Following the last major snowstorm prior to Christmas, Kenai councilman Terry Bookey raised concerns at the Jan. 2 council meeting that 60 percent of the city’s fire hydrants were still inaccessible.
Bookey, who is a fire captain at Central Emergency Services in Soldotna, said he drove around town prior to the city council meeting and looked at 300 hydrants with the majority of them blocked in from snow berms left by street plows. Bookey expressed frustration after bringing the same issue to attention at the previous meeting last month.
“We should not be bringing this up every time it snows,” he said. “I am at my wit’s end.”
Kenai city manager Rick Koch said there is a dedicated position in the Parks and Recreation department responsible for clearing out the hydrants. The position was created two years ago when the matter was first brought up by Bookey.
The Kenai Fire Department was responsible for snow removal around fire hydrants but the volume of aid calls made it difficult to undertake the responsibility of clearing all the hydrants, Koch said.
Koch said while the matter has since been resolved by allocating more resources, he needed clarification from council what their expectation of a timely snow clearing around the hydrants would be.
From when the last snow fell on Dec. 22 to Jan. 2 there were five working days for the job to get done, he said.
“We estimate 165 man hours give or take to clear all the hydrants in the city,” Koch said. “If it takes one person 20 minutes a hydrant it can take them 30 days.”
Koch said volunteers and community service programs in the past have helped clear snow off the hydrants that made the undertaking much more effective.
Bookey said he saw a quick response based off his latest comments. The next day he received feedback from city employees that hydrants were being cleared out first thing that morning. By his last inspection, the results are much improved.
Bookey said it is important the hydrants are accessible in the event of a fire. While the fire department shares the responsibility of maintaining the fire hydrants, their primary focus is on protecting the citizens in the community and his intention is to make sure the city helps them be as effective as possible.
“My hope is that it continues to be handled quickly throughout winter,” he said.
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.