Officials: Don’t mess with fire hydrants this summer

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HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — As the temperatures continue to rise this summer, there’s a little known danger lurking on every street corner that is rarely talked about.

This commonplace fixture could mean serious problems if unqualified people mess with them.

They probably go unnoticed by passerby walking down the street, but they play an important role in protecting the neighborhood.

Megan Hannah, an external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water company, says it’s a larger system than people realize.

“We maintain almost 5,000 miles of pipeline, so there is a lot of water main happening under your feet that you don’t realize is under there,” Hannah said.

Attached to those water lines—fire hydrants.

“Fire hydrants play a really integral part in water systems.  It is very common for water main breaks to occur when folks are illegally or improperly opening and closing fire hydrants,”  Hannah said.

They’re meant to be the first resource that fire departments rely on when disaster strikes.

As temperatures rise, so do instances of people messing with them for summer fun. However, doing so can cause serious problems for those living in the area.

There’s a lot of pressure flowing through that hydrant.  When it’s opened and closed improperly, it can cause a water hammer farther down the system, which unfortunately can cause low pressure and outages for other folks along that water main.

Megan Hannah, external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water company

A water hammer is an instance when highly pressurized water runs through the pipeline from opposite directions, causing a water main break.

The fire department also discourages unauthorized use of the hydrants. Deputy Chief Ray Canafax of the Huntington Fire Department says in some cases, it can actually impede the fire department from doing its job.

“If you try to open a hydrant up, not using the proper equipment to do it like we carry, you could damage the hydrant.  If you damage the hydrant, you could make it not useful for us to where we can’t even hook into it, which could delay us being able to fight a fire if we were to have a fire in that neighborhood,”  Canafax said.

So stay safe—have some fun—but leave the hydrants alone.

For further information about your local water system visit this website.

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