Nfld. & Labrador

Digging out buried fire hydrants could lead to treasure for Corner Brook residents

The City of Corner Brook is asking residents to help clear snow away from fire hydrants as a way to ensure better safety standards and save the city big money.

City giving out prizes to people who clear snow off fire hydrants

Fire hydrants get buried in snow this time of year, which can be a major safety hazard if there is a residential fire. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The City of Corner Brook has launched a contest to get residents shovelling snow away from fire hydrants as a way to ensure safety standards and save the city thousands of dollars each year.

More than 700 red fire hydrants get buried every time snow falls on the island's western city. Corner Brook staff are responsible for digging out after major snowfalls but that work can take several days.

"Basically, it's a contest where we have residents clear the hydrants for the city," said director of protective services Todd Flynn.

The city is giving away weekly $50 gift cards to participants and a chance to win a snowblower at the end of the season. So far, 109 hydrants are registered with the program.

Todd Flynn is the director of protective service with the City of Corner Brook. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

In case of a fire, the firefighters need clear access to a hydrant. Otherwise they are wasting valuable time digging out their water source.

"Ultimately, it is a city responsibility, but we are asking residents to do this, and encourage them and engage them into this program and using the contest to do that," Flynn said. 

"But, at the end of the day, the city is still monitoring the work done by residents."

Flynn says the Adopt-a-Hydrant program could save the city a lot of money.

"Clearing hydrants costs the city of Corner Brook anywhere from $40-60,000 a year. This program is significantly less than that. A lot less than that. Actually 10 per cent of that," he said.

"Basically we are hoping to put some of the work over to residents." 

Corner Brook is hoping residents will shovel out 25 per cent of the buried hydrants around the city.

Overwhelming number of hydrants in the capital

There are similar challenges on the eastern side of Newfoundland. 

After a snowstorm, crews in St. John's have 3,200 hydrants to dig out.

A fire hydrant is buried under snow in downtown St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Similar to Corner Brook, it's the city's responsibility to get the work done, but they rely heavily on residents to give them a hand.

Gary Power, an inspector with the St. John's Regional Fire Department, says if residents don't do it, it can create a problem for them.

Insp. Gary Power is with the St. John's Regional Fire Department. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"It's a lot of work and there's no way in the world [the city] could have it done immediately after a snow storm. It's as simple as that."

Time is of the essence when firefighters respond to a call, especially in a city full of rowhouses and old wooden homes.

"Time is top of mind from the fire department's perspective," Power said.

"If they have to respond and then drag a four-inch line over a snowbank and then dig out a hydrant, you can well-imagine time is ticking."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Colleen Connors and the St. John's Morning Show