Are you sure the hydrant near your home will work if its needed to put out a fire? Are you really, really sure? If you live in a town home or apartment complex you may find out too late that its not operable.
Did you know that the responsibility of maintaining hydrants and water systems on private land is up to the property owners?
There are approximately 1,079 private fire hydrants in Burnsville, and 30 percent of those are considered “private,” Steve Albrecht, Burnsville’s public works director, said during Tuesday’s city council work session. AND, in a spot-check sampling of these hydrants, 15 percent did not operate. (Read report here.)
In all the years I’ve lived in my townhome complex, I’ve taken comfort knowing the life-saving red plug is located nearly right out my front door (see photo). Does it work? Now that I view it closely, it appears suspect to me. I’m sure going to bring this to the attention of our homeowners’ association.
To highlight the potential problem for these properties, Albrecht said that, from 2007 to 2011, of the 161 fires in the city, 44 percent were on properties serviced by private hydrants. The city’s fire chief, B.J. Jungmann, said that in some of the fires, the hydrants WERE inoperable.
While the city regularly inspects and maintains hydrants in public right-of-ways, hydrants located on private land are not. Besides housing complexes, the issue affects churches, businesses and shopping complexes – anywhere there are private roads with no public right-of-ways.
The city has the authority to require inspection, testing and maintenance of fire protection systems, but up until now, it hasn’t done so. That’s about to change.
The city council council reviewed several options and decided to take a “soft” approach, inviting affected property owners to an informational hearing. The city would most likely then move to require that documentation be provided annually to the city that the private water systems have been inspected, tested and maintained. It could be that the city would also train contractors, at no cost, on how to do the inspections and maintenance.
Albrecht called this a “very real issue” for the city and said that Dakota County may be looking for uniformity on how to solve the inspection problem, with Burnsville possibly taking the lead.
He surveyed Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eagan, Bloomington, Savage, Rosemount and Shakopee to see how they handle private hydrants. Shakopee is the only one with a written policy; four of the seven cities maintain private hydrants and two of those charge for the service.