City Desk

Does Your Neighborhood Hydrant Work? Check Here…Again

There has been a lot of talk of late – again – about fire hydrants following last month's devastating blaze at the Northwest D.C. mansion of Peggy Cooper Cafritz. The big issue there was low flow.

But non-working hydrants have also been a chronic problem. Back in 2007, after a fire at the Georgetown public library during which the two closest hydrants did not work, fire union officials said that nearly 10 percent of hydrants were out of service and that the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority was grossly underestimating the problem.

The latest: As of Friday, according to WASA spokeswoman Pamela Mooring, there were 155 out-of-service hydrants across the city, out of approximately 9,000. That's just under 2 percent.

Since 2007, WASA has provided real-time information, via Google Earth, on non-working hydrants, but now may be a good time to check on your neighborhood again.

Mooring said the "good news" is that the number of hydrants given out-of-service rings by D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, which, along with WASA, inspects hydrants twice a year, has fallen in the last three inspections. WASA has five crews dedicated to repair and four contractor crews working on replacements.

Asked what message WASA has for anyone living near an unusable hydrant, Mooring said: "The out-of-service rings are placed on hydrants by both DC WASA and FEMS as a pre-caution for firefighters, not as a signal to the public. FEMS already has status information available before they even leave the firehouse. Additionally, FEMS has status information on laptops so that they have information available as they drive to the scene of an emergency."

More: "Adding the red out-of-service status ring is an extra precaution for firefighters who frequently make quick decisions to protect property and lives. The water distribution system is redundant so the firefighters have many other hydrants in the area available to them during an emergency and as they are arriving at the scene they can quickly eliminate those with out-of-service rings, and move on to other hydrants in the area."

Still, as one firefighter, Lt. L.A. Matthews of Engine Company 21 in Adams Morgan told City Paper way back in 2006, when there were around 100 hydrants out of service city-wide, by WASA's count: “Even one is too many, especially if it’s in front of my house.”

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