The forecast isn't so hot and that's not so bad

June 22, 1993|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Staff Writer

Relief was in the forecast today for Maryland residents who wilted under a record-breaking three-day heat wave and to a Baltimore Fire Department beleaguered by calls about illegally opened fire hydrants.

The high at the Custom House downtown yesterday was 88 at 3:05 p.m., after a weekend when temperatures soared into the 90s across the state Sunday and hit 100 in Baltimore at 4:35 p.m. Saturday, breaking the previous record of 97, set in 1975.

Amet Figueroa, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, blamed the hot, humid weather on a Bermuda high sitting off the Southeast coast.

"It looks like at least another day of this," Mr. Figueroa said yesterday. "Hopefully, a weak frontal system will make its way into the area [today], and at that time we can hope for some relief. Anything is better than what we're having."

And anything is better for the city Fire Department, which worries about its firefighting capabilities when residents open fire hydrants to cool off.

Almost 90 hydrants were opened Sunday, said Marcia Collins, spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Works, which is responsible for shutting off the hydrants. She said 124 were opened Friday and 71 Saturday.

Capt. Hector Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, recalled a day last year when 160 hydrants were opened.

He said that when many hydrants are opened, water pressure decreases because of the vast amount of water that is released. Firefighting capabilities can suffer, he said, because of corresponding drops in the volume of water available and in the speed with which water flows through hoses when they are connected to the hydrants.

In addition, he said, illegally opening the hydrants with tools such as wrenches and pipes can damage them.

The department is encouraging residents to open hydrants legally in future heat waves by using special sprinklers that attach to the hydrants.

The sprinklers have small slits through which water flows, greatly reducing the amount of water released from a hydrant.

The sprinklers are part of a program sponsored by the mayor's office. Residents can go to any of the mayor's stations and apply for a sprinkler and a tool to open a hydrant. After receiving instructions on the use of the sprinklers and securing permits to close streets, they can use the tools to cool off during heat waves.

Captain Torres said the sprinklers are "a much better alternative for everyone concerned."

The 911 emergency system also is besieged by calls from residents reporting open hydrants during heat waves, Captain Torres said. Coming on top of other emergency calls, that "can really create an overload situation," he said.

He said residents reporting open hydrants should call the Department of Public Works at 396-5352.

Calling the opening of hydrants "a very big safety hazard," Captain Torres urged citizens to "try to get involved to alleviate the problem."

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