Clearing fire hydrants of snow helps first responders before an emergency occurs

Emergency personal and the utility are asking that people grab a shovel and help out by digging out fire hydrant their property.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 7:42 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 7:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Digging out and clearing the snow off of fire hydrants has kept Buck Voeller, a member of the hydro team at Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, very busy this month.

“It’s a little overwhelming when you get this much snow,” Voeller said. “You start shoveling and by the time you get back around to the one you’ve shoveled, it’s already covered up again.”

Voeller is one of seven people on the hydro team tasked to care for the municipality’s fire hydrants. With over 7,500 fire hydrants in their care, he says each member has hundreds they look after in order to keep them accessible for emergency responses.

According to Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd, it can take his team five minutes or even longer to clear a fire hydrant — precious time during an emergency.

“Those extra minutes are actually very important for us because they come later than the original arrival,” Boyd said, explaining that the first fire department unit to arrive will need to stop their efforts in order for the second crew to arrive that will connect to nearby hydrants.

“We have to stop operations and stop any action — rescues or anything else that’s happening — if we can’t get that water connected,” Boyd said.

Emergency personnel and utility employees are reminding residents with hydrants on their property to help crews out by digging clearing them of snow. Boyd said clearing three feet of snow in each direction will make sure hydrants are ready to be used at any time.