Movement to 'free the fire hydrants' of snow grows in metro

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After only few of minutes of shoveling, another hydrant is free of snow. Those minutes could make the difference for firefighters responding to an emergency.

“The life you save could be your own, it could be your family’s, it could be your neighbor’s,” said Fred Melo of St. Paul.

Precious time saves precious lives. The motto is one Melo knows all too well.

“When I was a kid my house burned down,” he said. “It was traumatic. It was tough. I had to run through a burning house and pull out family members. I don’t want to experience that again, I don’t want anyone else to experience that again.”

That’s why Melo spent his Saturday clearing hydrants in his St. Paul neighborhood and spreading the word on Twitter using #FreeTheFireHydrants. Others, like Sam Benshoof joined in, boasting of freeing at least seven hydrants.

In St. Paul, there are 7,000 hydrants, which in fire emergencies quickly turn into critical lifelines.

“Fire doubles in size every minute, so if it takes us a couple minutes to find the hydrants, a couple minutes to dig it out - four to five, maybe even six minutes can lapse before we’re actually hooked up and getting water out of that hydrant,” said Captain Roy Mokosso of the St. Paul Fire Department.

The trend rippled across to the other side of the river in Eden Prairie, where retired firefighter Jay Wood also cleared a dozen hydrants this weekend.

“That’s just going to help them to get the job done quicker to save people,” said Wood.

The movement is also spreading through Wisconsin, where the Oshkosh Fire Department posted a video to its Facebook page to encourage more people to become hydrant heroes. 

With weeks of winter still left on the calendar, Melo hopes it’s a practice people continue the rest of the season.

“There’s more snow coming, get out clear some hydrants!” said Melo.