The city of Toledo will begin Wednesday to paint red the tops of all fire hydrants connected to 4-inch water mains, the Finkbeiner administration said Monday.
Inadequate water volume from a 4-inch line hydrant initially was blamed in part for the loss of Barbie and Herman Harrison's home at 1945 Mount Vernon Ave. on June 9.
Since that fire in Toledo's historic Westmoreland neighborhood, attention has focused on the city's system of nearly 10,000 hydrants.
Firefighters complained about low water volume while fighting the fire. When they went to a second hydrant they found it was broken, with water gushing out of its base.
It turned out the first hydrant was on a low-volume, 4-inch main, yet firefighters didn't attach to a hydrant on a higher-volume, 6-inch main about two blocks away until more than 90 minutes after arriving at the fire.
Utilities Commissioner Donald Moline told Toledo City Council's environment, utilities, and public service committee yesterday that the city inspects every hydrant yearly.
But this month, the city's Department of Public Utilities was unable to produce records that show which hydrants have been tested, and activity reports showed that the city is not inspecting every hydrant even once a year.
According to summary activity reports provided by the Division of Water Distribution, 5,554 hydrants were maintained in 2007 and 9,130 in 2008.
Terry Russeau, acting manager of water distribution, said four city workers are assigned to test hydrants every day, but added that they could be called to other duty in emergencies.
A total of 8.75 miles of city streets scattered across Toledo are served by hydrants on 4-inch mains.
They have been marked by a green stripe, but that is not easily visible to firefighters after dark, so they will be repainted, Mr. Moline said.
The Department of Public Utilities has replaced three 4-inch hydrants on Mount Vernon with hydrants on 6-inch mains.
Colleen Kilbert, president of the Westmoreland Neighborhood Association, said she is not convinced the water supply to the entire neighborhood is sufficient because some hydrants are still attached to smaller water mains.
Fire Chief Mike Wolever said the department rarely encounters water-flow problems throughout the city.
"I don't have a problem. We are fighting fires every day and we are getting water on these fires," Chief Wolever said. "We fight fires every day and we don't see bad flow every day. We get good water 99.9 percent of the time."