‘Hidden’ hydrants firefighter obstacle

Published 11:15 am Saturday, July 4, 2015

Of the approximately 600 fire hydrants located in Bogalusa there are at least 10 hydrants that are hidden by overgrown brush.

This can present a major issue, especially now in the summer with grass, bushes and brush growing at a rapid rate.

The Bogalusa Fire and Public Works departments are responsible for the upkeep on each hydrant. Fire Chief Richard Moody said they check all the hydrants twice annually, cleaning around them and conducting a “flow” or “flushing” test for pressure to make sure there will be enough water flow to fight fires.

He said most of these hidden fire hydrants are located in vacant lots or rural areas that nobody keeps maintained, but to avoid having complaints the Fire Department tries to keep the brush down on these unused hydrants by spraying weed killer.

“We can clean them and then a month later they are covered up again,” said Moody.

He added that all the firefighter drivers and captains know where each hydrant is located. They check to see if they are leaking or have damaged threads. If any problems are detected, the Fire Department fills out a “repairs needed” form and sends it to the Bogalusa Public Works Department.

From there the Public Works Department handles the problem as best it can.

Unfortunately, both departments are understaffed at this time so repairs sometimes take longer than expected. It is an ongoing process.

“Hydrants in the city are old, with some of them being 70 years old or older, so naturally when you get something that old you’re going to have problems,” said Moody.

The Fire Department wrote a grant to try to replace many of the old hydrants with the newest hydrants available, but it has not yet been approved as approvals are given based on priority. Moody said the department will not give up and will continue to seek grants until all the hydrants are replaced.

Moody noted there are some hydrants that can’t produce water. These are known as “urgent fire hydrants,” which break as a result of old age. He said the city tries to repair these hydrants first.

“Typically we only have three to four hydrants that we can’t get any water out of, but the way the hydrants are set up in the city they are usually 300 feet apart, so if we can’t catch that hydrant we can catch another one close to it,” said Moody. “The Bogalusa Fire Department tries to cut the bushes back from around the hydrants as much as they can. The problem that we have here in the city is that citizens have the public right-of-way, but the hydrants are adjacent to their yard and some people will plant shrubs or trees too close. They don’t want us cutting their bushes, but we have to. I would like to ask the public if they see a problem with a hydrant to please call the Bogalusa Public Works Department at 985-732-6213 or the Bogalusa Fire Station at 985-732-6219 and report it to them so they can address it.”

He also encourages citizens to keep the brush cut and cleaned around their hydrants so it’s always available in case of any unexpected fires.

Moody said that since Hurricane Katrina the Bogalusa Fire Department has had an excellent water system, with generators at all water well sites. There are four well towers, and if the water pressure drops below a certain percentage the pumps will automatically kick on.