Water pressure drops after 100 hydrants opened illegally

City offers sprinklers to legally help beat heat


Water pressure dropped in some Baltimore neighborhoods this week as about 100 fire hydrants were illegally opened by people seeking relief from oppressive heat, city officials reported yesterday.

No major problems with hydrants occurred, but the city's Department of Public Works warns that the practice could drain water supplies to hospitals and keep firefighters from quickly dousing fires.

Anyone caught opening a hydrant may be charged with illegally tampering with city water, a misdemeanor that carries a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Kurt L. Kocher, a Public Works spokesman, said that some homeowners "undoubtedly lost water pressure" during the early part of the week when temperatures soared into the high 90s. The heat wave broke yesterday with temperatures reaching the low 70s.

Last year, the city began putting locks on hydrants that can only be removed with a special wrench that firefighters carry. About 450 locks -- each costing $157 -- have been installed, mostly around hospitals. The city has about 9,000 hydrants.

Spilled water floods streets and lowers water pressure. Low pressure slows firefighters in emergencies. Firefighters who encounter an open hydrant must turn it off, then back on before hooking up a hose.

City officials realize that the street is often the only place that many city youngsters have to play. Any adult who wants to open a hydrant should call the local Neighborhood Service Center or the Department of Public Works at 410- 396-5819.

The adult can obtain a sprinkler that can safely be hooked to the hydrant, and officials will give permission to close certain roads to traffic to create a safe play area for children.

Anyone wishing to report an illegally open hydrant should call the city water department at 410- 396-5352.

Pub Date: 6/11/99

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