About 24 fire hydrants in the city of Tomah are accessible thanks to members and leaders of Cub Scout Pack 279.
On March 2 and 3, the pack volunteered about 40 hours of community service cleaning off and around the fire hydrants.
Pack leader Scott White said he got the idea to clear off the hydrants from a fellow Boy Scout Troop in La Crosse.
“I thought it was a great idea ... the fire hydrants in town were just covered after so much snow,” he said. “I put the idea to the other leaders, and they all thought it was a good thing to do, so we put a plan together to meet on Saturday and get something done.”
On March 2 only a couple of the pack members participated, but about 10 scouts joined on March 3, White said. The pack members worked in one- or two-hour shifts with parents and pack leaders assisting.
White said it’s important to maintain fire hydrants because it gives firefighters quick access in the event of a fire.
“It reduces the time it would take a fireman to dig and hook up a hose and then fight a fire,” he said. “It’s a life-saving ... preventative safety measure.”
Tomah Fire Department chief Tim Adler agrees. His department has been forced to shovel out around fire hydrants when a fire was ongoing. He said it was time wasted that firefighters could have used to fight the blaze.
“It’s very important, especially when you get a snowfall that has a lot of moisture in it, because then it gets cold and the snow turns to almost a wall of ice,” he said. “In the winter months we staff our engines with shovels on them because it’s hard to get them clean. It’s a lot to maintain them all, so we always appreciate the people that clear around them.”
Adler asks that anyone who shovels around a fire hydrant clear a three-foot by three-foot area as extra space is needed to hook up hoses.
There was a lot of digging to do because of the amount of snow Tomah received in February, White said.
“Because of the depth of snow, every time a plow comes through the hydrants get buried more and are further away from the street,” he said. “We had to shovel out a significant distance for some of those hydrants.”
Not all of the snow removal was done by the scouts, White said. Parents and leaders went in with machinery and loosened up the heavy stuff, leaving younger scouts, ages six to 11, to shovel.
However, the project was more than just shoveling snow.
“We’re more teaching them about community service and involvement for the betterment of others rather than themselves,” White said. “So did the Scouts move any enormous amount of snow? Probably not, but it’s not about that.”