Record snowfall buries fire hydrants, endangers lives

It takes only a few minutes from the time a smoke alarm goes off for a fire to seriously endanger a life. It might take just as long for a firefighter to dig a fire hydrant out from under the snow.

“Those minutes are critical,” says Oakville Fire Education Officer Michael Harrison.

This year’s record breaking snowfalls and towering snowbanks are burying fire hydrants, adding to the time it takes firefighters to access them. Although firefighters have a system that shows the location of each fire hydrant, it’s only accurate up to a few meters.

Harrison explains every second counts, and firefighters don’t want to search for the hydrant for long, remove snow and fiddle with frozen fire hydrant caps when lives are at risk.

“Firefighting is based on a network of hydrants,” says Harrison.  “We want to save the house, we want to save lives, but it’s important that we have reliable access to water in order to safely battle the fire.”

If firefighters can’t access a hydrant, large trucks with tanks filled with water are called. Response time of these tankers varies, and remain a second option for that reason.

The Oakville Fire Department is urging the community to make sure snow is clear three-feet around the hydrant so it can be seen from a fire truck as it approaches.

Citizens unable to remove snow or ice are advised to consult Oakville snow removal services here

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