Fire hydrant audit good step for area public safety

FIREFIGHTERS need to know when they are responding to a fire whether they have a fire hydrant nearby, where it is and if it works properly. That information is critical, and any bit that is inaccurate can hamper firefighters’ ability to save a home, other types of property and lives.

Bartholomew County’s 911 Emergency Operations Center, with the help of rural fire departments, is conducting an audit of all county fire hydrants to ensure that firefighters have current and accurate information to aid them in their jobs. The Emergency Operations Center is using this information to update its database of where all working fire hydrants are located.

Unfortunately, the audit was necessary after a problem firefighters encountered during an Oct. 24 fire.

Firefighters were sent to a house fire in Colony Park, near Taylorsville. They used data placed in the computer-aided countywide emergency dispatch system to locate a fire hydrant. The information indicated a hydrant was located across the street from the home.

Instead of a fire hydrant, however, they found a flushing hydrant — used by utility companies for clearing water lines of silt, rust, debris and stagnant water. The threads on the flushing hydrant didn’t match the threads on the firefighters hoses — intended to attach to a fire hydrant.

Tankers from rural fire departments had to be called in to provide a water source for fighting that Taylorsville area fire. Unfortunately, the fire grew and spread while firefighters waited on the tankers. Strong winds fanned flames to a nearby vacant home and also damaged three vehicles.

Knowing where working fire hydrants are located is especially important in the county because the requirements are different than inside the city limits of Columbus. Fire hydrants are required in residential neighborhoods in the city, but most rural subdivisions do not have them.

While the audit is labor intensive, and likely won’t be completed for another few months, it’s a beneficial investment of time and resources. It’s a process the county should consider on a regular basis.

Firefighters need to have the necessary tools available to do their jobs. Besides engines and hoses and firefighter gear, that also includes accurate information about location of fire hydrants, which is getting the required attention.