Before Onalaska firefighters fought a house fire Tuesday night, they had to fight to get to the fire hydrant.
“We knew where it was because of our mapping system in our fire trucks. But it was buried under ice. It was one of the fire hydrants that didn’t get cleared out yet,” said Onalaska Fire Department Assistant Chief Troy Gudie.
No injuries were reported from the fire, but crews wasted valuable minutes using jackhammers to expose the fire hydrant.
While the hydrant was not necessary on Tuesday’s call, Gudie says that minutes matter and can be the difference between life and death, or minor and major damage.
“750 gallons with one handline at 150 gallons per minute, we’re going to be out of water fairly quick. Now if there’s flames showing and it’s a larger fire, I know that hydrant not being exposed would have had a totally different outcome on this fire that we had,” he said.
Firefighters deal with different variables when responding to calls.
During the winter months, there are added hurdles that can complicate an already dangerous, and difficult, job.
“Clearing out a fire hydrant is not really part of their assignment that they’re supposed to be doing in an emergency,” says Gudie. “We have life safety and then obviously we have to take care of the fire itself.”
In addition to the efforts of local street departments, the Onalaska Fire Department, and many more around the region, are asking for residents to Adopt a Hydrant and clear it from snow and ice.
Guide credits working smoke detectors and a fast response time to the minimal damage of Tuesday nights blaze.