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SCOTIA: Snowed-in hydrants impede safety

With all the snow plowing and shoveling being done lately, it is sometimes easy to forget to dig out fire hydrants, which can be a very costly mistake, said Jim Harmes, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

Help us prevent these needless tragedies. Help us get the word out to those communities that we serve, said Harmes.

Locally, village of Scotia Fire Chief Richard Kasko said the village is trying to get the message of the potential hazard out by word of mouth, fliers and through the media. Kasko said that, as an instructor at Schenectady County Community College, he stresses the im-portance of keeping hydrants visible in his fire prevention course.

"From a fire-safety standpoint, I have noticed a lot of fire hydrants buried. We have been shoveling out hydrants, starting with high-risk areas," said Kasko.

He said that if each person can do his or her own part, it could really make a difference in saving a person's life.

"Homeowners and business owners can be a tremendous help to us by cleaning around their hydrants," said Kasko.

The New York State Property Maintenance Code states: "A safe continuous and unobstructed path of travel shall be provided from any point in a building or structure to the public way."

Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for the National Fire Protection Association, said there are many ways to prevent fire during the winter months when many people opt for different sources to heat their homes.

"Life-threatening risks remain high, and focusing on safety can prove to be a life-saving decision," said Carli.

Some winter fire-safety tips include turning off space heaters whenever a room is unoccupied, making sure fireplaces have a sturdy screen, using proper fuel for a liquid fueled space heater, and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Other departments, such as District 2 in Rotterdam, have posted notices letting the public know to keep snow away from hydrants.

Kasko said a related fire safety issue is the "Knox box," which is a locked box holding keys to a building. Only the fire department can access the keys, which they can use to enter the building in the event of an emergency. Like hydrants, these boxes must be clear of snow that is blown or plowed high.

"Using common sense and taking the small measures really add up to keeping our communities safe," said Kasko.""

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