Escaping the summer heat with a cool blast of water from an open fire hydrant is a cherished memory for many city kids.
In Philadelphia, however, turning hydrants into sprinklers isn’t allowed. At all. Ever. If that doesn’t jibe with your experience, makes sense — it was around 10 years ago that the city changed its policy.
But you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you went searching for answers online.
As recently as June 18 of this year, a page on the Streets Dept. website stated you could obtain a permit to open up a fire hydrant for fun.
Per the site, if you were throwing a block party on a hot day, all you had to do was give the Fire Department a call, and they’d attach a sprinkler cap to your local hydrant to help you cool off.
In your dreams, Philly. Turns out that was just an oversight.
City officials confirmed to Billy Penn on Monday morning that the note about fire hydrant sprinklers was indeed listed on the site in error, and that they’d correct it ASAP. By Tuesday morning, the note was gone.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Fire Department came together to eliminate the fire hydrant sprinkler program, establishing a new policy that restricted the use of hydrants to city personnel and approved contractors.
Per a city release from 10 years ago, the recreational use of fire hydrants is “a bad idea that wastes water, money and manpower, and puts the health and lives of hundreds, sometimes even thousands at risk.”
Philly cautioned its residents: hydrants spew water so fast that they can cause property damage, injury or even death. Apparently the water pressure is so powerful it could blow a small child directly into oncoming traffic. Yikes.
So if the hydrants are that dangerous, you’d think it would’ve been top priority to remove all mention of recreational use from city websites. Guess not.
More than 5 hydrant openings a day
Most Philadelphians don’t bother with asking for a permit anyway.
Last summer, between May 15 and Sept. 15, PWD received 669 requests to shut off fire hydrants that had been illegally opened. That’s an average of more than five hydrant openings each day.
Some days were more intense than others. On June 13 and July 20 of last year, the department received a record number of requests: 26 on each day alone.
“It should be noted that these were the hydrants which were reported or discovered by PWD,” Laura Copeland, a PWD spokesperson, told Billy Penn. “There are unfortunately many more hydrants which are illegally operated but go unreported.”
If you want to jump on that illegal-hydrant-opening bandwagon, you’d better be careful. Per Copeland, if the city catches you, you’ll be fined between $100 and $300.
Stay cool, Philly. But try not to break the law doing it.