Photo of Aussie front yard shows dangerous mistake residents keep making

Firefighters say Aussies residents are responsible for the hydrants on their property with many often hidden.

Photos taken in the front yard of an Aussie home show the potentially life-threatening mistake many residents are making — and it could be the difference between saving a life or not, firefighters warn.

Superintendent Adam Dewberry with NSW Fire and Rescue told Yahoo News Australia fire hydrants in Aussie streets are regularly covered by grass and weeds, and they're often full of dirt because they're not properly maintained, making locating them during a fire a difficult task.

In NSW, hydrants are located a couple of feet underground usually under a footpath, road, nature strip or in the front of a residential property. They have a cover known as a surface fitting which should be easily visible in an emergency, but the problem is they're often not.

Fire hydrants dug up in NSW front yard after grass grew over it.
Fire hydrants in Aussie streets are often hidden by grass or filled with dirt meaning firefighters can have a difficult time finding them during a fire (pictured: property in Finley, NSW). Source: Fire and Rescue NSW Station 293 Finley

Homeowners asked to keep fire hydrants clear

Photos shared by the state's fire department show a hidden fire hydrant that had been dug up in Finley — a town in the Murray region of NSW — by firefighters during a regular check, despite it not being part of their job to do so.

"The occupants, the homeowners need to just keep them clear because it's not only protecting their homes, but it's also protecting their neighbours, homes, and also commercial premises as well," Dewberry explained to Yahoo.

"Even though we carry 2000 litres of water on the truck, we still need water from the mains to put out a fire — and the bigger the fire, the more water we need".

left: Fight hgose attached to hydrant in Auburn, Sydney. Right: Firefighter digging up fire hydrant in Auburn, Sydney.
Firefighters often have to dig them up themselves but ask that residents be mindful of their landscaping. Source: Supplied/ Superintendent Adam Dewberry

'People don't understand how important there are'

In residential areas, hydrants are positioned approximately 50 – 100 metres apart depending on the lay of the land and provision of other services such as phone lines, power and gas. The ones on the road aren't a problem, Dewberry said, "but when they're in front of homes people don't know what they are and they're usually left unattended".

"People just don't understand how important they are," he added.

Usually, there are markers on telegraph poles or fences which indicate to firefighters where the hydrants are. They also have access to "data terminals" — a system firies use which helps them locate them.

"But when it's in the middle of the night and your firefighters are running out of water, you don't have time to look for the hydrant if you don't know where it is," Dewberry explained. "Even in the clear light of day, it can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to find the hydrant, meanwhile, the fire's still burning".

Aussies told to 'be mindful when landscaping'

The fire department told Aussies to "be mindful of hydrant valves when landscaping" in a post on social media using pictures taken at the Finley location to demonstrate the problem. "This one was found under established grass (and was full of dirt). An easily located and accessed hydrant gives us our best shot at protecting life and property," the post said.

Left: Hidden yellow fire hydrant under foliage. Right: Fire hydrant dug up beneath grass.
Hydrants are regularly hidden by grass and trees, but residents are being reminded to keep them clear. Source: NSW Fire and Rescue

Many agreed it's "great advice" however some admitted they didn't realise it was their responsibility to help keep the grass around them tidy. Others said councils should play a bigger part in maintaining them.

Dewberry said it's a good idea to paint them a bright colour so that they're easily visible. One homeowner said he regularly did this to help out and advised others to do it too.

"It only takes a few minutes to walk out the front to keep it in good order," he said. "And when they only have a few minutes to save your house and family, every minute [counts]."

Fires rage across rural Victoria

The warning comes as thousands of residents in rural Victoria have been forced to evacuate as hundreds of firefighters continue to battle a massive blaze which had burned for three days, consuming homes across hundreds of hectares of land.

Residents of Bayindeen, Chire, Elmhurst, Mount Lonarch and surrounding areas near Ballarat have been told to evacuate immediately, as the bushfire remains out of control. “Leaving immediately is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous. Emergency services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay," VicEmergency said on Saturday.

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