Action News Jax Investigates: Thousands of fire hydrants found ‘deficient’ by JFRD

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation reveals thousands of Duval County fire hydrants have issues that need to be corrected every year- items like broken hardware, missing parts, and low water flow problems.

Action News Jax Ben Becker dug through new inspection reports and found out how JFRD and JEA work together to identify problems and make repairs.

“You know what low flow means,” Becker asked Miramir neighbor Catherine Raebil. “I know what it sounds like it means,” said Raebil. “It makes me a little nervous.”

JFRD inspects nearly 28,000 Duval County fire hydrants each year.

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It then delivers a report to JEA – which is responsible for keeping more than 23,000 publicly-owned hydrants in working order. As for the rest, they are privately owned and are the responsibility of the business.

Action News Jax obtained the results of all these inspections and found while the vast majority of hydrants were just fine – about 25,000 had no issues - but the rest had a laundry list of what JFRD calls “deficiencies.”

This includes broken bolts, valves and standpipes along with missing parts and a lot just needed a fresh coat of paint.

The problems are spread throughout the county for the most part.

But Action News Jax discovered certain neighborhoods had hydrants that were marked low flow – like Miramar and Lakeshore.

“Some hydrants have more gallons per minute then others depending on location,” says Randy Wyse who is President of the Jacksonville firefighters union.

Wyse says regular maintenance is part of the process the city goes through to make sure hydrants work effectively when firefighters arrive on scene.

Action News Jax wanted to better understand how these deficiencies could impact crews and neighbors.

“Those hydrants work 99.9 percent of the time,” says Wyse. “Every once in a while we get one that is dry for whatever reason.”

But he says JFRD is always prepared for that contingency. “Most trucks carry 500-600 gallons of water on it and we have tankers that respond to every structure fire in the city of Jacksonville.”

Becker emailed JEA to find out how much water hydrants put out and was told it ranges from 500 gallons per minute to 6,500.

To put that in perspective -- using that max flow rate -- it would take just under three minutes to fill a 16 by 32-foot pool -- which is one of the most common sizes.

JEA also addressed the issues of broken, missing and hard to operate parts that Action News Jax discovered and said in a statement:

“JEA creates a work ticket for repairs or replacement for each hydrant flagged “Out of Service” by JFRD. The functioning hydrants that have deficiencies noted yet still perform as designed are serviced in our preventative maintenance program.”

Wyse had high praise for the utility, and its continual effort to repair issues.

“JEA does a great job of keeping them up and keeping us supplied with water,” said Wyse.

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Miramar neighbor Rosemary Jackson shared that high hopes about the low flow problem.

“I have every confidence if something happened to my house fire trucks would bring in the appropriate amount of water they need,” said Jackson.

You may have noticed there are different colored fire hydrants throughout Jacksonville – it turns out, they actually mean something. Yellow is a public hydrant, and red is private.

Some cities do visually color code based on gallons per minute, including orange, green, blue and purple.

When Becker asked JEA why that’s not the case here,  he was told that JEA and JFRD do it internally through a networked system and that information is passed on to firefighters every time they are dispatched to an emergency.

You can see the results of fire hydrant inspections in your neighborhood here.