SAN ANTONIO — A fire can tear through a home or business quickly, making every second to fight it vital. KENS 5 has found out why hundreds of fire hydrants critical to battling a fire are out of service annually in San Antonio.
Each year, San Antonio firefighters check 30,000 fire hydrants across the city.
"All 54 stations, on all three shift, go out and they open them up,” said San Antonio Fire Department spokesperson Joe Arrington. “They flow the hydrants, they grease them, do what they need to do (to) make sure it’s working.”
During the 2019 fiscal year – from October through April – firefighters found a total of about 685 fire hydrants broken, inaccessible or missing.
"That’s less than 2% of the total hydrants in San Antonio," Arrington said. "So it’s not alarming."
When KENS 5 brought up that a homeowner facing a dangerous blaze and with a nearby hydrant out of service might feel differently, Arrington emphasized that firefighters come prepared.
"It's not alarming because we carry water on our trucks," he said. "We bring water to the fire, so we will make an initial attack with the water we have on our trucks."
The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) oversees hydrant repairs, and Manager Anne Hayden says it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
"But we are certainly there checking it within the day," she said.
Hayden added that some fixes can take longer based on the problem. According to her, more than 500 fire hydrants have been repaired out of more than 600 reported by the fire department.
She says that, at times, the fire department system will not reflect the repairs immediately.
A report released by SAWS states 143 fire hydrants are considered blank, which means it has been relocated, can’t be accessed because it’s in a restricted area or in a construction area, it's inactive, or it needs minor repairs.
Arrington says the bigger issue lies with property owners.
"The alarming thing to us is the preventable things," he said. "You know, the people that are putting hydrants inside bushes, or painting them, or putting them behind gates, you know, building decorative things around them."
He says SAFD hopes to upgrade the fire hydrant-tracking system so they can share a database with SAWS, leading to quicker electronic logging of hydrant fixes.
If there is a fire hydrant near you that is broken or needs to be repaired, you can report it by calling 3-1-1 or using the 311 app.