EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 13, 2013

Firefighters get citizen help digging out hydrants

By Paul Tennant

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NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover has about 1,800 hydrants, according to fire Lt. Graham Rowe.

There is no way a dozen or so firefighters, even if they’re in Ironman Triathlon physical condition, can clear snow from all them hydrants in just two or three days.

Rowe said he and the other firefighters on duty — 13 in all — cleared about 120 hydrants yesterday.

“We kept ourselves busy,” he said. They got considerable help from Paul Boulanger, who along with his wife Kathy Gallagher owns and operates the Turtle Lane Maple Farm.

Boulanger called the Fire Department on Sunday and asked if he could help out, Rowe said. Boulanger, at the wheel of a small tractor with a snow blower attachment that he uses at the farm, helped the firefighters free numerous hydrants, according to Rowe.

One hydrant, at Ingalls Street and Crossbow Lane, was buried under 7 feet of snow, Rowe said.

When firefighters get to the scene of a fire and encounter a hydrant that’s obstructed by snow, they have to shovel it out before they can hook up the hoses, Rowe said.

“Any delay that we have could cost lives,” he pointed out. “All we’re asking for is a little help.”

Clearing the snow from a hydrant with a shovel takes about 5 to 10 minutes, Rowe estimated. With a snow blower, the job should take less than 5 minutes.

Those who lack the physical capacity to clear snow from a hydrant can call the Fire Department at 978-688-9590.

“We will take care of it,” Rowe said. Many North Andover residents, he said, take the time to make sure the hydrants near their homes are free from snow and ice.