Unless you’ve been hiding under a pile of snow, you’ve surely heard about the many challenges the city of Boston has been tackling in response to the recent blizzards. In today's Boston Globe, an important fire issue was covered: the ongoing effort to keep fire hydrants accessible after being repeatedly buried by snow plows.
According to the article, there are “more than 13,000 fire hydrants in the city of Boston that Boston firefighters have dug out before and will dig out again. And again. And again.” And for good reason, noted Ken Willette, NFPA’s division manager of public fire protection. The recommended response times for fighting fires are based on having a hose line in place to apply water to a fire within 3 to 4 minutes, with the goal of keeping flashover conditions from developing. If a fire hydrant isn’t accessible, adding seconds onto that hose line deployment can increase the risk to occupants and firefighters.
The Boston Fire Department said that there are 263 firefighters on duty in Boston on a normal day, but that each truck gets an extra person during major snow storms, for a total of 57 additional firefighters. Willette agreed that adding extra staff makes sense. In fact, NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, recognizes those needs during periods like snow events and blizzards.
“The Boston Fire Department should be commended for taking the lead in the city and demonstrating the importance of clearing hydrants,” said Willette. “Their presence on the street is a powerful reminder to all of how important this is.”