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Safety Of Menlo Fire Hydrants Questioned

“We’re still having issues with the fire hydrants,” Menlo City Councilman John Vanhorn told the city council during last month’s regular council meeting.
City Maintenance Director Sid Swords said they have inspected about 75 percent of the hydrants in the city.
“What they are mainly talking about is the steamer caps,” Swords said. “We have never taken the steamer caps off.”
A steamer cap is the large-cap at the top of a fire hydrant.
He said they did find three or four when they began working on the hydrants that they had trouble taking the steamer cap off them,” Swords continued. “We got them all off but one. We are in the process of getting them.”
Swords said that steamer caps are something that the Menlo Water system couldn’t carry anyway.
“Since 1951 no one has used the steamer cap,” he added. “If we need for some reason to have them where they will come off, we can.”
“We need to make these fire hydrants a priority,” council member Vanhorn said. “It would be bad if we had a fire and it wouldn’t work.”
Vanhorn added that the fire hydrant at Best was not working properly.
Swords said the one at the back door of Best was not working. If they dig it up all the lines are in there.
“What we did years ago is we put a big barrel plug out by the road in front of it,” Swords explained.
“Where are the other 25 percent that are not working?” council member Carol Mitchell asked.
“We are not finished checking them,” Swords answered.
The maintenance director said they check the hydrants twice a year and we haven’t been taking the steamer cap off. They were told years ago that they did not have to take them off.
“We have never used a steamer cap,” Swords added. “You have the two, 2 ½-inch ones on the sides and a six-inch one.”
“So, you check those on the side, does that check your flow rate, too?” Mitchell asked.
“Correct, that is how you check your flow rate,” Swords said.
Council member Patti Settoon said one in front of a house in Menlo hasn’t worked in four years.
“You talking about the steamer cap or the plug itself? Swords asked.
“The plug itself,” Settoon said.
‘Has Chuck Harris checked it?” Settoon asked.
“I don’t know if he has checked it or not,” Swords said.
“I think we need to get Chuck in here,” Settoon added.
“We need to make a list of those fire hydrants and check them off if they work or not and where they are located by next month and we can clear that off,” Vanhorn said.
Council member Settoon said that with winter here, everybody is turning heaters on and burning fireplaces, there is bound to be more fires and I can’t think of anything worse than a fireman going to a fire and have no water.
Swords said they wrote them down and check them and greased the caps with a special lube.
“How many fire hydrants do we have inside the city?” Vanhorn asked.
“I think there are about 40,” Swords answered.
Vanhorn asked if the state inspects then, also.
“They just did it about two or three years ago,” Swords said.
Menlo Fire Chief Chuck Harris was brought into the council meeting.
“By next month we want you to go with Sid and we would like to have all of the fire hydrants checked off because we have had complaints of the fire hydrants.
“We checked them all and wrote the ones down that we could open caps on and the ones we couldn’t,” Harris said.
“The steamer caps we haven’t ever checked,” Swords said. “We were told years ago that we didn’t have to check them.”
“Everybody now is going to that LPH hose,” Harris said. “Summerville can hook to that hydrant and get a whole lot more flow of water.”
“If you hooked a steamer cap on our water system, we are going to be out of water. Our water system won’t carry it,” Swords said. “If someone had of told us to check steamer caps, we would have been checking them.”
“Some of them we do not even know if we can open,” Harris said.
“Some of them are tougher than others,” Swords added.
“We just want to make sure they work when we hook to them,” Harris said.
“Give us a few more days and we will have them all checked,” Swords said.
The council then discussed the cost of new fire hydrants which they were told $2,500.
One council member suggested a grant to help the city change some of the hydrants with new ones.
“Can you rebuild them?” Harris sked.
“You can, but I don’t recommend it,” Swords said.
Council member Carol Mitchell closed the discussion at the end of the meeting by putting it in perspective, “This is a very important safety issue for the residents of the City of Menlo.”

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