”