Some Iowa communities are seeing one of the snowiest-ever winters and with all the plowing, shoveling, and drifting, many tens of thousands of potential-life-saving fire hydrants are buried or they’re inaccessible.

Greg Buelow, the public safety spokesman for Cedar Rapids, is urging people in the city and statewide to “adopt” their nearest fire plug — and dig it out.

“What we’re asking is for people to take just a few minutes, go outside and locate the fire hydrant closest to your home or business and adopt it yourself or work with your neighbors to make sure it’s clear,” Buelow says. “We recommend at least three feet in all directions around that fire hydrant.”

While you’re at it, also clear a path from the road to the hydrant because when seconds count, your extra effort could help firefighters to save your own home.
“If they’re having to dig out a fire hydrant or locate a fire hydrant or stomp through the snow to get to the fire hydrant,” Buelow says, “they’re losing precious time that they could be using to actually extinguish the fire.”

Some critics might complain that clearing the snow from fire hydrants is something city crews should be doing, but Buelow disputes that. “Cedar Rapids has 5,000 public fire hydrants and about 1,600 private fire hydrants, that’s hydrants that are located on private businesses or on private streets,” Beulow says. “There’s no way that city employees or firefighters are going to be able to go out and clear 6,600 fire hydrants.

It’s just not practical.” Since the number of house fires typically rise during the winter months, Buelow says this issue is of particular concern.