Unknown vandals have caused one of the most significant strikes against fire hydrants in the City of Red Deer’s history.
On Wednesday, RCMP reported that the search is on for one or more culprits who opened valves on nine different hydrants in the southeast area early of the city early Tuesday morning.
The first incident was reported to police at 2 a.m. when firefighters discovered water spewing from three hydrants near the Hunting Hills High School.
Further breaches were reported at 6 a.m. at the Notre Dame High School and at 9:30 a.m. at another site in Lancaster.
There were some drops in water pressure, with the total amount of water loss estimated at 1,500 cubic metres — enough to supply 100 homes for a full month, water superintendent Alex Monkman said on Wednesday.
Although the water would eventually return to the natural systems from which it was drawn, losing that much water represents a significant cost for treatment, said Monkman.
There is also some concern that chlorinated water may have reached Gaetz Lakes, which takes the storm sewer drainage from that area of the city, he said.
It is believed that the chlorine would have dissipated during the seven-kilometre trip through the storm sewers to the environmental sanctuary and there is no sign of trouble so far. However, city staff are monitoring Gaetz Lakes in case of environmental damaged as a result of the release, he said.
There was no damage to city property in the areas where the water was released, although the high pressure of water jetting from the hydrants may have affected grassy areas to some extent, said Monkman.
Mischief to fire hydrants has been reported in the past, but is quite rare, with the scale of this series of strikes being quite a bit higher than any that have been reported previously, said Monkman.
Fire hydrants are installed and maintained as an essential public service, primarily for fighting fires, he said. Damage to the system can cause problems in water pressure and may also have insurance implications for people living in the affected area, he said.
Each hydrant is checked twice a year, in part to ensure that firefighters will have no trouble opening the valves when they need water for emergencies.
Cpl. Karyn Kay of the Red Deer RCMP said investigators are reviewing surveillance videos from the affected sites.
“This isn’t a prank. It’s a Criminal Code offence, and those responsible may face criminal charges as well as being held responsible for water damage to any properties,” said Kay.
“Criminal behaviour like this is a waste of police and fire resources and a waste of our water resources,” she said.
Police are interested in hearing from anyone who may have information that may help with the investigation. Tips may be made directly to the detachment by calling 403-343-5575. To remain anonymous, tips can be entered online to www.tipsubmit.com or by calling Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-8477.