Firefighters concerned over welded hydrants

MERCERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Three fire departments in Franklin County have been affected by the Bear Valley Joint Authority’s decision to weld shut a connection outlet on nearly two dozen fire hydrants.

BJVA sealed the five-inch connection fire departments use to battle fires.

The MMPW Volunteer Fire Company in Mercersburg returned from a call this afternoon. It turned out to be nothing, but Chief Dale Carbaugh knew his crew would have had to handle the call differently if it was a fire.

“They left the small connections available for our use. It just requires a little bit more equipment from our end. It takes a lot more time to hook that up and the output is not higher as far as capacity of water we can get out of there,” Carbaugh said. “It could be a hindrance in a major fire situation.”

Carbaugh says he was not notified this would take place but found out from a 911 call.

“I guess a concerned citizen saw what was happening and called them, thinking somebody might have been hampering with the fire hydrant,” he said.

BJVA’s manager says it welded 23 hydrants in Hamilton, St. Thomas and Peters townships last week. James McCurdy saw them do it.

“I looked up and saw a truck, a man with some kind of torch, and he was doing something to the fire hydrants,” McCurdy said.

Steve Himes, assistant fire chief of Franklin Fire Company Station 4, says the hydrants still work, but it takes more time to get the water flowing.

Himes says he heard by word of mouth why the water authority sealed the hydrants.

“They’re assuming we’ll collapse the systems by hooking up to the main steamer connection,” he said. “However, there’s no way for us to suck water from the hydrant with the hose that we use, a soft hose. It will collapse way before it creates a vacuum in the system.”

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