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Fire, water officials urge residents to clear space around fire hydrants

Fire and water officials are urging Montana residents to clear a space surrounding fire hydrants.

Heavy snowcover and below-freezing temperatures have created a natural barrier that's complicating firefighting efforts. More than half of Bozeman's fire hydrants are covered in snow, according to water and sewer superintendent John Alston.

Alston told NBC Montana of the city's 2,600 hydrants, only about 1,000 are clear of snow. Bozeman Fire batallion chief Jason Kolman said the snow makes it difficult for firefighters to fill their hoses with water.

"We carry about one thousand gallons of water on the truck, so depending on how much water we need to get flowing right away, it could take some time and there could be a delay there," Kolman said.

Kolman and Alston are asking for the community's help to clear hydrants of snow. They recommend creating a 3-foot radius around the hydrant, then making a path to the street.

"Some of these hydrants are totally buried," Alston said. "We're literally running out of space."

Alston said even without snowfall, plows are pushing snow on top of hydrants.

Alston told NBC Montana his department has been trying to clear the hydrants of snow, but their plate has been full. He said plowing roads and repairing water main breaks have taken priority. The city's growth is also playing a role, according to Alston.

"We're growing faster than any other city in Montana and so we're adding infrastructure at very accelerated rates," Alston said. "So, what took us maybe two weeks five years ago is gonna take us three or four weeks now."

Alston said he's seen the growth firsthand. He told NBC Montana when he first started with the department, there were 782 hydrants throughout the city.

Thirty years later, that number has grown to more than 2,600. More people living in Bozeman has led to a higher call volume for the fire department, according to Kolman. He said this small task will go a long way for the department.

"It could be critical," Kolman said. "Every minute counts in firefighting."

Alston told NBC Montana the water and sewer division is hoping to have the city's hydrants cleared in two weeks.

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