BOZEMAN, Mont. - Keeping fire hydrants clear of snow during the Bozeman winter is a full-time job. Just ask Superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department John Alston.
"We are responsible for over 2,200 fire hydrants," He says.
Alston explained keeping the snow clear is critical, "So our firefighters aren't having to climb over a snowbank at a house fire."
It's easy to know what has to be cleared after a big storm, but some hydrants can get buried again.
Alston tell us, "Folks that are plowing their own driveways or are plowing parking lots, taking snow and moving it up against the hydrant."
That creates a couple problems. Crews don't know just what's been buried.
Bozeman Water and Sewer employee Eric Anderson says he once "Had to take a metal detector to find them."
And neither do people. Anderson says, "We find problems, ones that got hit."
Repairing hydrants costs time and money.
"It's going to take about the better part of 4 to 6 hours to repair." He says, "a total, full hydrant replacement takes about two days."
A fire hydrant repair can range anywhere from around $200 for a simple fix to over $5,000 for a full replacement.
Alston elaborates -- "It just depends on the circumstances, how deep the hydrant is, what other utilities are around the hydrant."
The city spent nearly $20,000 clearing and repairing fire hydrants this year, more than double last year's cost.
But Alston stresses it's an important part of keeping the city safe this time of year and says residents can help.
"If you hit a hydrant, please call the city shop complex, if it's after hours call the police department nonemergency number and let us know," he urges.
To call and report a broken or damaged hydrant, call the Bozeman City Shop Complex: (406) 582-3200 or Bozeman Police Department nonemergency line: (406) 582-2000.