By Jeff Wagner

ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) — All winter, Minnesota cities remind homeowners to clear the snow surrounding fire hydrants. That way, crews can quickly hook up a hose if needed.

But issues over access still exist, even in summer. Snow obviously isn’t the problem.

Jeff Wagner explains what’s getting in the way and what firefighters need you to do about it.

“These hydrants are there for a reason so they can be used for the fire department and– worst case scenario– have to put out a fire,” said Dave Ninow, the Elk River Water Department’s superintendent.

Earlier this spring, Ninow combed the town to flush hydrants.

“Every year we find a hydrant or two that had been hit by a snow plow or car,” he said.

But they also found a handful that are surrounded by overgrown plants or intentional landscaping, like boulders or mailboxes.

What people might not realize is the law requires there to be at least three feet of space surrounding hydrants. It’s not just so firefighters can attach the hose, but but also to turn the wrench to start the water.

“Most of the time the firefighter’s gonna be in full bunker gear. There could be two of them, they’re trying to work to get access this hydrant,” Deputy Chief Aaron Surratt said. “Again, anything that obstructs a hydrant slows down our response.”

The law also states a hydrant should be sen up to 200 feet away.

“They’re arriving on the scene fast. They gotta be able to pick up that hydrant and get out and hook up to it,” Ninow said.

Some homeowners have been warned to trim or remove the plants and obstructions surrounding their hydrants. A steel stump might not be the most appealing lawn decoration, but that’s not what it was made for.

“Really it’s not just about them, but it’s everybody in that neighborhood and who that fire hydrant is supposed to cover for their safety and our use,” Surratt said.

If you see a hydrant in your neighborhood that appears to be obstructed, you’re asked to contact your local fire department.

Jeff Wagner