Firefighters dig out buried hydrants |

Firefighters dig out buried hydrants

Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra SunTruckee Fire's Assistant Marshall Chuck Thomas shovels and plows out a hydrant Monday after the water source was buried by recent storms. The district spent over 300 man-hours last week uncovering hydrants.

Firefighters need water to successfully extinguish a blaze, but with towering snow berms bordering area roadways, digging out the hydrants can be a daunting task.

With several feet of snow blanketing the region, nearly half of the hydrants in the Truckee Fire Protection District and North Tahoe Fire Protection District are still covered with compacted snow, district officials said.

“We’re currently using personnel on overtime to help dig out the hydrants,” said Gene Welch, Truckee Fire’s public safety and information officer. “It can be a monumental task.”

In the last week, Truckee Fire has spent over 300 man-hours digging out hydrants, Welch said.

He said the district focuses on the town’s main arteries first, as well as hydrants covered by deeper berms. But with the recent heavy storms, Welch said locating the hydrants has been difficult.

“We have markers at the hydrants, but because the storms have been coming at such a rapid succession, we have to use metal detectors to find the markers,” he said.

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District has hired contractors to assist with uncovering the district’s 800 hydrants, particularly in higher elevations where deep snowpack requires heavy equipment.

To supply water in the meantime, the district utilizes a watertender ” an engine that carries 2,500 gallons of water for firefighting, said Chief Duane Whitelaw of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we run out of water because a hydrant was covered, and we’re frantically trying to uncover it while concurrently putting out a fire,” Whitelaw said.

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