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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Response from Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman to my previous post

Hi Jim,

Thank you for forwarding a copy of your letter to the editor, and of your observations of what happened when the hydrant was damaged. As a former public works employee, you are most likely aware that the fire hydrant repair, being part of the city water main system, is the responsibility of the Water Department. As such, I have forwarded your e-mails to the Public Works Director Tom Hellen who has acknowledged that this is a high priority for their work crews. I know that the water department has already repaired close to a dozen hydrants that were damaged over the winter, with several more still awaiting repair or replacement.

I am also appreciative of your willingness to have contacted the police department with the information of the driver that probably damaged the fire hydrant at Shelly’s Deli. I don’t know if the HPD have located the person or if they intend to press charges, but will contact Chief Gunter for follow-up.

Regarding the remaining two items;

· Earlier this year, I had already identified the need to install the bollards completely surrounding the new replacement hydrant at Shellie’s, as well as several other locations in town. This installation was originally completed over 17 years ago, before there was any fire department oversight of these installations. Our newest standard for bollard installation requires protection from vehicular damage by the use of 4” diameter concrete filled steel tubes, with an increase of the international standard 3 foot height to 4 feet in height so that the bollards can be better seen in side and rear view mirrors of the larger SUV’s and trucks. These bollards also need to be painted bright yellow or red, and we highly recommend that they also use reflective striping at the top 12” of each post.

· Our standards call for a minimum four foot stainless steel hydrant flag that is secured to the base flange for rapid location of the hydrant by firefighters as well as snow plow drivers.

This combination of high visibility protection still only works if the driver observes the common practice of checking side and rear view mirrors prior to backing up.

Regarding some other comments included in your letter, I share your frustration in not having every fire hydrant in the city in operable condition. Several years ago, we began an aggressive campaign to identify and “educate” snow plow drivers in particular from burying or damaging fire hydrants during winter time. Unfortunately, due to the number of new and inexperienced plow drivers every year, we have had only minimal success.

Regarding the insufficient coverage of the fire hydrants, you may feel somewhat comforted by the knowledge that when we develop pre-fire plans for any building in town, we always assume that the closest hydrant is unusable. (The hydrant could be located too close to the building on fire to safely use, or obstructed by a vehicle, or as in this case – broken.) All of our structural apparatus have sufficient water supply hose to reach from virtually every building in town , to the closest three hydrants. In this way, the lack of being able to reach any single hydrant has minimal effect on most fire suppression efforts.

Lastly, I am somewhat perplexed by one of your final statements...”Taken in context with some other recent disharmonic occurrences within your departments, I can’t help but wonder if these slow hydrant repairs are the manifestation of some deeper problems within our municipality”

I am unfamiliar with the term “disharmonic occurrence” except in reference to an orchestra. In an effort to provide better public services it may be helpful if you were to provide any examples of such occurrences so that we may make improvements to our operations. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone (788-3147) should you wish to further discuss these issues. I am hopeful that they will be resolved very soon.

MC

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