Loyalty to the job, it's the best way to describe how 14 South Bend fire recruits spent Wednesday proving they have what it takes for the job.
Half way through their 20 week academy program, the recruits worked with firefighters from across the city. The idea came after instructors cancelled class, freeing up the recruit’s day so they could dig the city out, one fire hydrant at a time.
The recruits hit city roads dressed from head-to-toe in their fire gear, but made sure to trade out their axes for snow shovels.
South Bend has nearly 5,000 fire hydrants or 400 per new recruit. Of course it would be near impossible for them to hit every one, but fire officials say each hydrant cleared is a step in the right direction.
It may seem harsh, it could also appear to be a waste of time, but fire officials would strongly disagree. That's because in the minute or two it could take fire fighters to clear a covered hydrant, a home fire could quadruple in size. Additionally, if the fire were to be at night time, a snowy hydrant may be difficult to spot. And no matter how much training or brawn firefighters bring along, water is the key to fighting a blaze.
"If you have a fire hydrant in front of your house, please go out and clear it out, it's for your advantage. Then if we have to come, we won't be hampered by not being able to get water to put the fire out,” South Bend Fire Chief Howard Buchanon said.
Fire officials recommend digging a three foot radius around your hydrant and if possible, a path to the nearest street or sidewalk.
Although the city cannot fine residents for refusing to help out, officials say it is in your best interest because the hydrant on your street is there to protect you and your home.
If you are disabled or elderly and unable to shovel the snow from your hydrant, you can call the city's non-emergency number and someone will come and clear it for you.
South Bend’s non-emergency number is: 574-235-9255.