Belleville fire crews successfully extinguished a house fire early Thursday morning in the 400 block of South 21st Street — despite arriving to find the water in the nearest fire hydrant was frozen solid.
Crews responded to the fire at 1:34 a.m. Only then did firefighters discover the street’s hydrant water was frozen solid, according to an agency Facebook post.
The crews instead used water from tanks on their trucks, according to Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour. He said when four trucks show up to a fire — two pumpers and two ladder trucks — firefighters have 3,000 gallons of water on hand.
“When they tried to open it up, there was ice inside the hydrant,” Pour said. “It’s something they would never know until they tried to use it. This happens on occasion, but not too often. It’s not often we have temperatures this cold.”
Two residents and a puppy were in the house but were not injured.
“Fortunately, the fire was in the furnace and went straight through the attic,” Pour said. “So it was only the attic on fire.”
Pour said when firefighters shut a hydrant after using it, there are holes in the pipes to drain water out of the top part of the hydrant to keep it from freezing. Pour said they don’t know exactly why the water froze in this hydrant, but it could have been because the holes in the pipe were clogged.
“In warmer climates, there is water up in the hydrant all the time,” the chief said.
Illinois American Water Company maintains the area’s fire hydrants and company officials will work now to fix this hydrant, Pour added.
“It’s only happened a few times in my career, but there is no way for the water company to know until something like this happens,” Pour said.
As for the weather, Thursday should see a high near 23 degrees. The National Weather Service is forecasting high temperatures below 30 degrees through New Year’s Day.