In the aftermath of a record-breaking blizzard, streets stogged with snow, St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD) responded to four fires on Saturday alone.
While a normal response to a house fire would see two fire engines and eight firefighters, given the extreme circumstances these past few days, SJRFD has allocated extra resources.
Now the fire department is sending three engines, one plow and seven extra personnel, said platoon chief Dean Foley.
“We’ve upped our manpower to get to the hydrants quicker,” said Foley, explaining if a hydrant is buried with snow, they can still clear it quickly with the extra people.
The plow will also clear away much of it.
“If we show up and a hydrant’s exposed, well, that’s just the better for us. That makes the response that much quicker.”
Something to keep in mind as you dig out of this last storm. pic.twitter.com/z0Fi2xOQ6v— NL Fire Services (@NLFireServices) January 18, 2020
Foley said even though crews arrive on the scene with 1,500 gallons of water in the pumper engines, the quicker firefighters can get to a fire hydrant, the quicker they can respond — especially during incidents that require a lot of water quickly.
Meanwhile, Mayor Danny Breen said crews are working to clear the city’s 3,200 fire hydrants on a priority basis that follows the priority level of general snowclearing for streets.
“It takes quite a while, especially with this volume of snow,” Breen said.
That’s why many St. John’s residents are taking it upon themselves to help with the effort.
‘Seconds can count’
TA Loeffler is a Memorial University professor and adventurer known for mountain climbing.
She’s been keeping the fire hydrant near her home cleared, and is using social media to encourage others to do the same.
A video she posted with tips on clearing snow from hydrants received plenty of feedback.
Hey Folks...here is my public safety announcement. If you have shovelling capacity, consider shovelling out your street’s fire hydrant. Seconds count. Help the fire folks help you. Before and after pics in the thread. pic.twitter.com/n4mVSJ9zsB— TA Loeffler (@taloeffler) January 19, 2020
She said many people told her they never thought about clearing snow from nearby hydrants before, but now they do. Many others proudly posted photos of hydrants they’ve freed from mounds of snow.
“I thought since I was feeling passionate about it, perhaps I could motivate a few others to join me in that effort because in any kind of fire emergency that requires water, seconds can count.”
Loeffler said she’s particularly aware of the importance of quick access to fire hydrants because her brother is a firefighter.
She said for people who are able and have the time, it’s a good community service.
Loeffler’s tips for keeping hydrants free of snow:
- Fire hydrants are marked by a pole that might be sticking out of the snow
- If the marker is buried under snow, use Google Maps’ street view feature to see where the nearest hydrants are located.
- A hydrant won’t be right next to the marker. Use a broom handle to poke the snow and locate the hydrant to avoid digging needlessly to find it.
- Icy snow can be challenging. Use a simple hand saw to cut icy snow into blocks that can be more easily pushed away. Metal shovels are also useful with hard, packed snow.
- Work on clearing the hydrant over time rather than all at once to avoid exhaustion, or work together with neighbours.