First responders know that from the moment an emergency call comes in, every second is precious. But some Marion County firefighters are claiming that a new proposal from Grant Town officials could cost them time when saving lives, possibly putting residents in danger.
"Our #1 concern is the safety of the people we serve and the protection of their property. Anytime you add a mechanical step to the process of getting water from the hydrant to the house, then you add another risk for a problem," said Barry Bledsoe of the Grant Town Volunteer Fire Department.
Bledsoe has been a first responder for more than 30 years. When it comes to emergency apparatuses, he's seen all the bells and whistles, but on Monday, he was introduced to some things he hasn't seen: caps and wrenches.
"Out of 61 fire hydrants, we're only locking five, so I don't think it's a big concern because these hydrants will never be used," said Charlie Rosic, assistant water commissioner.
Fire chiefs from Fairview and Barrackville joined Bledsoe to express their disapproval, but town council says it's a protective measure it can take to prevent theft or damage to hydrants.
"Water trucks could pull right up and help themselves," said Rosic.
"If one gets opened and doesn't get closed properly, it freezes and cracks. and our hydrants won't work. The last thing anyone at this table wants to happen is a fire start and our hydrants not work," said Mayor Melanie Thompson.
But Bledsoe said the hydrants can't work without access to the proper tools.
"We'd need a wrench for every truck, and that's an expense that we don't have the money to do," said Bledsoe.
The water board says it will try to mark the affected hydrants so they can be identified as locked hydrants, but Thompson said she's willing to continue the conversation.
"Some of the points they brought up tonight we want to talk about. If they can't find that key, then we are endangering. We do have to protect our assets, and our water system is our asset, but we do have to protect everybody else," said Thompson.