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 May 14, 2005
Target 12 Investigators
Fire Hydrant Problems
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Fire hydrants failing to work when you need them most- it can and does happen. In fact, the Target 12 Investigators have discovered that hydrant inspections weren't even being done on a regular basis in at least one local city.

Eyewitness News reporter Sean Daly uncovers problems with the inspection system that are already leading to changes in the way things are done.

When fire breaks out, hydrants are a community's lifeline. But a Target 12 Investigation reveals not all the fire hydrants in our area are good to go, all the time.

In February, firefighters struggled to put out a house fire on Valley Street in Providence because the nearest fire hydrant didn't work. The one man who was home got out safely, but the fire exposed a hidden danger - broken fire hydrants. In Providence , Cranston , North Providence and Johnston , the Providence Water Supply Board maintains 57 hundred fire hydrants. It's a big job, and we've learned there has been the equivalent of leaks in the maintenance system.

The Water Supply Board says they did the best they can, with limited manpower to inspect the hydrants annually. But that wasn't enough . The investigators asked tough questions and we found that neither the Water Supply Board nor the fire department was regularly inspecting hydrants in Cranston. That left firefighters and even inspectors not knowing which hydrants did or didn't work.

Chief Robert Warren, Cranston Fire Department:

"We're not really sure what happened. Different fire chiefs, different administrators between the two agencies over time. At one time we inspected them and we got a lot of complaints about rusty water and I think some people stopped because of that."

Inspections do produce rusty water and temporarily in homes. But now, complaints or not, Cranston firefighters are inspecting the hydrants themselves just as firefighters in Providence , Johnston and North Providence now do. The stakes are too high not to.

The recent inspections in Cranston turned up 24 broken hydrants, with another 900-plus inspections still in the works.

Chief Robert Warren, Cranston Fire Department:

"I was a little surprised myself by how many were there but once we got with Providence Water and developed a system, things changed quickly."

Mechanics at the Providence Water Supply Board now either repair or replace the broken hydrants after firefighters inspect them. The mechanics stay busy.

In Providence , recent inspections revealed 18 hydrants didn't work- thanks in no small part, not just to old age, but also to vandalism.

Brian Feeney, Providence Water Supply Board:

"If it's mechanical or age or nature, there's nothing you can do about it. But when you see this, it makes our lives even worse. This looks like flat-out vandalism, what, it looks like somebody took a sledgehammer to this.�

So now Cranston 's fire department, along with many other fire departments in our area, are making it their business to keep their lifeline, alive.

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