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Elmhurst Fire Officials Urge Residents to Keep Hydrants Clear of Snow

The City of Elmhurst Fire Department urges residents to take safety precautions during winter storms and asks for help keeping snow and ice clear from fire hydrants, as well as exhaust vents for high efficiency furnaces and hot water heaters.

Clearing the snow around a fire hydrant is an easy way for residents interested in lending a hand to improve neighborhood safety in our community. 

Winter snow can often hide Elmhurst’s 2,212 fire hydrants under mountains of snow making them impossible to find quickly. In the event of a fire, firefighters have to locate and shovel out fire hydrants before hooking up to them. 

The Elmhurst Fire Department is asking that you help us by keeping the fire hydrant closest to your residence or business clear of snow. 

It is recommended to clear a 360 degree circle around the hydrant, about a foot to a foot and a half. During emergencies every second counts; when fire hydrants are clear of snow and ice it saves valuable time.

The Fire Department also asks residents to clear home furnace and exhaust vents of snow that may have accumulated from drifting and blowing. 

The Fire Department receives a high number of emergency calls regarding elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) during winter storms. Many times these calls are the result of some easily resolved issues. 

A common problem that causes CO levels to become elevated is a result of venting problems related to furnaces and/or hot water heaters. This becomes an increased concern due to the snow accumulation preventing the furnace to vent properly. Please check your outside vents and clear them from snow and ice. 

Additionally, when snow falls very quickly, or your furnace does not run for an extended period of time, it can cause a build-up of snow on your chimney. Most furnaces have safety devices in place so that if the chimney is blocked off, it will not allow the furnace to turn on. 

Regardless, when we receive this much snow in a short time or over several days with extreme cold, it is a wise idea to just look up at your chimney to make sure it is free from snow.

Please use caution when clearing blocked hydrants, exhaust vents, and chimneys. Do not do anything that can put you at risk of injury to clean that snow off. This would be creating a secondary hazard to address the initial hazard.

Other Safety Tips for Winter Weather:

  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack — a major cause of death in the winter.

  • Always use generators outside, away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use generators inside buildings or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.

  • Keep all the exits in your home or business free of snow and ice. Be sure to shovel a path to any door that may be used less frequently during the winter months, as this will provide a clear exit from the building should the normal exit path be blocked. It will also provide another door that may be used by an ambulance crew in the event of a medical aid.

  • Be mindful of melting snow and the potential hazards it can cause. If possible, help clear storm grates so rain and melted snow can drain properly. The melting can create heavier, packed snow on roofs and other surfaces. Flat roofs are particularly vulnerable and should be cleared of as much snow as possible.

  • Limit your time outdoors. Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite among elderly adults, babies, and others at risk. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect someone has hypothermia or frostbite.

  • When outdoors, wear warm clothing, such as hats, gloves and jackets. Avoid staying outside unprotected for long periods. At the first signs of skin redness or pain, get out of the cold and protect any exposed skin. Watch for skin that has turned white or grayish, and feels firm, waxy or numb. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms. 

    Source: City of Elmhurst press release 

Idont Givitout February 10, 2014 at 09:16 PM
Because they are too lazy to do this themselves? It is not like they don't have time each day to send out a crew to do this to ensure they can perform their duties. Perhaps they would like us to pick them up at home and drive them to work too, so their cars don't get salt on them! Dont give me that bull about they are too busy, there are not that many fires in the city. And afterall they are "Physically fit" but yet wantt the citezens to got out but don't stress yourselves to much so they have to take you to the hospital......
Vincent Russell February 11, 2014 at 09:24 AM
Idont Givitout, if your house burns down due to the fact that you couldn't spend 3 minutes clearing a path to a hydrant, I will be the first one in line to offer you help with temporary housing. I have a nice cozy spot in the rafters in my garage next to the family of squirrels that found their way in seeking shelter from the cold. They seem to like it. I'm sure you will too!
Mark C February 11, 2014 at 09:37 AM
As the article states there are over 2,200 hydrants in Elmhurst. With the amount of times its snowed this winter the fire department would have a very tough time clearing all these themselves. It's in the citizen's best interest to give a hand and keep them clear.
Idont Givitout February 11, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Vincent, Can I eat the squirrels or are they your pets? Mark, I understand there are lots of hydrants. Most are at least 2 foot above grade. Many other communities will put location flags on them to make them even more visible. The clearing around them would not need to be done every snowfall, just when it gets too deep. With the amount of tax we pay to reside in Elmhurst compared to the service we receive is ridiculous. The amount of waste and plain inefficiency of the city labor force is unbelievable. Were this a real company it would have been bankrupt long ago. The city has the personnel and funds to do the things they are required to do to provide the services OUR TAX dollars are paying for. If you don't care about giving money away I would be happy to take some of yours
Idont Givitout February 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM
I know at least this was true a few years ago and I have not checked since, but in Bollingbrook the city would even send small snow plows to clear the driveway aprons of residents after the big plows pushed the snow up. This easily could be done around the hydrants or even with a small excavator with a shovel attachement.
Julie G February 11, 2014 at 05:02 PM
OMG. Is it really that hard to clear out around your fire hydrant??? We do ours every time it snows. If an elderly person or someone who cannot do this themselves lives there, then perhaps a kindly neighbor could do it. I have not seen another hydrant on my block for weeks now. C'mon people- its not that hard to do. EVERY SECOND COUNTS when there is an emergency that requires a hydrant!!! Taking 5 minutes to clear a hydrant could save a life or a home. How can they even FIND them if you dont clear them? Oh ya, a location flag like suggested above. Well, thats good, the fire dept will know where it is. Now all they have to do is WASTE PRECIOUS TIME digging it out! Not a solution. Why is it that people can only complain instead of working together as a community to do something as simple as this?
Idont Givitout February 11, 2014 at 05:22 PM
Where does it stop Julie? Next they will ask you to shovel the street in front of your house and salt it too because, well they are just too busy eating donuts or whatever! Our tax dollars pay for a service to be provided, let them maintain their equipment which included the hydrant in order to provide what WE pay for. Doesn't have to be the fire department employees, the city should oversee this as public works. They have the trucks to plow the street and block your driveway, they can clear the hydrants too!!
Kathy Lee February 11, 2014 at 08:37 PM
I love our firemen. They dont do very much and could spend a little less time watching TV. I think that helping to move snow around fire hydrants would help keep our city safe.
Zaria Zamek February 11, 2014 at 09:15 PM
Firemen do a lot of good. Saving houses, people in burning buildings, putting themselves in danger, going to auto accidents, etc. I have a lot of respect for them. However, the term FIRE hydrant would imply that this falls under the realm of the FIRE department. At the very least the city could step in if the fire department is too busy saving our fellow citizens. While the idea of involving our residents to work as a team with our city employees is an interesting one, in the matter of safety, as in finding a fire hydrant in the snow, don't you think perhaps a professional should make sure this is one, done properly, and two, done at all? Come on people. Pretty soon we will be trimming trees for the electric company and fixing potholes for the city. Where will it stop? City employees need to do their own jobs, not trick us into doing it for them.
Vincent Russell February 11, 2014 at 10:20 PM
Please stop the insanity! It snows. Fire department clears all 2,200 fire hydrants. City snowplows come by and bury the hydrants. Fire department again comes out to clear the snow from all 2,200 hydrants. Idont Givitout comes out of his basement to snowblow his driveway and sidewalks, again, burying the hydrant. Fire department once again comes out to clear snow from all 2,200 hydrants. Now compare this scenario to just having 5% of the good, concerned citizens of Elmhurst spend 3 minutes to clear the snow from the hydrant in front of their house. Idont Givitout, give me your address and I will come by to clear the hydrant in front of your house. I have a great place to put the snow -- up your _ _ _! Karen, can you give your posters an IQ test before they are able to post? Please?!?!?
Idont Givitout February 11, 2014 at 11:26 PM
BTW, I do not have a snow blower nor plow. It is a medium length drive, and there is no hydrant in front of my yard. When I was young I had a Gravely tractor with a plow blade and indeed I not only plowed our drive and walks but many of the neighbors too. I would often plow the street in front of the house on Geneva (which BTW if the people living in it didn't know, it has a ghost named Ester, my stepfathers first wife, who had MS and shot herself in the head in the kitchen), but I digress, back to my point, the street I plowed so that that when the city came by there would be little thrown snow I would need to remove again in front of either of my neighbors or my drive. Both Neighbors were elderly. One even worked at Pfund & Clint, into her 90's, she was my favorite. Again I am rambling, I would also recommend that the Firemen that are shoveling wait until the city has cleared the street first before having to duplicate effort. so I have done my fair share and still feel the city should do all the obligations they have to provide the services we the TAXPAYERS pay for. Once again will it be OK if I eat the squirrels in your garage rafters? :P
WLA February 12, 2014 at 05:21 PM
What if your house started on fire or you were in a car wreck that required a response from firefighters but they were all out clearing fire hydrants. If you are out shoveling snow is it such a big deal to take care of the hydrant? We are also advised to clear out the street drains and nobody complains about that.
Idont Givitout February 12, 2014 at 05:56 PM
First off, it is a small house and by the time the FD got here and set up, even in the summer, it would be gone or uninhabitable. Second, if I were home I probably would have put put out the fire before the FD got here or even called. Third, I suggested a crew of FD or PW personnel take care of it, not all of them, what a moron! Fourth, if I am in a car wreck that required FD interaction, a mortician is the person to be called first. Lastly, my point has been all along that they should do their jobs which includes making sure they can get to water. When you go to work, is it OK with your boss that you can't do something because you don't have the supplies to conduct your task? And yes, that even includes the street drains but that is easy for me to say, sitting on high ground.
Mark C February 12, 2014 at 08:31 PM
You make some valid points Idont Giveitout. The city is responsible for access to hydrants. However, I think there are a lot of well bodied citizens who not only don't mind to shovel out a hydrant but actually enjoy it. They see it as just a small way to help out their block.
WLA February 12, 2014 at 11:29 PM
Idontgiveitout, do not call me a moron I was not disrespectful to you in my post no need to be so rude to me. I am here today because someone called CFD to my car wreck and not a mortician. As far as the folly of putting out your own house fire, all I can say is I'm glad I don't live next to you. I don't get your comment about tools and my job.
Kathy Lee February 13, 2014 at 12:01 AM
We don't have very many fires in Elmhurst. I think the firemen at both fire stations should be out shoveling snow away from the fire hydrants. If they get a fire call they can stop shoveling and go to the call. They just sit around the firehouse anyway. I think a little less TV time and more shoveling would be a huge help to keep the residents safe.
WLA February 13, 2014 at 12:39 AM
Are you suggesting the fire department go out with a hook and ladder truck to shovel out fire hydrants? Should the emts bring the ambulance too?
Zaria Zamek February 13, 2014 at 04:48 AM
No, that's OK WLA. The EMT's can just leave from the firehouse. And you know, not all of the firemen in the firehouse have to go out to shovel out the hydrants. Some can actually stay back in case of a fire call. Just so they don't eat all the spaghetti.
Zaria Zamek February 13, 2014 at 05:07 AM
And actually, on the way to the grocery store today, I looked at the fire hydrants we passed. We took York Road south from Vallette. Passed right by the firehouse. Even the hydrants closest to the firehouse were not shoveled out. Not one all the way down York. Huh.
Idont Givitout February 13, 2014 at 01:14 PM
WLA you are correct, I should not have called you a moron, I apologize. The phrase is part of my normal speech and was not nor ever is intended to be offensive. But to answer your question, no I would envision they go in a city owned vehicle, which I am sure they have or more appropriately it would be or include the public works people whose department would be most responsible for covering them up in the first place when plowing. Either way I think a rotation of 3 or 4 people on the city payroll would go around taking turns clearing them.It would be foolish to send the trucks out where they no longer would be staged at an optimal location to most timely reach an emergent site. As Kathy Lee indicates this time of year they really have little to do and it makes sense that we get our monies worth.
WLA February 14, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Looks like Mother Nature is taking care of the fire hydrants.

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