Scouts challenged to become hydrant heroes; how to find hidden hydrants

by beth on February 25, 2015

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Above: This image the Fire Department posted earlier this month is a bit outdated. The town’s biggest hydrant problem now is that many aren’t peeking out from the snow. (Image from SFD’s Facebook page)

This is probably the only nice afternoon will have this week. So it’s a good time to break out your shovels, and become a hydrant hero.

A lot of people are concerned about the hydrants buried in snowbanks around town. Some readers have posted comments asking how the Town will handle it.

Now Scouts in town are being asked to suit up (snowsuit that is) and help the town dig out. And they’ve been given tips and tools to locate missing hydrants.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a scout to pitch in.

Southborough’s Teen CERT volunteers already did some hydrant clearing earlier this month. And many residents have dutifully taken up shovels to clear hydrants on their streets. But the snow may have been too much of a challenge for some hydrant abutters. And some snowbirds have fled the brutal cold.

By the time some people looked around their neighborhoods, even the hydrant flags were buried. The good news is, they don’t have to be lost until the thaw.

If your neighborhood hydrant has disappeared, here is how to locate it. First, you can check these maps approximating locations. Next, (according to a Pack 1 Cub Scout communication):

There are two additional ways you can identify hydrants buried in the snow. The first is to look for the hydrant marker/flag. This is usually a steel or plastic pole attached to the fire hydrant that sticks up 2-4 feet above the fire hydrant. Many of them have a reflective panel or striping on the pole.

The second way is to look for a reflective collar that goes all the way around on a telephone/utility pole about 10 feet off the ground. These collars are usually white, orange, blue or green and have a number and sometimes an arrow pointing toward where the fire hydrant is located.

The number indicates the distance in feet from the utility pole to the fire hydrant and has either an arrow pointing what direction the hydrant is or the number is facing towards the hydrant itself. Do not confuse these with metal or plastic utility tags that are the actual number of the pole. (See attached sheet for examples of markers).

Some tips included wearing light/reflective clothing, working in daylight, and bringing steel shovels to break through ice.

Any scouts who dig out hydrants are encouraged to post their accomplishments on the challenge website, here.

In the meantime, perhaps we can help out those who want to help.

If you have a hydrant fully or partially buried on your street, but aren’t physically capable of digging it out yourself, you can post a comment. If someone reads the tip and adopts the hydrant, they can post a reply. Or if you see someone has done the work, you can reply with a new comment (and thanks.)

1 Alan February 25, 2015 at 6:48 PM

A big thank you to the scouts.

I don’t understand what has happened over the generations but shoveling out the hydrants was something that was taught to us as children the same as how to cross the roads. I live in the middle of two hydrants and shovel both every storm not knowing which one the fire dept will use. I have done this for over 40 years. I have never seen anyone else shovel them and there must be 50 people in the area that will need them if a fire happens.

What ever happened to this responsibility being taught to the new generations?

2 Matthew February 27, 2015 at 8:54 AM

As I have been told and seen for myself that the vast majority of these poll markers are gone.
I too grew up clearing the hydrants around our neighborhood and it was never an issue as to where they were located. With current drifts as high as they are, residents unwilling or able to clear the hydrants and town resources either stretched to thin, ignorant or merely indifferent I think it speaks to the failure of our people not just our government.
The scouts are not supposed to be the cure to this illness nor is bashing public workers lucky enough to have unions and pensions because both will be a memory before too long. Time for me and perhaps the rest of us to just suck it up and shovel since there is no one out there to help us but ourselves. Come spring I will be inventorying the hydrants in my neighborhood and notifying the water department which ones cannot be located by the method they have suggested. Perhaps even the Boy AND GIRL Scouts will be available to do the same work as they canvas they neighborhoods for donations.

3 matthew February 28, 2015 at 3:34 PM

Cleared one and found and cleared another covered in snow but marked with a blue arrow so thanks to the water department for that. The girls and I are looking to clear a few more tomorrow, any chance folks could send locations in to the blog with any hydrants left to be cleared?

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