With snow coming down Thursday night, a West York Fire Co. utility truck slowly made its way up the hill on South Highland Avenue and pulled over near a large snowbank.

Lt. Tom Dunn and two other firefighters jumped from the truck and made their way to a fire hydrant encased in snow.

With only the top of the yellow fire plug visible in the blanket of white, they set to work with shovels clearing snow and digging a trench to West Poplar Terrace.

The work was all done in preparation in case the firefighters are sent back to the area for a fire.

If a hydrant isn't cleared of snow, responding firefighters would have to do it themselves at a time when quickness is essential.

"We can throw it (a hose) in, hook up and go," said Ryan Beavers, a firefighter and president of the department.

Freezing: Clearing hydrants of snow also decreases the chances of their freezing up, said Chief Ed Washington.

If a hydrant isn't cleared of snow, firefighters first arriving on the scene of a fire would have to rely on the water in their trucks until an additional crew can clear snow and connect to the hydrant, he said.

One of West York's trucks has a 500 gallon water tank, and while that seems like a lot of water, it goes fast when fighting a blaze, the chief said.

"If you're running full bore, you get four to five minutes max," Washington said.


Make a path: About seven members of the department met up Thursday and divided into three crews before setting out to clear hydrants. Washington said there are roughly 100 hydrants situated about every other block in the borough.

With three firefighters at work, Dunn and his crew made short work of clearing the snow and moved onto the next one.

Geoffrey Myers, one the firefighters out with Dunn, put a post on the department's Facebook page asking residents to clear hydrants when they are out shovelling their sidewalks.

York City and York County are also asking residents to clear snow from around fire hydrants. City officials said snow should be cleared from a three-foot radius around a hydrant and there should also be an path leading from the street to it.

David Michaels, chief of the York City Fire/Rescue Services, said he saw a few hydrants had been cleared by residents when he was driving in the city on Thursday.

Some West York residents also heeded its fire department's advice, Myers said.

"We saw a few that were cleared," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.