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When the Minot Fire Department arrives on the scene of an incident, firefighters take for granted nearby fire hydrants they may need to use are in proper working order.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, especially if the hydrant is privately owned.
“It doesn’t happen all that often, but I think last year it happened two or three fires in a row,” Minot Fire Department Battalion Chief Brent Weber said. “Obviously it’s a major concern when it happens, because the extra time we spend finding a water source is more time that the fire burns.”
The department has created a new system to help ensure that private hydrants are properly maintained and are in working condition during an emergency.
There are 342 private hydrants that have been identified by the City’s Water Department. They are owned by businesses, condo associations, mobile home parks, and other entities. Making sure those hydrants are in working order is the responsibility of the owner.
“The bottom line is that it’s a public safety issue,” Fire Chief Kelli Kronschnabel said. “We’re changing our process. This first year will be a learning process for all of us, and we’ll work with the hydrant owners when they have questions or concerns. This will take planning and cooperation among everyone involved.”
Here’s how the new plan is designed to work:
“The owners will have quite a long time to meet the deadline,” Weber said. “They’ll likely have a couple months to get the inspection done and the paperwork back to us. We want to work with everyone to get the best results for everyone involved in this process.”
Prior to 2021, the Fire Department tested the 2,300 public hydrants in the City, working through about a fourth of the City every year. Beginning in 2021, the Water/Sewer Department has taken over inspection of public hydrants.
“Having them do it is a much more efficient system,” Kronschnabel said. “It also gives us time to work with the owners of private hydrants, which fall under the fire code. But it’s a liability for us if we test private hydrants without permission. So we’re changing our approach.”
The new plan will also be beneficial because it will identify exactly who owns the private hydrants.
“I guarantee there are people or businesses who have idea that they own and are responsible for a private hydrant,” Weber said. “So if they don’t know they own it, then they likely have no idea when it’s been operated last or tested last. That becomes our concern when we show up in an emergency.”