Keeping Clear Access To Saugatuck, Douglas, Township Fire Hydrants Is "A Major Issue" That Needs To Be Resolved, Say Fire Officials
“A major issue still to be addressed deals with (fire) hydrant accessibility during the winter months. This will require a cooperative effort by all governmental units, as no one unit has the resources to cover the entire district which has approximately 600 fire hydrants,” according to a July Saugatuck Township Fire District Board summary.
On a related matter, the fire department also is working on putting highly visible markers on all the tri-community’s (Cities of Saugatuck and Douglas and Saugatuck Township) hydrants, allowing emergency crews to easily find them even at night.
The goal is to finish before the snow flies this fall and the fire department has already made good progress having erected 317 markers so far: 115 in Saugatuck, 59 in Douglas and 143 in the township, noted Saugatuck City Council Member Jane Verplank, also a member of the fire department board.
The issue of accessibility, defined by the fire code as three feet of unobstructed access surrounding the hydrant at all times, has been ongoing for years, Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik told The Local Observer newspaper Tuesday.
The department and the governmental units ask homeowners to voluntarily help in the effort, but there is one major hurdle, as explained by Janik: “About 60 percent of our homes are second homes.”
And even if there was some kind of regulation requiring homeowners to clear fire hydrants on or by their property, it would be difficult to enforce, say municipal officials.
“Ultimately, it is the municipalities that own the hydrants,” said Janik as to where rests the ultimate responsibility for keeping clear access to the hydrants.
Allegan County jail inmates, working on county debt crews, do help, but they are not always a reliable source because they are not always available and don’t work in cold temperatures, he said.
“We can do it, but it would be a matter of trying to figure out how I am going to pay for additional labor. We have no heavy equipment either,” said Janik, who added he is looking forward to working together with the municipalities to ensure access at all times.
Meanwhile, Saugatuck Township officials say their three-pronged approach to dealing with the issue has so far been successful.
“We have done it in two and a half days. We use the county debt crew, volunteers, and a private contractor, and it has not been cost-prohibitive,” said Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan.