Firefighter upset after hydrant incident
Officials are trying to stop people from illegally opening the units to cool off.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- When a firefighter shut off a gushing hydrant used by residents to cool off, people doused him with water guns and surrounded his pickup truck, banging the hood and sides with their hands.
Fire officials are trying to stop the illegal opening of hydrants that has picked up over the last week when the temperatures increased to hit 90 degrees in recent days.
From last Wednesday through Monday, firefighters received 175 reports of illegally opened hydrants, compared with 65 reports during the first five months of the year.
The firefighter who arrived alone Monday to close the hydrant on the city's east side called Columbus police for help.
A man who broke a mirror on the truck was charged with criminal damaging.
"The firefighter was a little wet and a little upset," said Columbus Police officer Matt Dunbar, who responded to help. "But he was OK."
About 2,500 gallons of drinking water surge out each minute a hydrant is open, costing the city $10 every 60 seconds.
A large number of open hydrants also lowers water pressure in the area, fire officials said.
"If there's a fire, we might have a tough time getting the water pressure to put it out," said Battalion Chief Doug Smith, spokesman for the fire division.
The city has ordered 55 tamper-proof caps, which can only be opened with a special wrench, to test on some of the hydrants most often uncapped. Officials also might begin enforcing a $300 fine for illegally opening a hydrant.
A program to open some hydrants in city parks after three consecutive days of 90-degree temperatures won't start until June 20 after summer workers begin. And the city's pools don't open until June 19.