Petersburg firefighters start checking hydrants neglected for years

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PETERSBURG,  Va. –  Petersburg leaders have discovered that many city hydrants haven’t been checked in years, as a follow-up to a CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation.

Earlier in August, retired Petersburg Fire Captain Jim Tash spotted firefighters having trouble with a hydrant, and made a discovery that he called dangerous.

"There were two guys pulling on a hydrant wrench," Tash explained.

Tash watched as they tried to remove the steamer connection.

"Actually stood on the fire hydrant and jumped two or three times on the wrench and it finally broke loose," Tash said.

The problems didn't stop there.

Tash said that while the hose was being threaded, another firefighter began trying to open the stem on top.

"It wouldn't move and so once again, two of them got on it, one pushing and one pulling and finally after a struggle, it finally opened up," Tash said.

If it didn't open, there would be no water coming from the hydrant and firefighters would have to look for an alternate source.

Tash said the situation could have been dangerous.

Sgt. Gene Beemer, retired from the Petersburg Fire Department, said that a hydrant often stands between life and death.

"If you don't have the water, you can't put out a fire,” Beemer said. “If you can't put out that fire, you can't save lives."

Now Petersburg City Council has learned some hydrants haven’t been checked in a decade.

"It has been years since some of these hydrants have been checked,” said Sam Parham, Petersburg Vice Mayor.

"Without the hydrants, the fire trucks are no good to us,” Beemer said.

Since 2000, it's been the job of Public Works to flush, test and paint hydrants.

Now firefighters are joining the process.

"We would like to get all of them touched this month,” Parham said.

There are about 1,600 fire hydrants in Petersburg.

"At least locate all of them, within the next 30 days and then perform maintenance and whatever services necessary between now and October,” Parham said.

Early Monday morning, the work was evident.

"They were here checking the fire hydrant and flushed it this morning,” said resident Cheryl Moody. "I came back out and I saw that it was painted, so they painted it.

Firefighters are not the only ones hoping the process goes quickly.

"I'm hoping they're doing all of them across the city,” Moody said.

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