Montgomery Hydrants Checked Regularly To Ensure They Will Work When Needed
County Council Public Safety Committee Told That Firefighters Should Have Confidence in Most Hydrants
ROCKVILLE, May 3, 2007—Representatives of Montgomery Fire and Rescue Services, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the City of Rockville today told the Public Safety Committee of the Montgomery County Council that publicly owned fire hydrants throughout the County are checked on a regular basis to ensure they will be working in case of a fire emergency.
The Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Phil Andrews and includes Councilmembers Mike Knapp and Marc Elrich, heard from Andrew Brunhart, general manager of the WSSC; Craig Simoneau, the director of Public Works for the City of Rockville; and Montgomery County Fire Chief Thomas Carr.
For more than a month, Andrews has been in contact with the WSSC inquiring about the working status of fire hydrants throughout the County. However, the discussion of the status of fire hydrants was quickly called by the Public Safety Committee following problems Monday in the District of Columbia when the two hydrants closest to the Georgetown Library were found not to be working when firefighters answered a call about a fire in the building. The library suffered major damage and D.C. fire officials later said that it was likely many hydrants around the City were inoperable.
The WSSC maintains 20,321 hydrants in Montgomery County. The City of Rockville maintains all hydrants within its almost 14 square-mile area.
“Based on what happened in the District of Columbia on Monday and reports that followed, it was important that we quickly find out about the condition of the fire hydrants in our County,” said Councilmember Andrews. “What we heard today is that publicly maintained hydrants are checked regularly, meaning that Montgomery County residents and homeowners should feel reassured. However, we also heard that we need to address some other issues concerning fire hydrants in the County.”
Brunhart said WSSC hydrants are scheduled for checks every three years. Simoneau said Rockville hydrants are checked every two years. Carr said that Fire and Rescue rarely comes across a hydrant that is not working, although he said that was the case two weeks ago at a fire in Germantown involving a privately maintained fire hydrant. All three, however, expressed their concern about fire hydrants located on private property. There is no system to authorize regular checks on privately maintained hydrants, although the County hopes increased emphasis on code enforcement issues may start addressing the working conditions of those hydrants.
The WSSC reported that on an average day, about 12 of its hydrants (including 19,913 hydrants it maintains in Prince George’s County) may be out of service due to unplanned disruptions. The most common reasons include “hydrant malfunctions, water main breaks and car accidents.” It repairs most of these hydrants within seven days meaning that “on an average day, 99.99 percent of WSSC’s hydrants are in service.”