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Faulty fire hydrant may prompt tests

Hillsborough County firefighters stopped testing fire hydrants several years ago because residents complained it wasted water and allowed sediment to flow into their pipes, but they may return to that practice, a fire department spokesman said.

A faulty fire hydrant thwarted efforts Sunday to save a Brandon home from being destroyed by flames. Gregorio Smud, 84, and his 76-year-old wife, Raquel, were critically injured in the fire Sunday at their home at 502 Olive Court.

Firefighters were forced to watch the fire burn for 10 minutes until another hydrants could be located. The incident left neighbors concerned about the condition of hydrants in the area.

The county water department maintains fire hydrants and inspects them annually. A crew from the water department fixed the faulty hydrant Monday and inspected others nearby, said Kathleen Reese, section manager for line maintenance.

Training Chief Bill Kaplan, spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire-Rescue, said complaints from the public prompted the department from running its own inspections. "We are re-looking at if we need to get out and start doing that again," he said.

Problems with fire hydrants occur once in every 1,000 calls, Kaplan said. Officials will discuss Sunday's incident with county fire Chief Bill Nesmith when he returns today and decide how to reduce or eliminate those odds.

"Unfortunately, you do get that rare occurrence," he said.

_ CHARLES HOSKINSON

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