Metal-detecting club helps find buried fire hydrants

Published: Jan. 25, 2017 at 4:48 PM PST
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Truckee Meadows Fire crews have been digging out fire hydrants in the higher elevations of their district for days now.

"We've been at this for three days and we'll probably be at it for another three days," said Fire Chief Charles Moore. "There's hundreds of hydrants out here and only so many of us."

Crews from Truckee Meadows Station 39 spent the afternoon clearing hydrants in the Galena Forest area Wednesday. They have GPS coordinates of all the hydrants but they're still hard to locate when they're buried under that much snow.

"We could dig for hours trying to find them and still be a few feet to the left or the right," Moore said. "Plus we have to wait for the plows to come through and do their work, they throw more snow on top of the hydrants and that makes them even harder to uncover. Even with the flags on top a lot of these hydrants are just going to be hard to find."

That's why the department got in touch with the Reno Prospecting and Detecting Club. The idea was to use their equipment to help pinpoint the exact location of these hydrants.

"It's a metal detector club, you name it, we find it," said Ules Bottoms.

Even with the specialized equipment, finding the hydrants proved a bit of a challenge.

"It's my first time doing fire hydrants and it's challenging in this deep snow but it's something I enjoy doing," Bottoms said.

But a little patience and hard work paid off; crews found and uncovered four hydrants in less than an hour. Now the heavy equipment can come in a fully clear those areas.

"We have to get them uncovered because as we go through the freeze and thaw cycles the water can get into the threads and make them virtually impossible to get off if they're frozen onto the barrel," Moore said. "So it's important to get all these hydrants clear and get the snow off so they're usable."

The Reno Prospecting and Detecting Club donated their time and expertise.

"We don't charge for this out here at all, we just like doing it," Bottoms said. "It felt great I could locate them, as deep as the snow is out here."

Fire crews urge residents to help them keep their neighborhood hydrants clear this winter.

"If you know where your hydrant is, we welcome people helping us dig out," Moore said.