Local 2 Investigates: Houston fire hydrant investigation

It takes on average 18 days to fix a hydrant

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The City of Houston takes, on average, 17.9 days to fix a fire hydrant, Local 2 Investigates has learned.

"That's exceptionally reasonable just consider our magnitude and size," said Houston Fire Captain Ruy Lozano.

The City of Houston's Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining the city's 58,264 hydrants in cooperation with the Houston Fire Department.

"We test them and they fix them," Lozano said.

Local 2 Investigates obtained the city's fire hydrant maintenance repair data for Jan 1, 2010 thru July 15, 2013.

We found 591 hydrants were reported to need some degree of repair during that period. Click here to see where they were located

One-hundred percent of the fire hydrants we examined have now been fixed, according to the data we were provided.

Problems ranged from low water pressure to damaged parts to missing hydrants.

"Missing hydrants usually don't mean they've vanished, it usually means the serial number doesn't match, it's been miscategorized or replaced," said Alvin Wright, a Public Works spokesman.

While most hydrants on the spreadsheet we examined appeared to be fixed within a matter of weeks once the problem was reported, there were some notable exceptions.

A "broken-off" hydrant in 3300 block of Lake Stream Drive in Humble took city crews 242 days to fix.

Another hydrant with low water pressure in the 8600 block of Running Bird Lane in southwest Houston took 246 days to repair. That fire hydrant was located just a block away from a home that caught fire in July. A Houston firefighter was injured in the fire.

HFD reported that a malfunctioning hydrant and low water pressure hampered their efforts.

Why would it take eight months to fix a fire hydrant?

"It depends on what the repair is," Wright said. "It could be parts, it could be other hydrants need to be repaired faster. As long as there are hydrants still functioning in the area, we have competent fire protection."

Public Works has four three-person crews working on fire hydrant repair every weekday, covering every part of our fire protection area, Wright said.

The City of Houston maintains the highest fire protection rating in the country, ahead of Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, according the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Insurance Services Organization, a risk assessment company, rates the City of Houston a "1" on a ten-point scale for fire protection.

The same Public Protection Classification system rates Dallas a "2." Austin rates a "2." San Antonio rates a "2/10" because coverage varies in more remote areas of the Alamo City. 

Fire suppression, or the number of functioning fire hydrants. plays a significant role in determining the rating, Lozano said.

City of Houston residents are encouraged to call 311 when they spot a fire hydrant problem. You can also report fire hydrant trouble online.

If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tipline at (713) 223-TIPS (8477). Copyright 2013 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.