A pair of plumbing Picassos who recently painted over fire hydrants in the West Lane area have found critics at the Fire Department and water company.
“Whatever color hydrants are in the rest of the world, in Ridgefield hydrants are that nice bright color from head to toe,” said fire Chief Heather Burford, referring to the yellow that water company Aquarion paints its hydrants.
The repainting was a well-intentioned beautification attempt, but it could be dangerous, Chief Burford said.
The repainter even rewrote Aquarion’s hand-written hydrant numbers on each one after painting over it. He also made sure not to paint the flags meant to make the hydrants visible in snow.
A few weeks ago, “we were notified by a homeowner in the area of the West Lane Deli,” Chief Burford said. “They called to see if we were aware that there was a gentleman and a younger person out painting hydrants different colors.”
The department wasn’t.
“Whoever did this was very careful, and they did a nice job, but it’s really inappropriate and dangerous for us because we are not expecting a black and red hydrant, which I can tell you right now would not show up well at night. We could be losing precious moments.”
In all, they found nine hydrants that had been jazzed up — nine hydrants that Aquarion had to repaint yellow.
“Our community pays about $321,000 a year for hydrant maintenance and usage,” Chief Burford said.
“But what that does is it ensures Aquarion maintains our hydrants, and that includes flowing the hydrants — taking the cap off, letting the water flow out,” the chief said, with a gauge to make sure pressure is adequate. The department gets reports on the pressure of flows at each pump.
“They are maintaining the valves by opening things all the way up; they’re greased at that point. Hydrants that need to be replaced are replaced.”
The other hydrants are inspected, but don’t get the full tune-up.
Occasionally it means cutting back brush around the hydrant.
Hydrants should stand “alone and proud so that we can see it when we need to see it,” Chief Burford said. “We aren’t as sophisticated yet as to plug all these things into a GPS and GIS system. … Certainly we have maps, we have directions based on what dispatch is telling us … but when it gets to that final 500 feet, you are doing that visually.”
“I have encouraged Aquarion to spend a little bit more time here in Ridgefield painting hydrants,” she said, even listing “priority” hydrants for Aquarion to repaint when homeowners contact the department about a hydrant that could use some TLC.
“I do understand that some of them have gotten a little bit … less artsy,” she said. “I certainly appreciate the endeavor.”