03/02/05 — Mount Olive turns attention to fire hydrants

View Archive

Mount Olive turns attention to fire hydrants

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 2, 2005 1:52 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town officials are trying to figure ways to improve its fire-hydrant system, including where to install new ones.

The town's volunteer firefighters say they want hydrants everywhere they can get them. Proximity to a hydrant is important in successfully controlling a fire, they say. A house across the street from the fire department burned last June when firefighters had problems with a hydrant.

Mount Olive Town Manager Ray McDonald said repair work needs to be done on 40 of the town's hydrants. The town has 385 older hydrants inside the town limits and another 300 newer ones west of town, in its extraterritorial jurisdiction and beyond.

"We've got to come up with a plan and get it approved, because we're talking a lot of money," McDonald told members of the Town Board of Commissioners. He said it will cost up to $50,000 to bring the hydrant system up to date, and he wants to phase that in over three years so the town can afford it. He said he hopes to install about 10 new ones this year in the most critical locations.

"We have several critical areas," he said. Some of the hydrants are so old that the town cannot find replacement parts to keep them repaired. Twenty-one hydrants don't work, he said. They cost about $1,500 each to replace.

"We've got 25 that are in the wrong place and need to be moved," McDonald said. Many of the older hydrants are too close to the streets, he said.

McDonald said the town still has several hydrants that were installed as early as 1912. They're too small, he said, and they are on a list for replacement. He said one hydrant had to be moved from the middle of what has become a parking lot since it was installed.

Some of the older hydrants weren't made with cut-off valves. Repairmen have to cut off the water service to the area they're in to work on them. That can affect people living in as many as five blocks surrounding the hydrant.

Mount Olive Fire Chief Steve Martin told the town board during a recent work session that, from a firefighter's point of view, the town can never have enough fire hydrants.

He said he expects inspectors from the state Department of Insurance to rate the town again soon. If the town's insurance rating is reduced, he said, the town's residents will have to pay more on their fire insurance.

"They'll come looking me," he told town commissioners, "and then I'll come looking you."

McDonald said he believes there can be too many fire hydrants, and it can be a drain on the town's budget. He said he once found a fire hydrant in the middle of a block, 100 feet away from the two on the corners.