Streets filled with people, kids running and playing. This is the scene as you walk by neighborhood after neighborhood during the summer. All around, people are trying to beat the heat, and enjoy the summer vacation. Fire hydrants everywhere are blasting gallons of water onto streets, cars, and residents.
As summer continues to hit the Bronx with its hottest days of the season, all over the Concourse people are trying to cool down. With temperatures blazing high into the 90s, it is very hard for people to keep cool. Many children and adults decide to pop open a nearby fire hydrant, and let the cold water cool down the entire neighborhood. While this might help people keep cool, it also hurts the neighborhood.
All fire hydrants are connected to the city’s water system. According to the fire department, opening fire hydrants can cause problems in the future like corrupting the water, or limiting the water supply in the neighborhood.
“They are on for hours,” said Concourse resident Peter Miller. “Some people’s houses’ hot water is affected.”
“Out of 5 blocks all of them are on,” said Miller. “Even when it’s cold, they shouldn’t be on.”
New York City’s first fire hydrant was installed in 1808, according to FireHydrant.org, a website on the history of fire hydrants. The next hydrants were built in iron, in 1817, because that material is stronger and could hold the water securely. One of the most common models is the O’Brien hydrant, and was introduced in 1902. Some sites say there are over 100,000 fire hydrants spread throughout the country.
But many hydrants are not strong enough, and people can easily open them, causing chaos to drivers and children. Fire Departments are aware of the problem and are trying to stop it. Some firefighters have said that when they drive by an unattended open fire hydrant they close the cap in order to avoid an accident.
“People ask to open the hydrant but we say no if kids are playing in the busy streets,” said Engine 92 firefighter Chris Tronconi, citing safety concerns and the fear that children playing with water in trafficked streets might be injured.
There are many stories involving kids playing in the street, and getting hit by cars. Two years ago, a little girl was killed while playing with an open fire hydrant near 166th Street, according to blog site, Gothamist.com. “She was running across the street, and the car just hit her, and it dragged her up the street,” a witness told the news website.
In a press release, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) introduced a new program called the Hydrant Education Action Team (HEAT), which informs New Yorkers about the dangers and legal consequences of opening a fire hydrant.
“The HEAT program engages youth to become advocates and leaders in their communities, educating residents about the safety and environmental hazards of fire hydrant misuse, and providing them with information on safer, alternative ways to stay cool in the summer,” said Johanna Dejesus in the release. She is vice president of youth, education, and career development services for SoBro, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities to youths in the South Bronx that will help them develop their academic, career, and leadership skills.
According to Dcwater.com, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority informed that “more than 1,800 gallons [of water] per minute can spew from an open hydrant.” This wastes water because most of it is falling onto the street, making there less water for neighborhood use. “Water is a precious and limited resource and should be used wisely.”
Another issue is that opening a fire hydrant is illegal. Not a lot of people know about this, and this causes many to misuse the fire hydrants very often.
“Opening a hydrant illegally can result in fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. New Yorkers are urged to report illegally opened fire hydrants to 311 immediately,” said the DEP.
“It’s illegal for private citizens to open fire hydrants on their own,” says Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the DEP. “What people are supposed to do is ask for a spray cap from their local firehouse.”
These spray caps control the water flow from pouring out gallons of water onto the street. Usually people just leave the caps off, which wastes water and may disrupt the water system. Spray caps are free and can be obtained at any fire station according to the some residents. They still allow people to enjoy cool water from a hydrant, but they are much better for the environment.
“It’s better to have the sprinkler caps on them as oppose to no cap,” said firefighter Tronconi.