Firefighters want help digging out hydrants to save lives - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Firefighters want help digging out hydrants to save lives

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Driving around eastern Iowa, you may not spot many fire hydrants right now. Many are covered by huge snow drifts.

It's a challenge firefighters face every day in winter.

"The snow plows go by, they cover it with snow," said Don Maas, a Captain in the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. "Once it's covered nobody knows it's there."

Firefighters then have to dig the hydrant out which takes time.

"Seconds can make a huge difference," said Maas.

KWWL decided to time a crew to see how long it would take to clear the hydrant. Firefighter Jesse Lennox grabs the shovel, and we started our timer. He needs to be able to see the hydrant, and clear enough snow around it to be able to put the equipment together. It takes him a minute and 22 seconds.

In a real fire, it's a situation where every second counts.

"A person could easily be alive or dead in a minute," said Maas. "It only takes a few gulps of the bad air, the smoke and stuff from a fire, in one second you could be alive and you take a couple gulps and you go down. And in just a few seconds you can be nonresponsive."

That's why firefighters ask you to make sure the hydrant closest to your home or business is clear. Make sure they can see it from the street, the whole hydrant sticking out and keep about three feet of space around the hydrant clear, too, for their equipment.

Firefighters have maps of hydrants, but again, getting those ready can take time.

"You're just helping your community out and helping yourself out," said Maas. "If you would happen to need it and we can find it, it just makes it so much easier."

When you're out clearing a hydrant, firefighters ask you to be safe. Don't stand in the street and be careful to make sure you don't slip on snow or ice and fall on to the road.

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