Local

Hot Weather Means Open Hydrants In Chicago

Kids play in the spray of water from an open fire hydrant on the South Side on July 21, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

Kids play in the spray of water from an open fire hydrant on the South Side on July 21, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

Mike Krauser Mike Krauser
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Updated 06/20/12 – 8:47 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The city’s Water Department has been flooded in recent days with reports of open fire hydrants as people try to cool off amid the recent heat wave.

The department said more than 500 hydrants have been opened since Monday, and that number continued to grow on Wednesday. On Wednesday alone, 92 hydrants had been opened by mid-afternoon.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, at 70th Street and Dante Avenue in the Grand Crossing neighborhood, you might get a free car wash. A hydrant was open Wednesday morning, with two tires and a couple of boards to provide the spray, and a lone kid cooling off.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

A few blocks away at 67th Street and Dorchester Avenue, another hydrant was open with a couple of men standing nearby.

The Fire Department does not like open hydrants at all, as they draw down the water pressure.

But the Department of Water Management is in charge of shutting them off, and as the reports come in, crews go in and shut them off – often with a police escort in case angry residents try to stop them.

When a Water Department worker showed up at 18th Place and Hoyne Avenue on Wednesday to close a hydrant, one kid actually pulled against the hydrant key to try to keep it open.

“I need some more. No, no, no!” the kid shouted.

Water Department worker Homer Padilla said he can’t count how many times he’s closed open hydrants.

“I’ve got too many right now, maybe keep going through all night too,” he said.

He arrived to find kids drenching themselves in a spray of water in several neighborhoods.

The problem is, the spray of water that so many people seek out to cool off also conceals a real danger. The spray of water can be blinding for passing drivers, who could accidentally hit someone playing in the spray of water.

It’s something the crowds usually don’t think about when city workers show up to shut off open hydrants. Many people display their displeasure with the hydrant closings, so the Water Department workers sometimes have police officers nearby, just in case.

“I know it’s hot, they want to cool off. But some people get so angry because we shut off the hydrant, and they don’t understand,” Padilla said.

Padilla said the city has tried installing locks on hydrants, but people still find a way to open them.