Detroit firefighters say testing hydrants only damages them

Over the last ten years, the amount of closed fire companies has expanded the amount of fire hydrants each respective fire company is responsible for checking and their hydrant districts have increased significantly. Detroit Firefighters are expected to check over 30,000 + hydrants on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly and defective and non-working hydrants are reported to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for repair.
For this reason, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association (DFFA- Local 344) believes the participation of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is warranted in the hydrant flow testing process. The Detroit Fire Department (DFD) has performed flow testing in the past and realizes more damage was done while performing flow test; at no fault of firefighters. We encourage the DFD to partner with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to ensure flow testing is performed properly to ensure the safety of citizens and firefighters alike.
We do support the new way that hydrants will be tagged for the purpose of repair and maintenance.

It's still summer but the city of Detroit is getting ready for winter.

Firefighters have been ordered to test the hydrants so they won't freeze. But some firefighters believe this could be causing more harm than good.

So far the Detroit Fire Department has checked 15,000 hydrants and has another 13,000 to go. Some firefighters want the Detroit water department to lend a hand because they are doing more work than usual.

"I love working for who we work for," said a firefighter who does not want to be identified. "And I mean the citizens, but sometimes enough is enough."

Some Detroit firefighters say the additional work of flow testing the nearly 30,000 fire hydrants they're already responsible for checking, may be the straw breaking the camel's back.

"We would put a weight on the end of a rope and throw it down the hydrant cap and see if it was wet," the firefighter said.

Now they're turning almost all of them on and testing the water pressure, which takes up more time.

Firefighters want the water department to pitch in, because there are fewer firefighters working in Detroit than in years past. Plus they say they're already swamped with additional responsibilities.

"Checking hydrants, downed wires, fires, car accidents, medical first responder runs," the firefighter said. "Maybe tomorrow cutting grass."

Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan's chief of staff, says those water department employees have a number of responsibilities too.  But she says they have been tied up with an equally important job as firefighters checking hydrants.

"DWSD is focused on repairing the hydrants," Wiley said. "They're out here doing repairs repairing more than a hundred a week. (We) need to get on top of that back log that we had of hydrants that haven't been worked on."

But that's not firefighters only concern. They say flow testing the hydrants may be doing more damage to the city's aging infrastructure.

Sources within the fire department say a flow test on a fire hydrant caused a water main break at Fullerton and Greenfield. Veteran firefighters say the practice is known to potentially damage water mains and it's why the city stopped it six years ago.

"I can't speak to why they stopped it six years ago," Wiley said. "But I can tell you within the last six years, we lost track of what hydrants were working and what wasn't. I think we're at a point now where we might as well find out what is working and what isn't.

"It is certainly worth flow-testing to see whether water comes out of hydrants."

That is why firefighters are testing hydrants and why the city is keeping a track record of what's working and what's not.

"It's out of service and this is the hydrant number right here, 20j3-140," said Brett Bradford of the Detroit Fire Department.

FOX 2: "And that's going straight to the water department so they know what to come out and fix?"

"Yes I think so," Bradford said.

Let's hope so.

The Detroit firefighters union released this statement:

"Over the last ten years, the amount of closed fire companies has expanded the amount of fire hydrants each respective fire company is responsible for checking and their hydrant districts have increased significantly. Detroit Firefighters are expected to check over 30,000 + hydrants on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly and defective and non-working hydrants are reported to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for repair.

For this reason, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association (DFFA- Local 344) believes the participation of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is warranted in the hydrant flow testing process. The Detroit Fire Department (DFD) has performed flow testing in the past and realizes more damage was done while performing flow test; at no fault of firefighters. We encourage the DFD to partner with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to ensure flow testing is performed properly to ensure the safety of citizens and firefighters alike.

We do support the new way that hydrants will be tagged for the purpose of repair and maintenance."


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