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Broken Fire Hydrants Becoming a Big Issue in Detroit

Fire alarm
Fires in Detroit have become increasingly worse and dangerous, as a number of fire hydrants in the city are broken. The neglect of these fire hydrants seriously affects the efficiency of the Detroit Fire Department, which is one of the busiest in the country.

A local man by the name of Steve Neavling founded a website called the Motor City Muckraker, and he is now fighting with city hall to fix this issue. He is using his site to track every fire in the city this year, and the biggest find has been the broken fire hydrants around the city. Because of these broken fire hydrants, fires grow into more uncontrollable situations while firefighters search for a working hydrant.

There are areas right in downtown Detroit and its historic districts that have two or more blocks in a row with no working fire hydrants. By the time firefighters were to get to one that works and set up the equipment needed to reach back to the house, the building would likely already be a total loss. This is a violation of federal laws, which dictate that hydrants must be located within 500 feet of a house, not to mention the extreme danger it poses.

When Neavling brought this issue to the town hall, they told him there were only 70 broken hydrants in the city. Skeptical, he conducted his own research. After surveying 15% of the 30,000 hydrants in Detroit, he found 279 broken hydrants. If you were to take that number and use it to estimate the number throughout the whole city, it works out to an estimated 1,800 broken hydrants.

An even bigger issue within Neavling’s research is the stubbornness of City Hall, which will not admit that there is an issue, nor help him with his research. He filed a Freedom of Information request, which was denied because the city said releasing that information would be too dangerous. If arsonists knew where the broken fire hydrants were, they would have the perfect target. Now, Neavling is suing them for the information.

The poorest neighborhoods are the ones most at risk from this issue.

Homeowners are encouraged to practice good fire safety in their homes. Make sure you don’t leave anything plugged in, and if you haven’t replaced your smoke detector lately, you probably should. They should be replaced based on the recommendation of the manufacturer, or at least once every 10 years. Families should have an evacuation plan in place, including a location to meet up after leaving the home during a fire or other emergency, and they should practice evacuating.

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