Clearing Fire Hydrants: Who is Responsible?


After a heavy snowfall it’s typical to see everyone outside of their homes, shoveling sidewalks and clearing driveways. It’s a necessary wintertime task for all of us, no matter how begrudgingly we get it done. However, all too often one very important snow-covered area gets overlooked; and that’s the fire hydrant.

In order for firefighters to quickly and easily utilize a fire hydrant in the event of a fire, there needs to be a 3 foot radius surrounding the hydrant that is completely cleared of snow. If a hydrant is covered, the firefighters need to clear it themselves and the delay that this causes could mean additional property damage, injuries or even lives lost. Unfortunately, this is sometimes an issue and the main reason for it is that people simply don’t know whose responsibility it is to clear the hydrants in their neighborhood.


So who is supposed to do it?

As short and sweet as we can possibly phrase it, the answer is, it depends. The responsibility of clearing fire hydrants varies from town to town, usually falling on either the residents, the water department or the city. Unfortunately this fact ends up causing a lot of confusion and frequently results in hydrants remaining obstructed for far too long. This also creates an issue in large cities where there are hundreds of hydrants and not enough city employees to get them all cleared fast enough. For this reason we say it never hurts to pitch in and help, even if the job is not your own.

Residents and business owners in every town and city are encouraged to contact their city hall or local water department in order to find out who is responsible for clearing fire hydrants, so heavy snowfall never has to cause a delay in the event of a fire. For now, that is the best answer we have to offer but in some cities there are programs working to dispel the confusion and get community members more involved with the responsibility.

In the city of Boston, a map-based web app called Adopt-a-Hydrant allows citizens to claim responsibility for shoveling heavy snow away from their own specific fire hydrants. Members can name their hydrants and even adopt them out to others who wish to take over, further encouraging participation in the program through social interaction. This sounds like an extremely beneficial program and we hope to see it spreading to other cities very soon.

In the meantime, if you live in a town where the responsibility is not your own, that doesn’t mean you should ever let a hydrant buried under the snow go ignored. Lending a helping hand and clearing a hydrant near your home or business is always a good idea. Moreover, the possibility that you could be helping to save a life is more than enough reason to make the extra efforts to clear a fire hydrant.

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