Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So where's the fire hydrant?

I hope you never have to ask this question.

Early on Monday morning, we heard something at approximately 1:30 AM, got up, and looked out the window. We didn't see anything except a car parked in front of our neighbors house, but it didn't look like anything was wrong, so we went back to bed. The next morning, we saw a piece of a bumper on our sidewalk. When we went out to look, there appeared to be a lot of debris on the road. And the fire hydrant was missing!

As it turned out, it wasn't actually missing. It was in my front yard, somewhat embedded in my front porch.

Here are some pictures showing the damage: 2278384489_0111d13a51

The hydrant hit the corner of my front porch, damaging the clapboards on two sides of the house. It completely destroyed the gutter running along the front of the house, and also appeared to have buried itself into the ground right where I built my french drain. I am not looking forward to digging that up again.

I proceeded to crawl under the porch and this is what I found:

2278384535_995bbbfffeAs you can see, the brick column supporting my porch has shifted significantly. Contractors have been coming to the house to see what needs to be done to repair this.

"But Ian," you say. "Doesn't a large high-pressure fountain of water spurt out of the sidewalk when a fire hydrant is knocked off it's mounting bracket, just like the car chases I saw on TV when I was a kid?" The answer, remarkably, is no. Fire hydrants are now designed to shear off cleanly when hit, becoming deadly house-damaging missiles. The coupling that connects the hydrant to the water main seals off when it breaks, so no fountain appears and nothing looks wrong when you're stumbling around in the middle of the night trying to figure out what the heck you just heard.

Thanks to the wonder of Google Maps, I am able to show you the scene of the crime before the accident:


I walked off the distance from where the hydrant used to be to where it landed, it was over 43 feet. Here's a picture that gives you a better idea of how far the hydrant traveled:


The police car you see in the shot is the officer driving away with our accident report. The estimates aren't in yet, but I guess this is going to be a costly home insurance claim. I still can't believe the driver got away with this.

Even though this has been a very large hassle to deal with, I'm very glad that the hydrant didn't kill someone or end up on the couch in my living room.

Update: The hydrant is back - my wife reported that the Department of Public Works sent a crew of five guys to our corner who installed a brand new fire hydrant.

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