Fire department begins annual hydrant flushing

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, May 20, 2015

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

The city is about to get a lot wetter this season — and that’s not including any rain showers in the forecast.

Crews with the Dowagiac Fire Department have begun flushing the city’s fire hydrant system this week. Over the next several weeks, both full and part-time firefighters will make their way around the community’s residential and business districts, performing maintenance on the more than 350 hydrants operated by the local fire department.

A fire engine or other department vehicle, the firefighters will stop at each metal structure, inspecting them for any damage from collisions or from rusting. They then will take off the two or three valve caps located on the structure, applying food-grade lubricant to the threading. Finally, they will let water run freely through one of the hydrant’s openings for 10 minutes, flushing out any iron, rust or other sediments that may have accumulated inside the structure.

“We want to be careful to not hit any houses or vehicles while we do this,” said Fire Chief Guy Evans. “We do what we can to aim the water in a safe direction.”

The annual flushing work provides two important services to the department and to residents: it serves as a way to drain out harmful substances from hydrants, and as way for the firefighters to ensure the equipment is working properly before they are required in an emergency, Evans said.

The crews will also be measuring the flow of water from the hydrants while making their rounds this year, using pitot tubes to measure the velocity of the stream.

“That’s an important thing for us to measure,” Evans said. “At any location, be it a home or a garage, we want to make sure that we have sufficient stream of water to fight fire.”

The department has handled the job for the past several years, taking over for the Department of Public Services as a means of cost savings, Evans said. The work is done around this time of year due to the warmer weather conditions, which makes the work safer than if it was done in freezing conditions, Evans said.

“These guys will get wet eventually,” Evans said.

Residents should take several precautions while this work is being performed, Evans said. People should keep themselves and their vehicles clear of the stream during the flushing process due to the high water pressure. Drivers should also look out for any roadways flooded with water.

People may also notice some slight discoloration from their water facets, caused by sediments loosened from the flushing process. These issues shouldn’t last for more than a day; people can let their water flow for a few seconds before the water returns to its normal color, Evans said.