Despite progress, Detroit still has more than 300 broken fire hydrants

Investigation revealed more than 1K broken fire hydrants in January

DETROIT – Residents of Detroit expressed outrage and disgust after a Local 4 investigation revealed that there were 1,300 broken fire hydrants in the city.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown said the city had a goal of fixing all of the broken fire hydrants in 30 days. A month passed, but more than 600 fire hydrants were listed as inoperable.

City officials said the issue would be resolved in two weeks, but as of Wednesday morning, there were still more than 300 inoperable fire hydrants in Detroit.

On Wednesday firefighter sources sent Local 4 notes of a fire run that happened on Feb. 17. Detroit firefighters were called to a house fire on King Street that resulted in one person dead and two injured. Now we are wondering if the crew who arrived at the scene didn’t have to stretch their lines to the next working hydrant, would that have made a difference?

John Roach, Mayor Mike Duggan’s spokesperson, told Local 4 that the city’s records show that the hydrant in question during the fire on King Street was inspected by Ladder Seven on Jan. 27. Roach stated that the hydrant was determined to be operational at the time of the inspection. He also mentioned that the fire department will be going out to reinspect this hydrant to determine its current operational status.

Read: 1 dead, 2 injured in house fire on Detroit’s east side

Inoperable fire hydrants in Detroit on March 1, 2023. (WDIV)

Despite progress, hundreds of broken fire hydrants remain

While the city has made progress, there are still hundreds of broken fire hydrants in the city.

It was a shock to many when Local 4 started uncovering how bad the situation really was. How could Detroit have more than 1,300 broken fire hydrants?

This is what Brown told Local 4 in January, “What we say to them is we give them tablets, and the tablets on the way to the fire have the operable fire hydrants and the ones that are working and so you know which one isn’t working when you show up at that fire connect to one that is.”

Brown said the fire hydrants would get fixed in a month. When Local 4 checked back a month later, there were still nearly 700 broken fire hydrants.

One of them was shooting water into the street for days. Until Local 4 called the city and they finally turned the water off.

Tracking progress of fire hydrant repairs

City officials said they needed two more weeks. So Local 4 waited and then went back to check.

There was a string of broken fire hydrants in one neighborhood on Detroit’s east side and it does appear the city has made repairs in that area. Mr. Walker lives in that neighborhood. He said the city is doing a good job there.

Local 4 also returned to the city’s southwest side where there were broken fire hydrants. Those still haven’t been repaired. A map Local 4 was able to view showed 43 broken hydrants in one area.

Brown was not willing to speak to Local 4 about the issue, but he did release the following joint statement with DFD Interim Executive FIre Commissioner Charles Simms:

“The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) maintains fire hydrants while the Detroit Fire Department (DFD) inspects the hydrants annually and uses them for fire suppression. Hydrants are also used for construction and demolition purposes by securing a permit through DWSD.

“With 12 crews, DWSD got through the backlog of repairs following the DFD inspections that ended in early February. Crews have been repairing more than 300 hydrants per week, working 6 days a week since late January. A leak repair contract was used to add four contractor crews to the eight DWSD crews.

“Currently, there are 382 inoperable hydrants out of 29,910. That means, 98.7% of all hydrants in the city of Detroit are fully functioning. In any major city in America, there will always be a level of hydrant outages due to accidents when cars or trucks hit hydrants, tampering, and maintenance. This is a similar fact to streetlights in any city, whereby there will always be some outages.

“Detroit has more density of fire hydrants than any other major Midwest city. Our counterpart cities have fire hydrants 500-feet apart, while in Detroit hydrants are 300-feet apart. DFD rigs have 1,500 feet of fire hose. Therefore, if a hydrant is out of service for repair, they can quickly hook up to the next available hydrant. Firefighters are able to see available hydrants using a mobile-friendly dashboard.”

Previous coverage: Read all of our previous coverage on broken fire hydrants in Detroit

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.